I know it looks really cool and all when you see a chef tossing food up in the air and shaking it around a pan but if you're not experienced please don't try it yourself. And I'm not saying this because I think you suck at cooking, but chances are you're probably not doing it for the right reason.
A lot of times I see people moving the pan way too much. Why do you think chefs move the pan so much? Go ahead, think about it for a second. I'll wait.
If you answered "to look cool" then you're right! Just kidding.
We shake and toss and flip for one reason, to move the food. It has nothing to do with faster cooking or adding air into it. It's just for moving the food, literally. If you put a handful of onions in, you want to flatten it out so it can cook evenly. So to flatten it out, you shake it. If you add some parsley to your vegetables you just sautéed and don't have a spoon, toss it around. I think you get my point.
But please keep this in mind and I will try to explain this as simple as possible. In order to cook something, the product must be heated and the pan transfers heat directly into the product. Now if you keep tossing and shaking the pan the less time the product will spend touching the pan which means a long cooking time.
"What about those Asian chefs who use woks? They're always tossing food around."
This is true but the reason they do this is because their wok is about 10 times hotter than the pan you use at home. Woks and the stoves they are heated on are designed for fast cooking. How do you think your Chinese food comes out so quick? Woks are made of a different metal to heat up fast and the shape is designed for hot spots and cooler spots.
So the next time you add a new ingredient into the pan, give it a quick shake to level everything out and let it cook. I briefly touched on this subject in my mushroom post if you want to read back on it. Just remember though, the more movement, the longer the cooking time.
Here's my actual food blog - www.dcwis.blogspot.com