To gauge the heat, hold your hand just above where the food will be placed. How long can you keep it there? To confuse people, you can count as they might in Argentina: "uno matador, dos matador, tres matador, quatro matador" and so on, just as Yanks say "one Mississippi, two Mississippi...."
A GENERAL GUIDE
Two seconds: High heat
Three-four seconds: Medium-high heat
Five-six seconds: Medium heat
Seven-eight seconds: Low heat
Seem complicated? Use Steve Rinella's rule of thumb: once you can hold your hand there for roughly three seconds, but no more, you're ready to start cooking.
Excerpted from The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life (New Harvest). Copyright © 2012 by Timothy Ferriss. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.