Can you ruin an SS fry pan by stir-frying with too little oil?
I live in a very small apartment, and don't really have the room for a wok, but I've been doing a lot more stir frying lately on an old non-stick fry pan, which isn't working too well. I'm thinking of getting a new SS fry pan with a regular surface, but I do like to minimize the amount of oil I use - about two or three long sprays from a good oil mister I have. Also, I know I have to be careful about keeping the food moving, and not letting it burn.
Can I ruin an SS fry pan by stir frying with a small amount of oil? I don't mind having to put some effort into cleaning the pan - I've seen lots of great suggestions on chowhound on how to do so. I just don't want to impair the cooking quality of the pan.
Any suggestions would be appreciated - thanks in advance.
Most woks are made of carbon steel, so I'd suggest you consider getting a carbon steel frying pan. CS pans are easy to season and clean, can take high heat (unlike nonstick pans), and aren't expensive.
I don't think you're likely to ruin a solidly made SS skillet. But given the amount of oil you're using, I suspect you might continue to find it "isn't working too well." What do you mean by not too well?
It is true that very high heat and non-stick do not play well together. Tanuki's suggestion of a carbon steel pan is good: can take very high heat while also tending to be less sticky than SS, once seasoned. But you will need to take care of it more carefully to season it and avoid corrosion--not much work, but more than with SS.
You won't ruin a SS pan with high heat, but you might warp it. That'll be less likely if it's heavy and on the small side, no more than about 8-10", but it could happen. It's not really an issue on gas or electric coil stoves, but it renders the pan useless on radiant or induction ranges.
You can cook with minimal oil and minimal sticking on SS, but you've got to "season" it every time you need it to be non-stick, or alternatively, treat it like cast iron and don't clean with soap. Of course, anything acidic will remove this faux seasoning, but it's really easy to replace it. There are some Youtube videos explaining the process. It's a LOT easier than seasoning carbon steel or cast iron, as long as you remember it's temporary. I've done it, and it works. But I don't take my SS frypans beyond med-high heat for more than a minute or two on my radiant cooktop.
If you don't want to worry about warping, follow Tanuki soup's advice and get a heavy carbon steel skillet.
Everything is possible, but it is rather unlikely that you can ruin your SS fry pan by using too little oil. That being said, you may partially burn an oil residue and coat it onto your SS pan surface. You may have food badly stick to the pan. You may very well have subpar stir fry due to lack of heat transfer and lack of frying. It is tough to significantly cut down oil on a SS fry pan. If you really want to cut down oil, your best bet is actually a Teflon nonstick pan, follows by a carbon steel or cast iron cookware. Stainless steel should not be your choice.
The pan is more than likely to be fine.