I have an enameled cast iron dutch oven. I thought the pamphlet that came with it said not to heat the cast iron dry -- I could be imagining things, though.

Part One

So, am I supposed to put the oil in the dutch oven and then put it on the (cold) stove and then turn on the stove to low heat and then to medium? If I do this, will the oil evaporate -- I thought I experienced that once?

Or am I supposed to preheat the dutch oven (starting on low and then going to medium) and then throw in the oil and heat it?

I'm asking this question because I don't want to ruin my le creuset french oven.

Part Two

And how do you know when the oil is hot enough? This recipe says until it is almost smoking, but how do you know when it is about to smoke? And don't all oils have different smoke points. This recipe calls for vegetable oil, which I assume can be canola.

  • Some guidelines on how to tell when oil is ready can be found in this question. Many recipes say when the oil shimmers - it becomes a slightly different color when ready.
    – justkt
    Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 13:41
  • read this one:cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/2690/… Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 14:53
  • Canola oil has a slightly lower smoke point and a bitter taste when it hits that point, so I'd go with a more generic - like a soybean based oil. If you are okay with spending a bit more, peanut oil is always great for hot oil applications. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:10

2 Answers 2


Part one:

Yes, put oil in first then put on a low/med heat. Generally cast iron should be heated gently, depending on your stove it should probably take about 5 minutes to get to a good temperature. The oil shouldnt evaporate - I've never experienced this. As to the type of oil - I use various depending on circumstance vegetable or olive usually.

Part two:

I generally shake the pan gently - when the oil becomes more less viscous (more runny) then it is at a good temperature to start cooking. You can also put something like a small piece of onion or bread into the oil - if it starts bubbling and generally cooking then its good to go. Some people use a couple of drops of water to see when it spits but I dont like doing this partly due to the safety factor and also due to the fact itll splatter over the stove top.

It depends a little on what you are cooking - if you are looking to brown some meat for example you'd probably want it a little hotter than if you were just going to make vegetable soup.

  • 3
    Plus one, and adding the stronger statement that the oil will NOT evaporate in the normal sense of things. Cooking oils evaporate very very slowly, and you are much more likely to burn the oil than evaporate it in a pan in normal use. If you leave a spot of oil on the counter, over the course of a day or two it will eventually dry, leaving a sticky residue of non-evaporating compounds. But for cooking you needn't worry about evaporation.
    – bikeboy389
    Commented Dec 23, 2010 at 14:36
  • +1 on the for the viscosity tests. Moving the pan is my preference for stir fry. For french fries or chimichangas (more/deeper oil), the sample bit of onion works really well.
    – zanlok
    Commented Dec 24, 2010 at 6:17
  • Wait, are we talking about drying then adding oil after use, for additional curing and to prevent rust, or are we talking about heating oil to cook? whoops, nvm - "recipe" should have given that away for me. Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 16:11

For sauteing, I think you should heat the pan dry over moderate heat, and then add the oil. Add whatever you are cooking as soon as the oil is hot, and then turn down the heat. That will avoid filling your kitchen with smoke, and preserve the quality of the oil until you are actually cooking.

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