HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Ummm... Does EVERYTHING stick to SS?

  • p

OK, I've just started to use my all clad saute pan, and it is SO STICKY! I put a nice thin coat of oil on there before sauteing anything, but it still sticks. I couldn't saute my potatoes because any crust that would form would stick and cling onto the pan. It looks like I'm stuck using my cast iron for most jobs, which is a huge pain cause it's too heavy to toss around food in the pan. Right now, I'm a bit sad because it looks like my expensive pan will only be used for things that I know will require deglazing. Any tips on using SS?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Turn the heat up higher! High heat + a little fat should make it better.

    1. I don't know phan. I cooked red snapper fillets recently in a SS skillet and had no problem with it sticking. Maybe use more oil

      1. there's an old adage: hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick. Heat up the pan first, don't heat the oil with the pan.

        So heat up the pan (you can do the little water droplet test to see if it's hot enough), then put the oil in and let it heat up, which should take very little time, then put your food in. Try to use just a little more oil than a thin coating too.

        1. That's what I've heard too. You must heat the pan before you pour in the oil. Although I have this one SS pot that doesn't work using this method and I have no idea why. Maybe because I've been using it for ages..?

          1. Stainless saute/fry pans are really a waste of money.

            I use cast iron, tinlined copper, and (gasp) a nonstick frypan.

            3 Replies
            1. re: mlgb

              That's odd... I've used stainless/aluminum and stainless/copper pans with great success. So why exactly are they a waste? Or has the majority of cooks and chefs had the wool pulled over their eyes?

              1. re: mateo21

                I've been cooking for over 35 years with all sorts of equipment (my cast iron fry pan is around that old, too.) I don't know or care what the majority of cooks and chefs would have to say about it. Stainless steel sticks and burns if you don't like your food swimming in oil. I have lots of SS pots but they're not a good choice for fry pans.

                1. re: mlgb

                  I agree with you about SS sticking if you don't use a whole lot of oil. I don't cook with a lot of fats so I only use SS for making soup, boiling, steaming, etc. The majority of chefs tend to use a lot of oil. So SS may work for them, but not for me.

            2. I'm glad you asked, Phan, I've had the same problem using a sitram fry pan and an AC saute pan. Even heating up leftover pasta, the sitram stuck. I had some crab cakes to fry and I knew they would stick using stainless, so i grabbed a well seasoned cast iron pan and it worked like a charm with very little oil. I know they're heavy, but if I want a pan that i know won't stick, I'll used the cast iron.

              1. Thanks for the replies; I'm just starting to use it so I need to learn to use it.

                2 Replies
                1. re: phan1

                  Phan, I think that's the key. You really need to experiment with the temps at which you are cooking. You also have to have constant vigilance. My mother can turn out lovely crispy fried potatoes without one sticking, but she is a dab hand at it and just constantly watches the potatoes, continually stirring them so they brown, but don't stick. I wouldn't try to multitask when cooking with SS, i.e. doing prep for other dishes, etc. I'd just stick to that pan like glue, so your food won't end up sticking.

                  And if you ever do get something that sticks badly, a really easy way to get the residue off is to add water and then boil it before washing.

                  1. re: charlesbois

                    It takes a lot more practice than the pans most of us are used to using. Now that I'm getting the hang of it, I enjoy it. I *do* use more oil but I just blot/place it on paper towels if I'm that concerned. You don't want to use too much or you're deep frying, but it's definitely more than you'd use in a teflon pan. You have to get it WAY hot first. Sort of just before it would start to smoke and THEN turn it down a little, add the oil, wait til it's rippled (only a few seconds), then add your food. You have to get it really hot first and then back the heat off if you don't want to cook the food on high heat instead of putting it in when it's on the way UP to really hot. Probably some reaction of the metal to the heat.

                2. Temperature is definitely key. Another thing I've noticed is that over time, stainless pans get sort of polished from washing (especially if you use steel wool), and the polished surface will have less tendency to stick than a brand new pan. I recently bought a new all clad pan and food definitely sticks more than my older steel pans.

