How to Stop Food from Sticking to Stainless Steel Cookware

In our Essential Kitchen Tools post, we said that we prefer stainless steel cookware over non-stick. Many people are afraid to use stainless steel pots and pans because they think that food will stick, and it will be a bear to clean. However, with the correct cooking technique, you can leave your fear of food sticking in the past and reap the benefits that stainless steel cookware has to offer.

It’s almost so simple that we weren’t sure if we should make a whole blog post about it, but here goes:

Don’t add anything to your pan until it has fully preheated.

Yup, that’s it.

To understand why this solves the food sticking issue, you first must know why food sticks. While the surface of the pan may look smooth, it has pores, just like your skin – and as the pan heats up, those pores close up and grab onto whatever may be on them in the process. Once your pan has fully preheated, however, those pores are all closed up and you can sear up some steak or chicken and flip it without problem.

The result of cooking with stainless steel is the biproduct of this nice sear on meats. Left behind in the pan will be some nice golden caramelized bits that professional chefs call “sucs” or “fond”. No, this isn’t just another thing that needs to be washed out when you’re finished making dinner. This caramelization in the pan is the secret to any tasty sauce. Maybe you want to make a gravy – this is a great starting place. Or maybe some sort of wine reduction to serve on top of steak – this is also your base. Or maybe you aren’t looking to make a sauce and just want to be able to clean your pan easily. For any of these situations, you’ll start by deglazing. This can be done with any liquid when the pan is hot. If you’re making a pan sauce out of the sucs, add stock or wine. If you just want the pan clean, add some water to the pan before you take it off the heat, and viola! Easy to clean pan.

Hopefully this simple tip has cleared any reservations you may have had about using stainless steel cookware. You will certainly get more flavor and better sear than you could in a non-stick pan, and you will be able to create some pretty amazing sauces with the fond that is left behind!

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