Although stainless pans look smooth, their cooking surface actually has tiny pores. Under heat, the steel pan expands, shrinking the pores. This can cause the pan to grip food tightly, making a sticky frustrating mess when you’re trying to cook..
So if you’re wondering how to keep stainless steel pans from sticking, here’s the short answer:
- Preheat them to medium heat
- Add some oil
- Let the oil heat up
- Then add your food
Once you get the hang of the process, timing, and temperature, you can drastically reduce the risk of food sticking.
Why Does Food Stick To Stainless Steel Pans?
The major factor that causes a stainless steel pan to stick is heat, and in particular, timing and managing the temperature of your pan.
Other things that can cause food to stick to stainless steel pans includes not using enough oil, or not allowing the pan to heat up properly before adding your food.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the main causes of why stainless steel pans stick.
Stainless steel pans have “pores” that open and close depending on heat.
The ‘pores’ open at higher temperatures making the pan more non-stick.
Once the pores open at higher temperatures, cooking oil seeps in to form a barrier between the surface of the pan and the food in it.
This means food particles can’t get stuck into the steel.
High heat dries the surface and food quickly, preventing them from ‘setting’ themselves onto your stainless-steel pan.
Low heat, on the other hand, means the pores won’t open up, cooking oil won’t have anywhere to seep in and there won’t be any barrier between food particles and the pan’s surface causing the pan to stick.
Type Of Food
Delicate and lean proteins like fish and eggs are particularly susceptible to sticking on stainless steel pans since they lack adequate fat to grease the pan.
Protein-rich foods like steak and chicken are sticky to stainless steel pans since their proteins form sophisticated bonds with the pan’s metal atoms.
Some proteins are particularly prone to sticking as they fall apart when faced with the smallest amount of friction.
The last thing you want to do is to scratch your stainless steel pan with harsh chemicals or scrubbing pads. Doing so can damage the surface, and create bumps and even more spaces for food to cling to.
On the flip side, failure to thoroughly clean your stainless steel pan might leave behind oils and food particles that could burn the next time you cook.
What burnt bits do is create more friction on the surface of your stainless steel pan, and next thing you know, food is stuck to it.
How To Keep Stainless Steel Cookware From Sticking
Are you ready to give up on stainless steel cookware because no matter what you try, food just can’t stop sticking onto the surface?
Well, there are several things you can do to keep your stainless steel cookware from sticking:
- The number one thing you need to do is to preheat your pan (the heat should be neither too high nor too low – the optimal temperature is an even medium heat)
- To ensure the pan is the right temperature, check for the Leidenfrost Effect
- Season the pan (Check the section below for best oils)
- Ensure food is at room temperature (instead of cold or frozen) and dry before adding it to your pan
- Avoid overcrowding food in the pan
- Avoid moving food too frequently in the pan
- Clean your stainless steel pan appropriately (check the section above)
Best Oils To Use To Keep Stainless Steel From Sticking
Greasing or seasoning the pan is an alternative to heavily focusing on getting the perfect temperature if you want to keep your stainless steel pan from sticking.
Oils fill crevices and pores, creating a barrier and frictionless surface between the food and pan.
The golden rule is to have enough oil on the pan to form a thin layer across the entire bottom of the pan.
Some of the best oils to use with your stainless steel pan include:
- Avocado oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
Stainless pans are not only versatile and durable, but also compatible with a variety of cooktops. Additionally, they’re broiler and oven-safe.
What’s more, is that these pans heat up evenly and fast as well as retain heat well. The combination of all these makes them the ultimate multi-purpose cookware.
But even with these impressive attributes, stainless steel pans can be a little finicky and cause food to stick.
As we’ve seen, there’s lots of reasons for this, including temperature, type of food, and cleaning.
The good news is that it doesn’t take much to avoid this moving forward. Just follow the simple instructions above on how to keep stainless steel pans from sticking, and you’ll have a great time cooking.