Saute Pan Dilemma

Joined Jun 11, 2016
So I recently took a line cooking position in a small high end restaurant that does a pretty decent job. I have worked as a sous chef for the past few years but I wanted some time to decompress from my last place. Anyway, I've been on saute since I came in and we had a busy Friday night tonight. I was watching as my pans were piling up in the sink all night and I had to call for more a couple times. The chef walked by a half hour before closing and yelled at me for closing my station before helping the dishwasher with the pans. She then told me that I shouldn't use a new pan for every new dish but rather wipe the old pan out and reuse it every time.

Am I losing my mind or is that the dumbest shit you've ever head? I mean, I've kept a greens pan on my range in the past but to expect a cook to reuse every pan is ludicrous. How would I ever find the space to have a dedicated pan for each component of every dish? Or, does she think I can go from cooking chicken in a pan, wipe it out and heat up a sauce? I, Just. Can't. I'm not going crazy right?
Joined May 14, 2014
I've *heard of people doing this. Can't say I've ever seen it. Don't seem right, do it?
Joined Mar 16, 2016
I've seen a chef say the same thing...

But, I've also seen chefs say many more dumb/nonsensical requests though... It seems the way most chefs are dealing with declining profits is by simply taking short cuts in their kitchens; so they can save a few dollars . Even if the shortcut lead to lower quality food or food safety.
The chef at the restaurant I just left demanded no butter be used in the risotto; only water, salt and one yellow onion. Delicious!! (not)

I've recently seen chefs throwing new product on top of old product on their hot line, product like sautéed mushrooms with a week difference in when they were prepared.... That's gonna get somebody sick, real soon.
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Joined Feb 13, 2013

Bad habits run rampant in casual kitchens. I see you're calling it a small high end restaurant but if the chef is promoting practices like that there isn't much legitimacy in the kitchen. Going from a high level of execution to a turn and burn is the toughest, most pride swallowing act I've had to do in my cooking career. The way I look at it is make enough money to get situated financially and then go back to a high end kitchen and start cooking for real again. I don't know what your situation is but if it's anything like mine just don't let those things bother you too much or else you'll go insane.


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
Hot pan cold oil.

How you going to achieve that if you wipe out the pans and it is still dirty?
Joined Jun 18, 2016
Maybe in turn of the century french kitchens. It's just dumb, and probably a hygiene violation! 

Furthermore, it's just so twee. i bust my ass as a chef de partie to get my first Sous position. Line cooks are the master of timing and flow! So just recycle those pans and crack on.
Joined Aug 15, 2003
One question: Are they cast iron or blue/carbon steel...or non-stick? If yes, then it can be OK to wipe them and re-use, though they should be seasoned and scrubbed frequently. Obviously if they have carbon in the pan too then you should scrub them out. Often times a nice wipe with a cloth will sort them out though.

If they are aluminum or stainless....then no. Just no. No, no, no, no, no no no no no no.  
Joined Jan 31, 2012
welcome to chef talk Feyness.
I suppose Im with someday here. Ive worked lines with non
stick pans where it was common practice to wipe em out with a
damp waistcloth between orders.Though i personally tried to
use separate pans for proteins & veggies unless they were combined.
Sometimes you need a crispy clean WASHED pan
either think ahead and keep one or two on hand, or its time to fight,
coerce or bribe the diswasher.
But even wet wiping only works so long, then its time to buss the pan,
no matter what the head chef says. If all pans are unservicably dirty,
and the dishwasher isnt allowing some priority for the hot line, then
IMO someones not doing their job-- either the DW or whoever isnt
instructing them properly.
Joined Jun 19, 2016
since you have run out of pans a few times and called for more, that in itself is not a major issue as long as the dish-pig can do their best to be accommodating by getting the line the pans as soon as possible.

it all comes back to teamwork.

cooks should not unnecessarily use items which they can reuse in a reasonable manner. for example by reusing a pan for a popular dish several times may be acceptable, but using the same pan for completely different foods is a no-no.

if the chefs expectation is that you cook fish in a pan, give it a wipe and follow up with chicken, then follow with beef then its too great a risk for cross contamination, not only of bacteria, but of flavours which will be evident in the quality of the finished product.

compromising food quality standards is rife in this industry, as an example, I recently ran a kitchen complex that had 6 pans for a menu of about 60 items, for 200 seats. the first thing I did was demand investment in another 8 pans MINIMUM. this reduced the need for the 2 cooks to wash their pans in the sink located in the section and interrupting their workflow. but it was still expected that the (new non-stick) aglio-olio pan be put on a shelf and reused when possible.

even with food safety regulations and laws every place will have its own set of unwritten standards that make up the basis of the culture of the establishment, we must see if those standards match with our own perceived ideas of what is acceptable, and either work with them or move on to something more befitting.

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