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Problem Solved! How To Stop Food From Sticking To Stainless Steel

Make Stainless Steel Pans Nonstick - 1. putting fat in a stainless steel pan 2. scrambling eggs in a stainless steel pan with a wooden spoon

How To Keep Food From Sticking To Stainless Steel

When it comes to issues with stainless steel pans, sticking food is one of the most common complaints. Some even avoid them altogether because they think everything sticks to them. (Granted, delicate foods like eggs and fish do have a tendency to fall apart in stainless steel cookware without a generous amount of butter or oil present.)

But stainless steel pans have too many advantages to be written off completely — they’re incredibly durable and versatile, and they retain and distribute heat evenly. Luckily, you can use a stainless steel pan without giving up the convenience of a nonstick pan, and I’ll be sharing the secret that keeps food from sticking to stainless steel with you in this post!

Related: This Is The Most Important Thing To Know About Cast Iron

Using just a bit of coconut oil and salt, you can actually season stainless steel pans to prevent food from sticking and make them even more versatile. And since the “nonstick” surface you’re creating is all-natural, it won’t have any of the drawbacks of traditional nonstick finishes.

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans To Make Them Nonstick

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - coconut oil, salt, paper towels, stainless steel pan

You’ll need:

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - putting a spoonful of coconut oil in the pan

Directions:

Place the pan you want to season on your stovetop over medium-high heat. Put 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in the pan and allow it to melt.

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - placing the stainless steel pan with coconut oil on the stove

Swirl the oil around the surface of the pan, then pour out any excess oil so that only a thin, even layer of oil remains.

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - pouring salt into the melted oil in the stainless steel pan

3. Sprinkle a layer of table salt into the pan, enough to cover the bottom.

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - rubbing the melted oil and salt around inside the stainless steel pan

4. Grab a paper towel and use it to rub the oil and salt around, polishing the pan. Make sure to get the sides of the pan too! Use a clean paper towel to wipe out any excess oil and salt, and your pan is ready to go.

How To Season Stainless Steel Pans - cooking scrambled eggs in the seasoned stainless steel pan, using a wooden spoon

Potential Drawbacks Of Seasoning Stainless Steel

While this method’s advantages make it a worthwhile option (at least in my opinion), there are a couple of minor drawbacks to doing so that are worth mentioning. The first is that the nonstick effect won’t be permanent, meaning you’ll need to repeat the seasoning process when you notice food starting to stick again. (But as you’ve seen, it doesn’t take much time or effort to do, so that may or may not matter to you.)

The second drawback is that, in some situations, you’ll still need to add a bit of oil or butter to prevent your stainless steel pan from sticking. If you’re cooking eggs, fish, or other delicate foods, the thin seasoned layer may not be enough to prevent sticking entirely. With that being said, I don’t consider these two drawbacks to be deal-breakers in the slightest.

Related: 3 Easy And Effective Ways To Remove Burnt Messes From Cookware

The “Problem Solved!” Series

You might also enjoy this post: The Best Ways To Clean Stainless Steel Appliances And More

What type of cooking pan do you use most frequently at home?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Bright Ideas

  • Thanks Jillee! This tip might even work for my semi-retired husband who’s just started trying his hand at cooking! Thus far, I’ve been unable to convince him to even heat a pan before putting food in it! I’ve gotten him his own non-stick Misen skillet for that reason, but it’s only a matter of time before he grabs a stainless pan and makes an unholy mess of it!!! This tip might prevent the worst!

  • I have several stainless steel pans, so I love the suggestion so that I can use them again.
    Can I use any other oil besides coconut oil to season my stainless pans? I would love to know if olive oil or other vegetable oil, such as Wesson, would work as well.
    Thank you, in advance, for your answer. I would love to be using these pans that we received for our 50th anniversary, twelve years ago.

  • Wolfgang puck says the trick to these pans is to get it really hot then add oil( it should look like it floats and runs across the pan when hot enough) this is how you make it nonstick. He says that people just don’t know how to use them right so I tried it with his stainless steel pan I had and it worked perfectly, try it and you will love your pans after that

  • Has anyone tried this on AllClad? According to the instructions, you’re not suppose to put salt in them because it could cause pitting. I want to try this, but I’m worried about it making white spots.

  • I make my own yogurt in stainless steel pot to heat the re-constituted non-fat dry milk for 30 min at approx 200F. Pan is in boiling water bath. I did try this seasoning method and it was MUCH easier to clean the pot. Still soaked it overnight, but this is a welcome improvement. Thanks.

