There's something beautiful about it: The chef flicks their wrist and the food jumps from the pan, traveling in a rainbow arc before cascading down to land neatly back where it started. It's an impressive trick.
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But this technique—called a skillet toss—isn’t only something that can make you look like a pro. It can help your cooking skills. Tossing food in a skillet can disperse it more quickly so that it heats more evenly, and the agitation can help efficiently emulsify pasta sauces.
Here’s how to do it.
Use a Lightweight Skillet with Sloped Edges
The curve of the edge helps food move in an arch above the pan. And you don’t want anything so heavy that you won’t be able to easily maneuver it with one hand (skip those cast-iron skillets).
Practice Off Heat
At culinary school we learned to do this off heat with cold pans. I tell friends to use something light that is easy to clean up, such as marshmallows or chunks of bread, and to practice off heat to get the technique down. Then move on to stuff you’re actually cooking.
Shake the Pan
Before going in for the toss, shake the pan gently to make sure no food is stuck to the skillet. If it’s sticking to the bottom of the pan, you’re definitely not going to be able to toss it.
The goal is to have the food move in an arch by propelling it off the front lip of the pan and then catching it in the base of the skillet. So you want to tilt the skillet down slightly and push forward so the food slides to the front of the skillet and flick your wrist so that it moves upward out of the skillet.
As the food is flying through the air, pull the skillet backward to gently catch the food. Start with gentle, small tosses so that it’s easier to catch the food. As you get more comfortable, you can toss with more height.