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Potato Pancakes / Polenta Sticking to SS?

So I made some potato pancakes with a recipe from Chow, and was using my new Mauviel SS skillet, fry pan, whatever, from Amazon for their amazing price. I'm very new to cooking, and just started learning not long ago (I just turned 24 this month).

I let the pan pre-heat, as well as the oil, but each time, when I made the two items over the past few weeks, both times, the food was sticking pretty bad.

I'm not sure, but I believe both times I used canola oil. Is the type of oil I used the problem?

What I've read - to try lower heat / longer cooking times. Try butter. Or use CI/non-stick. I don't own any CI yet, but is SS just not the right material for these types of dishes?

I've cooked eggs a few times now, and had zero issues with sticking, and even the cheap non-stick pans I had, that the Mauviel replaced, would cause eggs to stick. Furthermore, these are the only two items I've had "stick" to the pan, and I've been using my new pan for tons of things lately.

Any ideas, suggestions, tips?

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  1. Sorry for the frustration. As Martin Yan said. “Hot wok, cold oil. food no stick” That’s all there is to it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Woodfireguy

      No biggie - I understand it's a learning process, and I'm fine with that. :)

      Just asking, to see if I can better some of the meals I cook.

      Is cold oil recommended for all dishes, or just ones prone to "stick"?

    2. I would never do either of those dishes in SS---I save it for meats because I have such bad luck otherwise.

      12 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        If you were doing either side, what type of pan/material would you use?

        1. re: jdmfish

          I wouldn't do it in SS either. I'd use a good, heavy nonstick, like an All Clad or Le Creuset non stick skillet. Unfortunately those aren't cheap pans, and since non stick degrades, it's hard to swallow the price. But the cheaper, lighter nonstick don't allow my potato pancakes to brown nicely. I make a lot of potato pancakes, so it's worth it for me to have a good pan for them.

          1. re: christy319

            I'm with Christy in general though I have an old heavy aluminum pan that take high heat and doesn't stick with old in it so I'd use that. But this particular pan hasn't been made in at least 30 years.

          2. re: jdmfish

            if you don't want to use nonstick, cast iron is a great option for both of those dishes.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Another great option is uncoated carbon steel frying pans.

              De Buyer Mineral Fry Pans (carbon steel)
              http://www.amazon.com/Buyer-Mineral-I...
              .

              1. re: Antilope

                I have a questeion about this pan. I have it, and I messed up bad and burned stuff on. How do we get rid of it??? Feels totally caked on. Should I give up on it? I tried barkeeper's friend and scrubbed scrubbed scrubbed to no avail

                1. re: darrentran87

                  Few hours with some dish soap and some water? BKF cleans just about everything in my limited experience.

                  Did you just pick up the de Buyer pans?

                  1. re: darrentran87

                    Have you tried a metal scraper? I have metal spatula that works well.

                    1. re: darrentran87

                      It is carbon steel all the way through, so as long as you end up with a smooth surface, you are not going to hurt it. I would start out with boiling and then a scouring pad (nylon and then steel wool if needed) and BKF. Really dirty cast iron can be cleaned by running it through a self cleaning oven cycle. I don't know about carbon steel, but as a last resort before throwing it away I would try it. I would even resort to really fine grit sandpaper or a fine wire brush before throwing it away. Just as long as you don't end up with a rough surface. After cleaning you will have to reseason the carbon steel pan. If I remember correctly, De Buyer recommended the following seasoning method: boiling potato peelings for 15 minutes and then rinsing, drying the pan and heating oil in it almost to the smoking point, then wiping it out with an oiled paper towel.

                      In use, I have found carbon steel does not stay bright and shiny, but is discolored by heat and develops a slight varnish. This does not affect the non-stick properties, but seems to even make it better.

                      1. re: Antilope

                        Hey guys, thanks for the response! I did the whole boil potatoes thing to season it initially. I forgot what I was making on it, it was somethign i normally would do on my CI pan... I think maybe a small batch of hash browns. I had to run out for a quick emergency and I came back it was burned and caked onto the bottom :(.

                        I'll try out these suggestions before tossing the pan! Thanks!

                      2. re: darrentran87

                        Keep your barkeepers friend and any other acid away from these pans. Mineral pans are iron. The only time they ever look shiny is when they are brand new and unseasoned. Once you season the pan it should be black inside and out. And it should stay black. It should never look like it did when it was new. Mineral pans perform just as well as cast iron for searing meat and saute foods. The only thing you need to clean your mineral pan once it is seasoned is a wooden spoon or bamboo wok cleaner, some water and some paper towels. the best thing you can do to properly season your mineral pan or cast iron pan for that matter is to use it as a deep fryer for the first couple weeks. I have 3 DeBuyer mineral pans they are pretty much my go to pans. They are less reactive to sauces than CI and soo much easier to clean than stainless steel. Dont give up on them. Dont throw them away. Dont use harsh scrubbers on them. Let them be black. they are supposed to be black.