  • Yes i love my stainless steel pans, but things always sick! The salt seems random, what does that do? Do you know? Coconut oil alone doesn’t do the trick? Thanks!

  • The biggest reason most food sticks to stainless pans is because the pan is not hot enough when the food is added. Heat the pan and add a drop or two of water. If the water acts like mercury the pan is hot enough. If it doesn’t continue to heat it up some more. This little bit of information changed my attitude about cooking in my stainless pans. Now I am off to “season” my most used stainless to see how this works. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cindy and Karl are the winners. I have bought T-Fall stainless steel package, because I love stainless steal. ( no pollution into your food, lasts forever, easy to clean – SHINES forever). The KEY is to heat your frying pan to the right temperature. I was struggling to cook amazing pieces of fish, meat, etc. All was stuck to the pan or burnt too soon. All is to bloody lack off to mail impatience. But not today.
      I bought this beautiful salmon, farmed in New Zealand, in the high altitude. It it twice as expensive as salmon framed in US and as much testier. I came to this site, and found the right answer. HEAT RIGHT YOUR STAINLESS STEAL PAN. I used to pour bloody oil on eye, NO, teaspoon is enough. For bloody electrical stoves it has to be between 5 and 6.

      Thanks you all girls and pals. Cook right, enjoy life, love.

  • Thank you! I got so that I didn’t use my stainless for anything that might stick. I used your method, and scrambled eggs just slid off. I also did that to my ceramic pan that food was starting to stick to, and it worked on it, as well.

  • Monica is correct heat your steel pans first before adding oil or food. Once oil is added and coated the bottom of the pan you should only have approx 1 teaspoon of oil in the corner when you tip it. To hot though and the oil will burn tainting your food. To test for the correct temperature heat the pan and add a tiny drop of water to the pan( I tiny amount on the tip of a t-spoon will suffice) at first the water will fizzle away but keep testing. When the water runs around the pan like a ball of mercury that is the right heat. TURN THE PAN DOWN SLIGHTLY AT THIS STAGE. and then add the oil. If the drop of water Xplodes into lots of tiny mercury balls the pan is too hot, turn it down and try again. When you tip the pan the oil should have legs like wine down the sides of a glass. this shows the pan was hot enough. If the oil is smoking it’s to hot. Let it cool wipe out and start again. This will not taste good if you use burnt oil. You will soon get the hang of it. Now turn your pan to the desired temperature for cooking your food. add your food. And don’t play with it let it cook turning halfway. If cooking meat and it sticks slightly leave it a little longer, it will free itself as it browns. This way food will not stick to your pan and will taste great because you get better çaramelisation in steel than non stick.
    If cooking meat always pat it dry with kitchen roll before adding to the pan and let it warm to room temp for 10 mins before adding. This will also prevent sticking.
    Those lovely caramelized pieces that remain in the pan ( called sucs) can be made into a delicious sauce by reglazing the pan after by adding an acid like wine , or even a bit of water then thicken with flour. You can’t do this in nonstick pan because nonstick pans don’t give you sucs.
    Finally eggs are the only food I would recommend you cook in nonstick.

    I have been through culinary school.

  • If you heat your pan before adding the butter and the eggs, they don’t stick even in stainless pans. Most of us were never taught how to use stainless steel to cook.

      • many thanks for this good idea.
        I do bake in stainless steel pans with all the round dents in the bottom.
        never wash them with soap. sometimes after cleaning with hot water I grease the pans with a tiny bit of olive oil.
        the guy who sold them to me advised to heat them slowly and for many many years now they do a perfect job.
        however I will try this method on one I bought in france on a flea market