                  This is a personal theory that I have not heard mentioned before - anyone else find this to be true?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Grubbjunkie

                    I agree- our set of Cuisenart (sp) is probably 15 years old, and nothing sticks to it now providing I use a *little* oil. Some of our newer pans are a litlle harder to work with, but seem to be getting easier. Cleaning them regularly in the dishwasher really seems to speed up the process

                  2. Marian Burros tested many different types of pans, and was not impressed by stainless steel. Here's her article:


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mpalmer6c

                      Good link. And it confirms my statement.. SS fry/saute pans are not good choices...they stick and burn. And it sounds like they're not a favorite choice for many chefs and cooks. If you're cooking in a substantial amount of oil it really doesn't matter what you use.

                      The main advantage of SS is that it doesn't tarnish or rust.

                    2. Not all Stainless Steel are equal, but All Clads have been consistantly worthy for my needs. All Clads are sturdy enough that I'm not afraid to heat it up dry, although I've always given it longer time with medium heat, instead of high heat in a shorter time. I find that very little oil is required if the pan is heated thoroughly. I found this out just recently as I had thrown in some leftover short grain rice to heat up. I hadn't add any oil, yet, and the rice, straight from the fridge, didn't stick at all. Instead it glided freely in the pan. I could do that with firm tofu before, but rice is another level of stick-ability.

                      When my sister use the same pan, but doesn't heat it up dry or hot enough before adding oil, yes, it gets to be sticky and dull, and a pain to clean.

                      It seems that the All Clad stainless steel takes well to this kind of usage, as when i prep it differently (after my sister had used it), the pan regains the shine . So I think there is plenty of room for the different results you can get out of a pan. Don't give up on the All Clad. I wouldn't use other thinner type of SS this way though. I think you'd have to get a feel for the sturdiness of your pan and see how far you can push it.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: HLing

                        Quoting from the NYT article:

                        All-Clad was one of the top choices of most experts, but did not do well in my tests because sometimes food stuck to the pans and cleaning them was difficult. Top chefs with whom I spoke agreed. "All of my All-Clad sauté pans have brown spots on the sides and outside, too," said Scott Conant of L'Impero and Alto. "And eggs always stick."

                        1. re: mlgb

                          Brown spots have more to do with how good you are at cleaning your pan; rather make a statement about the efficacy of the cooking, they are a testament to either high temperature cooking or lazy cleaning.

                          Eggs are a tough subject -- as the purest animal protein source they are naturally going to sick more. Personally bare cast iron is all I cook eggs with, and with great results... who actually cooks eggs in a SS saute pan?

                          1. re: mlgb

                            '..."Top chefs with whom I spoke agreed. "All of my All-Clad sauté pans have brown spots on the sides and outside, too," said Scott Conant of L'Impero and Alto. "And eggs always stick."...'

                            I'm not about to apologize for cooking eggs in my SS, but yes, I do cook eggs in my All Clad. It works just as well as the cast iron. I'm glad that I've had positive experiences with my SS prior to reading this NYT article about what the professionals' mind set on SS, because, I'd hate to have the "authorities" limit what is possible.
                            Frankly, I'm a little surprised to read about the "And eggs always stick." comment. Perhaps Top Chefs aren't always about getting the basics down?

                            1. re: HLing

                              HLing: "Perhaps Top Chefs aren't always about getting the basics down?"

                              Exactly! Top chefs probably don't fry their bacon in the pan before cooking their eggs in it!

                              1. re: Clarkafella

                                "...Exactly! Top chefs probably don't fry their bacon in the pan before cooking their eggs in it!..."

                                wow, besides making me hungry for bacon, I think your comment has given me the "Aha" moment: Could it be that it's not (just) because there's the oil from the bacon that's making the egg stick-free, but more because the pan is properly warmed up from making bacon just before hand?! I mean, could it be that we deduce the theory that oil makes it not stick from this pre-egg bacon cooking, when in fact it wasn't really the essential factor? !

