11

Whenever I'm doing scrambled or fried eggs, I use butter and a regular frying pan (aluminium I think) without any special non-stick coating. They never stick to the pan, it's as if they're floating on top of the butter within the pan.

My wife usually uses oil, and whatever she does, the eggs always stick in the pan, and it's a pain to get them out, and fried eggs usually become a broken mess.

So, why would cooking eggs with oil make them stick to the pan, and doing it with butter wouldn't?

  • Could it be that she adds the eggs before her oil is hot enough? – charisis Aug 20 '11 at 17:41
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    Its possible somebody will come along and give a technical reason for butter vs oil - but you've pointed out there's a difference in the person, and technique counts for a lot in the stick vs non-stick battle. – rfusca Aug 20 '11 at 18:51
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    @rfusca Good point. I never actually tried using oil myself, because I don't like "oily" eggs and prefer the taste that using butter adds to them. But I'll persuade my wife to use butter next time, then we'll see :) – takrl Aug 21 '11 at 15:41
  • There is a physical difference: butter contains water and some non-fat solids. Don't know how that affects things, though. – Pete Becker Feb 9 '15 at 15:55
11

Technique is the key here. If she is using oil expect she is adding the eggs before the oil is hot, she is probably also rushing her attempt to turn/flip/scramble/move them. One of the hardest things to learn when frying eggs is to walk away immediately after adding the eggs to the hot pan.

I notice you are in Germany, I don't know what your access to the USA's "Food Network" is but this episode of a Alton Brown's "Good Eats" can show your wife "eggsellent" technique.

(pardon the pun, couldn't resist...)

New Links: Good Eats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx8up7UJv2s Alton Brown on CBS Morning Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD3QeyK4bJY

  • Thanks for this, I suspect you may be right re. the "walk away" bit. I'll report our mileage. Re. TV, I currently only get Food Network UK via satellite. – takrl Aug 24 '11 at 7:41
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    I don't think it's technique. I have the same problem with olive oil, and I let the pan get nice and hot before adding the oil. The eggs always stick. When I use the same pan, same heat, with butter, the eggs never stick. I've noticed that when using oil, when I add the egg it actually seems to slide under the oil a bit, whereas with butter, the egg really stays on top of the butter. I'm not a scientist, so I can't explain it, but that's what I'm seeing. – user17183 Mar 9 '13 at 17:36
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    I have the same experience. I can get non-stick with oil on a stainless steel pan if I pre-heat the pan before adding the oil, then let the oil get rather hot, and then add the eggs. But then I get the crunchy burnt edges I like and everyone else hates. Butter just works. I feel like there is need for more research on this question. – labyrinth Jun 28 '14 at 15:02
  • @BaffledCook...Thanks for taking out the dead links. Revived with some new ones that work...at least today :0) – Cos Callis Feb 28 '17 at 6:45
4

OP- I've had a similar experience, causing me to search out an answer. My eggs always stick with coconut oil and rarely do with butter. I am quite certain I follow the same process in terms of heating the pan and allowing the fat to get hot.

Here's my only (totally unsupported) speculation, based mostly on what I SEE happening in the pan: I think oils are pure fat while butter contains small amounts of water. As the water in the butter gets heated out it creates large enough bubbles to affect the surface contact of the egg with the pan, causing less opportunity for it to stick. Any one have thoughts on this hypothesis? I'd love to know what's really going on because it seems to make such a marked difference in how my breakfast turns out.

2

Its technique here most likely and I imagine the difference between using butter and oil here is that you can see that the butter has to melt (and therefore get somewhat hot) before using it. Additionally, you're probably not standing ready to drop the egg at the exact moment it melts. In other words, odds are your butter is reasonably hot.

With the oil, its entirely likely that its a little pour of oil and then a few seconds later the eggs. Oil doesn't have the same visual clue that its ready as oil. (Although 'swish' around the pan will help tell you if its reasonably warm - it'll flow much faster.)

The technique I've always been taught (by a local chef in some classes years ago) in this regard is:

  • Pan on stove.
  • Heat.
  • Wait for pan to get reasonably hot.
  • Put oil/butter/fat/etc in pan.
  • Wait for oil to get hot.
  • Food!
  • I thought one should never heat a dry pan? – Jeremy Mar 10 '13 at 17:29
0

It's got nothing to do with technique. That is a myth. The fact is that butter has a different molecular structure from pretty much every other frying oil, whether vegetable oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil or avocado oil. I believe the butter forms a temporary "non-stick" coating, a barrier, just as a non-stick pan has. I was amazed when I found I could even cook a perfect, fluffy omelette in a stainless steel pan using butter! The pan doesn't have ~any~ coating, by the way, and the omelette just slides out on its own. Completely non-stick! Since then I have retired nearly all my non-stick pans to the waste bin and only have stainless steel ones now.

-1

I think it has to do with the density of the egg, the oil and butter. Eggs have a density of around 1.03 g/cc, butter is around .96 g/cc and oil is around .91 g/cc. as you heat the butter or the oil the density drops even more and as butter contains water which has a density of 1 it is very close to the egg and should stratify with the solids at the bottom then the water and finally the fat. When the egg is dropped into the butter it sinks more slowly given the egg time to flash cook and make a layer less likely to stick. The oil lets the egg drop straight to the bottom much faster and the egg pushes the oil out of the way making contact with the pan and it sticks.

  • 2
    If it were truly a density effect, your numbers would imply that the egg would float better above the oil (larger difference in density). – S. Burt Aug 31 '16 at 19:53
  • The idea is that butter (which clarifies upon heating, with the solids actually migrating upwards, rather than down), is relatively more dense than standard oils. In other words, butter/ghee is 'heavier' than oil, which is 'heavier' than air. Egg darts right through air, takes longer through oil, but even longer through butter. But before it can sink through butter, the heat has already cooked it. However, this would suggest that water itself would be an even better cooking lubricant, which I rather doubt. – user45957 Sep 14 '16 at 16:28

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