  • I discarded 3 sets of cookware that were cleaned until they looked as if they had seen better days. Then I got my induction range that required s/s cookware so expensive that I bought it piece by piece and O followed the manufacturer cleaning instructions. Not in the instructions, but widely known fact that salt is the enemy of steel, causing pitting and “stainless steel” is a misnomer as the stainless part actually refers to rust stain..and its ability to withstand potting and rust depends on the quantity (10% or more) of chromium is used with iron (50% or more) in making the steel cookware. Even salt added to pasta water should be stirred to dissolve because the settled grains if left undissolved while waiting for water boil, will over time pit the s/s pot. And did I mention those s/s pots and pans are expensive! For stick-free cooking, I have always spritzed my s/s pans and skillets with non-stick spray even when making soup (oil is a barrier because the acids and salt in soups and stews cook for prolonged times). I like my pans to keep that shiny look. Rubbing grains of salt (sugars as well) will scratch the glossy s/s surface and foods tend to stick to scratched surfaces more readily. For the occasional ‘forgot to stir the pot’ resulting in food getting cooked to the bottom, after removing all but the cooked-on layer, I put in just enough water to cover that area and let it sit for a few hours to soften it, then wash it clean. For burnt-black food, then I add enough table salt to cover the burnt on food, then add the water, and bring it up to a boil, shut it off right away and let it soak like that until it is cold. Then test it to see if the burnt food comes off. Longer soak may be needed if really burnt on. The key to using s/s cookware is to never scrub it with anything so abrasive that it will leave scratches, even minute ones. Use fiberglass backed sponges, nylon scrubbers or plastic scrapers, just no metal or steel scrapers, steel wool or steel coiled scrubbing balls as they interact with the metal bond of the chromium oxide layer on the outside of the cookware. If it’s too late and you’ve already scratched your pot, it’s not ruined…it can still be buffed back although it won’t be as glossy as new.

    • I agree with what Ramona Robuck said. Why on earth would you say such a nasty thing to Jillie? You would have been fine with what you said up until that last comment. SMH.

  • just wondering if there’s a special way to wash the pan. it seems like the seasoning would not last multiple uses if you used soap and water after cooking in it.

  • Wow. I never knew you could “season” stainless pans. That’s really neat! We have a mixture of stainless and cast iron pans. I think we have 2 non-stick pans but we honestly never use them. I actually do eggs in the cast-iron right after I cook bacon (that’s the only time I ever really cook eggs). When I pour out the bacon grease into a jar, I leave just enough to keep the eggs from sticking and it works really well!

  • So, once seasoned, how do you clean the pans after cooking? If you use soap it will dissolve the coating, won’t it? Is it to be treated basically like cast iron?

  • I will add to a few of the above comments. I was told when I purchased by S/S pots and pans to heat the pan first, then add whatever oil/butter medium you are using, then the food. I follow this and it works perfectly every time.
    You have to be careful not to use too high a heat when heating up the pan – I usually go with medium high – and not hold it at that temperature.

    • Martin Yan always said that on his show! The reason it works is that heating the pan first makes the metal expand, closing the “pores” in the metal. Then adding the oil keeps food from sticking. If you put oil in the pan before heating, it melts before the pan is warm, getting into the pores, keeping them open, and creating a texture that allows worse sticking.

      What I’d love to know is why ceramic pans, which are highly advertised as non-stick, always stick for me! Crazy, they NEVER act like on the TV commercials. I have never been able to slide a fried egg around the pan like they do! In fact, I prefer my stainless pan, because it sticks LESS!!

      • I was told that with ceramic pans the heat need not be that hot. I have a glass top electric stove top. I set a burner to medium, add a bit of olive oil, and pan fry tenderized cube steaks to the desired doneness.

  • My mother bought me some beautiful stainless steel pans for my birthday right before she died. I tried forever to cook in them but everything stuck. I did some research and learned that if I heat the pans over medium low heat until a droplet of water sizzles, i can use very little oil. Also, I put the food in and leave it alone for a short time – just enough to let the surface of the food touching the pan to cook and then release. Tada! Easy fried eggs

      • I am pan frying cube steaks tonight, and always used one of my three ceramic pans. I will try your suggestion and see what happens. I am thrilled to be able to use my stainless pans again, by seasoning them with olive oil and salt. Thank you, thank you, Jillee.

  • Be careful using coconut oil as a greased surface. It goes mouldy very quickly – can’t be seen by the naked eye – but watch it under a microscope and be very surprised.

  • I’m going to try it before lunch!
    I love my stainless steel pan, even if cooking with it is a bit trick.
    Thanks again for sharing all those good tips

  • I treated myself to a stainless steel cookware set for my xmas gift for healthier lifestyle. After reading some current reviews, I have contemplated returning due to sticking issues.
    I’ll be keeping this cookware set and taking your advice on how to season the stainless steel pots and pans.
    Thank you for coming through once again with your perfectly timed blog!
    Can’t wait for each correspondence filled with great solutions!

  • Thanks, Jillee – Definitely going to try this! I bought a nice set of Martha Stewart stainless steel pans years ago, and rarely use them because of the sticking problem.

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