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Quote from www.saltworks.us:

Preventing food from sticking - Rub a pancake griddle with a small bag of salt to prevent sticking and smoking. Sprinkle a little salt in the skillet before frying fish to prevent the fish from sticking. Sprinkle salt on washed skillets, waffle iron plates or griddles, heat in a warm oven, dust off salt; when they are next used, foods will not stick.

I've heard this more than once but never tried this, because I simply can't imagine why or how this works, and mostly the descriptions are a bit vague (for example, what temperature should a "warm oven" be?).

If it does work, how long does the effect last, just the next time it's used? And would there be remains of salt left in the pan when it's used next, so that one should use salt with caution after applying this procedure?

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    Can't answer the main question but terms like, "warm oven" and "hot oven" do have a meaning. My grandmother always used to refer to cool, warm, moderate, hot and very hot ovens for baking. My mother used gas marks. I have always had electric ovens in C. So my whole life has been spent converting between these three systems. Roughly a cool oven is down at 110-120C, a wram oven maybe 150-160C, a moderate oven around 170-180C, hot ovens would be at 200C, very hot at 220C. – Rincewind42 Aug 18 '11 at 13:45
  • I'm guessing salt works similarly to cornmeal in preventing bread from sticking to bakeware, by putting a layer of material between pan and food. However, I think this is also a great way to cause salt corrosion damage to your pans, particularly cast-iron stuff. – BobMcGee Aug 18 '11 at 14:44
  • @Bob Thanks. I think it's not really meant for cast-iron ones, because if they're seasoned properly, they're pretty much non-stick anyway. My guess is that it's probably more meant for aluminium ones without teflon or any other kind of non-stick coating. Good point about the cornmeal, I just wonder how much salt would be left after "dusting off" to have any effect. – takrl Aug 18 '11 at 14:59
  • @Rince Thanks, that at least gives me an idea about the temperatures. – takrl Aug 18 '11 at 14:59
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    I don't know how to google and find citations to prove a negative, but my best guess from understanding the science is that salt sprinkled in a pan then wiped out will have precisely no affect whatsoever. The claim is quite silly. – SAJ14SAJ Mar 6 '13 at 1:15
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Most of the described method will help you to clean and dry your pan. A clean pan, especially when it is cast iron, is a happy pan and will work better. A clean and smooth surface, and rubbing salt on it will clean and smooth a metal surface, will also help to prevent food from sticking.

Sprinkling your pan with salt immediately before frying fish or meat is pointless. What salt does to food is to bind water and less moist things stick less. But your pan should be so hot that the little salt can't make a difference. If the salt has time to dry your food, your pan just isn't hot enough.

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    Agreed. The salt just acts as a physical abrasive while rubbing. Note that the first tip says to prevent "sticking and smoking" - it obviously refers to the removal of particles remaining on the pan from the last cooking process, which would start to smoke and glue the food to the pan while turning to charcoal. – rumtscho Mar 6 '13 at 12:00
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    It sounds like this would be pretty much equivalent to properly cleaning your pan with a good scrubber, then heating the pan sufficiently to make sure it's dry. – Cascabel Mar 6 '13 at 16:20
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Try it before you knock it! My mom did this when I was growing up. I do not know why it works but it does. She would put about a tablespoon of table salt in a seasoned cast iron pan on top of the stove and heated it until the salt turned a little brown. She would wipe the salt out with a paper towel and throw it in the trash. Amazingly the cast iron was as non-stick as a brand new Teflon pan. I do not know the chemistry behind it but I do know that something happens and the difference is amazing. Just try it. It will not hurt your cast iron.

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I saw a chef on European TV who always sprinkles a little salt on his hot skillets, swirls it, and then wipes it before grilling anything. Nothing sticks. His explanation is that the salt absorbs the extra moisture ingrained in the pans, especially cast iron. I do that whenever I remember, especially when searing meat or chicken without adding fat, and of course for fish. It works.

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I've used this method for 70 years, learned from my mother. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt, let it get good and hot, wipe clean with paper towel and cook your food. I use it at least a couple times a week (cast iron skillet) when making pancakes. John

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    Do you have any ideas as to why this method works? And do you also put oil in the pan? (I would imagine so for pancakes, but don't want to make false assumptions.) – Lorel C. Mar 6 '17 at 2:29
  • @LorelC. While some people use butter or oil in the pan when cooking pancakes, there are many of us who do not. – Cindy Mar 6 '17 at 12:59
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My mother always salted the cast iron pan before frying meatballs. I believe this method is meant for meat that will render fat, alleviating the need to oil the pan. I don't think fish would work.

  • This does not answer the why question. – Jan Doggen Oct 27 '17 at 8:13
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If you have a pan that has micro-scratches from using metal cooking utensils, then it is always advisable to fill you pan with salt, heat it, allow to cool slightly, and using a kitchen towel to rub the salt well into the pan. This will remove the scratches. Following that, season your pan as normal.

What the salt is doing is acting as a fine abrasive. When I was a chef, I was proving and seasoning pans all the time. We also used sand as well depending on the state of the pan.

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Im an ex Airforce Chef and we would Prove our Omelette pans with salt once every 2 weeks. Proving the pan with salt drew all the moisture out of the pan and the pan would become non stick. a high heat would be used and the pan and salt would be on the heat for no more than 5 minutes.

  • Doesn't heat dry out any moisture? – rox0r Feb 21 at 23:41

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