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It depends heavily on what you're cooking. For Indian or central Asian styles of cooking, for example, the spices get tempered in the hot oil first, and the oil absolutely needs to be heated first. The aromatics (ginger, garlic) go in after the hard spices (ie: cumin seed, mustard seed, cinnamon stick, star anise, bay leaf, dry chilli, etc), which only take ...


I prefer to cook aromatics starting from a cold pan/oil, whenever possible. Starting with a cold pan makes it easier to avoid singeing the ingredients. (You really don't want a "sear" in most cases. Garlic, for example, becomes bitter and horrible when over-browned.) Cooking food starting with a hot pan is important in other situations for two ...


For sweating aromatics, I find no disadvantage with tossing everything in a cold pan and slowly heating.

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