Preheating the oven is usually a recipe’s first step and everyone seems to grasp the fact that a hot oven is required to cook food. This concept is often lost in translation when applied to stovetop cooking.
Hot Pans are Cool!
Unless your recipe gives you specific instruction to do otherwise, give your pan (and any oil you’ve added) time to heat up before adding any food. Heat encourages food to release any moisture stored inside. Adding food to a hot pan seals food, keeping the moisture (and flavor) inside. In a warm pan, your food will lose its moisture and you’ll likely find it stewing in its own juices. If your pan doesn’t sizzle gloriously when you add food, remove the food and try again when the pan’s hot.
Don’t overheat your pan. If it starts to smoke, take it off the heat immediately and let it cool down before starting to cook.