So it seems that every time that I pan sear something, any oil I have in the beginning seems to be gone about half way through and it turns into me dry searing whatever I am cooking.

My guess is that I have the heat too high and the oil is evaporating or burning off.

Is there a simple way to know when the oil is hot enough to pan sear but not so hot that it burns off?

  • 2
    Meat? Vegetables? fish? Which oil and how much are you using? Some vegetables like eggplant and zucchini soak up a lot of oil...
    – Fabby
    Jun 30, 2018 at 21:15
  • 3
    Also, evaporating water tends to draw oil drops along, depositing them conveniently on the walls (or in the hood filter)... Jun 30, 2018 at 22:27
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    Cooking oils do not noticeably evaporatate at cooking temperatures below the smoke and combustion points. I concur with with what rackandneman said that it is probably spattering out combined with just using to little oil at the start.
    – Cynetta
    Jul 1, 2018 at 0:48
  • 1
    @Fabby usually meat. I’ve experienced what you mean with eggplant where it just soaks it up like a sponge.
    – alexpotato
    Jul 1, 2018 at 12:07
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    @alexpotato Ibelieve it is possible that you are burning it or evaporating it because the oil has been overheated (beyond normal cooking temperatures). Without more data, I've nothing further to suggest. In all my cooking, I've never experienced your problem. I do not cook with the temperature of the oil so high that it smokes. You've not said what oil you are using. Knowing that fact might help answer your question.Have you tried using an oil with a higher smoke point? This site is just one of many witht a table of cooking oil/fat smoke points - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoke_point
    – Cynetta
    Jul 2, 2018 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


If the oil is of too low temperature, it'll have a tendency to get soaked up by the food you're preparing or get evaporated together with the water that's leaking out, so that's where it's disappearing. (Some vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, ... tend to soak up oil like sponges regardless of the temperature.)

To test whether the oil is hot enough, I always use the empirical method:

  • slice off a sliver of whatever you're going to sear
  • throw it in the pan
    • if bubbles start forming: oil is hot enough
    • if not: throw away sliver, rinse and repeat

Works for anything you're going to sear!

Having said that: Don't be shy on the oil: it doesn't just sear, it adds flavour too!


A method to test if oil is hot enough, is to hold a piece of wood into it and see if bubbles form around the wood. This is typically a good method for when there's a good layer of oil in the pan or when frying.

You may also drop a droplet of water into the pan and see how violently it reacts. This sounds a bit ambiguous I know, but when a strong sizzle occurs, you know it's hot enough. But please, don't use this method if you're cooking on fire, only for induction/ceramic.

Otherwise, I strongly recommend you to buy a simple thermometer to test the temperature. Let me explain why: It's very unlikely that your oil is evaporating. It depends on the type of oil you use by typically oil will start to vape around 230+ Celsius, and when this happens you are creating unhealthy situations. You would want to prevent that, hence why a simple cheap thermometer may be wise.

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