Result: Food that sticks, scallops with no sear, pale meats.
The inexperienced or hurried cook will barely heat the pan before adding oil and tossing in onions for a sauté. Next comes...nothing. No sizzle. A hot pan is essential for sautéing veggies or creating a great crust on meat, fish, and poultry. It also helps prevent food from sticking.
Associate Food Editor Tim Cebula was once advised: "If you think your pan is hot enough, step back and heat it a couple more minutes. When you’re about ready to call the fire department, then add oil and proceed to cook the food."