When I'm trying to replicate a dish from a professional chef's video, I notice that sometimes they make a point to call out what heat they are using on the stove, but often they don't, not even using terms I know like "boil" or "simmer." It happens often enough with a diverse enough group of chefs that it seems like something basic I'm just supposed to know. Is there some sort of standard guidelines to what heat to use on the stove if not specified?


1 Answer 1


There’s no ‘standard’ heat level, as it really depends on what type of cooking you’re doing. There are some things that you can look for to try to figure out how much heat they’re using. But be aware that ‘medium’ heat with a large pan is going to be relatively less heat than ‘medium’ with a smaller pan on the same burner, so these are relative, not absolute:

  • If they’re cooking with gas, and the camera angle shows the flame, you can get a relative idea if it’s low or high heat.
  • If they make any comments about how you don’t want to develop color, or they mention ‘sweating’, it’s low heat.
  • If they’re keeping solid chunks of food in motion, mention ‘sauté’ or ‘stir fry’, or are actively flipping the food into the air, it’s likely high heat.
  • If the food sizzles when it hits the pan, it’s medium (and given a chance to pre-heat) to high heat.
  • If they put food in the pan, and it’s quiet, it’s low heat.
  • If they put oil in the pan, and you see wisps of smoke, it’s high heat (or medium that’s preheated a while).
  • If they have oil in the pan, and you see a shimmer, it’s medium heat.

But again, these are estimates. If you have a slightly thicker cut of something, you actually need to turn down the heat, so the middle cooks through before the outside darkens too much.

  • 1
    Also stoves can vary greatly in how much energy they put out. Some stoves high is another stoves low. Of course even within a single stove they often have multiple different burner sizes or power (mine has a simmer burner, quick boil, and power burner which all do different things).
    – eps
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 16:02
  • @eps: very true. I once tried boiling water for pasta on a friend’s stove, and it took almost 20 minutes.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 22:22

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