                                I say this as a person who used to do the bacon - egg routine a lot, and but now am living with a vegetarian, and therefore, hardly get to cook the bacon any more - and still my eggs don't stick.

                                This doesn't change the fact that eggs cooked with the oil from the bacon TASTE good, but it's also great to narrow down to the bare essential procedures in knowing what's making something work.

                                1. re: HLing

                                  It also could be that oil is stickier than bacon fat.

                          2. re: HLing

                            Quote from the NY Times article:

                            "The most important characteristic was how close the pans came to having the nonstick qualities people love about Teflon." -- This is rediculous... No cookware is Teflon, except Teflon! Not even an extremely well seasoned cast iron pan is as good as Teflon. The author goes on to say in the next sentence that they are looking for a pan the will saute without oil... to saute is to cook with some sort of fat! No fat, no saute.

                            And is the *gasp* tablespoon of oil used to coat the pan, where all pans had essentially equal preformance, "substantial" amount of oil? Most people put more butter on a slice of toast, let alone fry up a few pounds of chicken.

                            Another benefit of stainless -- ever braise something in a bare cast iron pan? Tastes like metal :( that's not tasty... with the exception of enameled cast iron, I can't think of a better option.

                            1. re: mateo21

                              All I use on my cast iron fry pan is a few drops or a pump spray of olive oil.

                              I have stainless steel stockpots and saucepans, as well as nonstick anodized aluminum.

                              The stainless pots are rarely used for anything other than boiling/simmering veggies and soup. Scraping and scrubbing burned and browned bits isn't really my idea of fun.

                          3. Regarding potatoes, besides using higher heat, you'll be able to get them to release more easily if you leave them alone until they form a nice strong crust, and then gently pry them off with a thin metal spatula. If you try to move them around before a nice thick crust is formed, then the crust will be more likely to stick. Same thing with skin-on chicken pieces.

                            1. I have stainless steel pans and they work beautifully -- although it took some patience to get there. II've made potatoes Anna, potstickers, eggs -- you named it -- all with success.

                              Follow others' advice: hot pan, cold oil, heat, cook, wait and then flip.

                              1. agreed with all below. Your pan needs to be hotter. Also understand that food often "sticks" to a pan when the ingredient is put in, but will release itself from the pan after it forms a crust. Put it in and DON'T move them.

                                I disagree with posters above about eggs sticking. I've found a little butter or olive oil and a hot pan allows for the eggs to be cooked without sticking. Take them out of the fridge 20 minutes before you cook them. Cold ingredients stick.

                                1. OK, I did it. I was able to use it without anything sticking, but only when using VERY HIGH heat. But now, I'm too scared to use it for anything less than very high heat, which really limits my cooking. Any tricks to using SS for medium to low heat? I heard to heat it up to very high heat 1st, then lower it, and then add the oil. Sound right to you guys?

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: phan1

                                    Congratulation on your first step to breaking the SS sticking myth!

                                    You don't need to lower it after heating high to put the oil in if you are prepared and quick for what's to follow. I like the oil to get heated in a short amount of time over high heat, as opposed to longer time over medium heat.

                                    It would be good to have your ingredients ready to go so that you when you put the oil in (and you'll see it immediately reacting to the heat) you can put the aromatics and spices such as shallots, garlic..in fairly quickly. You'll find that you won't have much time to be chopping or prep-ing,

                                    At that point, you are not limited to using the high heat continuously. Once the contact between the food and the pan is made, one of the ways is to put the lid on, turn the heat way down to simmer. Depending on what you're cooking you may or may not need a flick of water to induce the steam. Or you can lower the temperature to whatever you had intended to cook your dish.

                                  2. I've had no trouble with eggs (usually omelets) in my SS skillets. Partly because I've had them for a while, perhaps. Not excessively high heat, either. Other things work fine too, but I haven't tried potatoes. I have cast iron but the SS is lighter and just seems more appropriate for an omelet.

                                    Part of the reason I prefer SS is that I've heard bad things about teflon coatings coming off, and with aluminum pans, aluminum getting into the food. Maybe that's BS, but stainless does seem "cleaner," less problematic.