                      3. re: Antilope

                        Just ordered one yesterday. :)

                        Hope to use it well.

                2. In my experience sticking is pretty much always due to the pan not being hot enough or the cook not waiting long enough before trying to flip. You pre-heated the pan, but for how long? And how long did you wait before trying to flip the food? Items such as polenta and potato pancake that contain a lot of water and not so much protein as meats, so they take a lot longer than you would expect to develop a crust and release from the pan. Wait until you clearly see deep browning on the edges before trying to flip. Before that, resist the temptation to push them around or slip a spatula underneath. And you can do this in any type of pan if you do it right, although some are more forgiving than others.

                  Yep, it's a learning process. As an experiment, try frying up 4 or 5 pieces of polenta over medium heat, keeping track of the time. Flip one when you normally would and mark the time, then wait 3 minutes more and flip another, then 3 minutes more and flip one more, etc. One of them should be just right.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: Zeldog

                    Thanks for the replies!

                    I pre-heated the pan, for about 5 minutes, on medium-low heat, on my new induction burner - which I set the temp to 250*. Should I have waited a bit longer, or increased the amount of heat?

                    I flipped per the instructions/recipe. Polenta instructions said to cut about 1/2" thick, and flip every 4-5 minutes, over "medium" heat. So I did my best, set the temp to 290*/320* (trying different heat levels, each time) and timed my flips for every 5 minutes. Second "batch", I waited longer, about 10-12 minutes, and lowered the heat a little bit, with "better" results, but still very much sticking.
                    And same for the potato pancakes. I did my best to follow the recipe/cooking instructions.

                    I get a nice "crust", but of course the crust is stuck in the pan, and not on the dish.

                    1. re: jdmfish

                      I know this sounds completely off base but I just had to mention it. If you should have a bird in your home, if you heat a nonstick pan without putting anything in it, the pan can give off emissions that will kill a pet bird. I didn't know this at the time I HAD a parakeet in the kitchen(big emphasis on the HAD part).

                      1. re: jdmfish

                        Did you have enough oil in the pan? Somewhere recently I read about the secret to good pan frying is to have enough oil in the pan to allow the food to sort of cook on top of the oil instead of the surface of the pan. The food should be floating on top of a thin layer of oil.

                        1. re: cleobeach

                          I think so - the directions for the polenta, and potato pancakes mentioned to add about 1/4" of oil to the pan. I probably did closer to 1/2" or so.

                          Maybe I should add even more?

                          1. re: jdmfish

                            Yes you should have enough oil so the polenta is floating in oil. That way it will fry without touching the pan. But that does not help if you don't want deep fat frying.

                            Until the food a floats in the oil, more oil is not going to reduce the sticking problem. Sticking occurs where the food is in close contact with the pan, not around the edges where the oil is 1/2" deep.

                        2. re: jdmfish

                          Hi agree with Zeldog that you have to go by browning rather than strictly timing. Also need to have enough oil. But I still have problems with SS when I've done everything "right".

                          1. re: jdmfish

                            Your pan should get to the target temperature a lot faster than that on an induction burner. Probably the best way to check pan temperature is with an infrared thermometer. A low tech way is the dancing water test used for pancakes, though I think the target there is more like 350.

                            One problem with the hot pan hot oil method with SS, is that not all foods are best cooked at that high temperature. Some can burn to fast at those temperatures. That's where non-stick or well seasoned steel has a big advantage. You can get the nonstick behavior without the high heat.

                            1. re: paulj

                              Appreciate the replies everyone.

                          2. re: Zeldog

                            In my experience. Sticking is pretty much only happens when there is not enough fat in the pan. Use more butter! Also, no one ever talks about this but generally when you heat oil in a pan you will find that the oil will migrate to the outer edges of the pan the hotter the pan gets. Adding a bit of butter in between flips or swirling the fat in the pan between flips of your food helps tons with sticking issues.

                          3. I second the rec for cast iron. Not expensive and it holds a lot of heat so it doesn't cool down much when you add food to the pan. Admittedly the old ones are better than what's made nowadays. But even the new Lodge ones with a more pebbly texture on the cooking surface are pretty good for pancakes or latkes. And they were under $25 last time I checked.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                              I'd go with cast iron, too. My grandmother used the same cast iron pan for 50 years, and the only thing she cooked in it were potatoe pancakes. I have now inherited this pan, and man, does it ever make great potatoe pancakes!