How to Properly Heat Your Pan So Food Won't Stick

How to Properly Heat Your Pan So Food Won't Stick


One of the greatest whims of the kitchen is the pan. People love their pans and like to make a lot of recipes in them. But a lot of people also struggle with maintaining their pans. Regardless of the making of the pan, the most common kitchen mistakes include food being stuck on the bottom of an unseasoned pan. People make this mistake by adding food to the pan before it is hot enough. Sometimes you can overdo it and have a really hot pan which would burn the food instantly.

Even professional chefs have a bunch of pans always over a soft tongue of a flame so that when they reach for the pan, they are already hot. These pans and every other pan follow some basic rules of physics that require them to be just the right temperature for cooking purposes. Depending on what you’re cooking, you will need to heat your pan differently. But the basic gist is to season the pan if it is iron, stainless steel, or any other metal coating pan. If it is a non-stick pan, your life will be a little easier, but that cookware comes with its own challenges.

More than anything, the reason for this mess is mostly laziness. When you’re in the kitchen, you want to be done with the cooking process as efficiently and as quickly as possible. So, even after being well aware of the concept of pre-heating, you will sometimes try to save some time and rush the process, which will result in stuck food, and eventually you having to scrub it off and put some elbow’s grease into it. Talk about saving time and effort, hah!

The science behind this is simple. It is all about expansion. When you heat your pan, it expands a little on a microscopic level. You should allow the pan to heat up even before adding the oil to complete the expansion. When it is not properly expanded, the food can stick to the surface. Imagine as you’re heating up your pan and it is in the process of swelling up (microscopically, of course), it can grab at the food laying on top of it. But when it is properly heated up, there is nothing that would grab at your food and make it stick.

Making Steaks and Meat in a Pan

Cooking meats in the pan is the most famous and the most mistaken recipe at the same time. Meat and any proteins tend to be the most vulnerable to sticking. When you add your meat to a pan too soon, the meat will just sit there as it gets hot with the pan, losing all moisture within and leaking water into the pan. These juices are where the most flavours of the meat are. These will start boiling away as the pan gets hotter. This way, you will miss out on that fine brown crust and instead have a grey mess. Ideally, while cooking tender meats, you want to do it as soon as possible because the more time the meat will spend overheat, the tougher it will get.

Sautéing Veggies

The concept is pretty much the same as cooking meats. If you add a vegetable to a cold pan, that first impact will do more harm than good, since it will bring the vegetables to the cooking temperature where the pan gets there. This will steam the vegetables rather than sautéing them. The concept is that while searing meats or sautéing veggies, the first impact is supposed to form a rigid layer on the outside surface of the meat or vegetables. Once that is done, the moisture is locked in, and the desired result is achieved.

There are obviously exceptions to this since there are recipes like caramelized onions that need you to put in the ingredients (onions) while the pan is still getting hot. This is because they need the water to get out of the vegetable and be evaporated to achieve the ideal temperature for caramelizing the internal sugars.

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