I'm having the hardest time preventing scrambled eggs from sticking to stainless steel cookware. I've tried bringing the eggs to room temperature before cooking, slowly heating the pan, loads of butter (tasted great, still stuck), adding milk to the eggs. How can I prevent scrambled eggs from sticking to stainless steel?
Raw protein sticks to hot stainless steel as soon as it comes into contact with it. However, once the layer which is stuck to the pan cooks through, it releases from the pan. The trick is to heat the pan over a low heat before adding the eggs, then don't touch them until there is a layer of cooked egg on the bottom - about a minute or two. Then when you start stirring, the cooked egg will easily peel off the bottom and the pan will be sufficiently seasoned so that the rest of the egg doesn't stick to it.
The worst thing you can do from a sticking point of view is slowly heat the pan with scrambled eggs, the pan must be hot enough to get them sizzling right away or they'll act like glue. That's the opposite of what you want to do of course, as the slower you cook the eggs the better they taste, which is why I always cook mine in a non-stick pan.
Start with medium heat and get the pan hot but put a tablespoon of butter before it gets too hot. Once the foaming stops, add the eggs into the pan and stir constantly but reduce the heat to low. I add about a tablespoon of milk to my eggs.
If it starts sticking to the bottom while you're stirring, then the pan has gotten too hot. Just move it off the burner and continue stirring.
After scrubbing out many a burned-on egg fond, and giving up and buying a cheap ceramic pan just for omlets, I finally figured out the secret to cooking even notoriously sticky egg whites in stainless:
1) Heat pan on high until water drops levitate, as usual
2) add oil or perhaps clarified butter
3) COOL IT DOWN! reduce the heat and pick the pan up off the burner for a bit
4) add eggs only when the pan is down to the same medium-low that would be used with non-stick
Tried this with the last of some egg whites on a whim after heating a frozen scallion pancake, and they released once set without the slightest sticking, completely opposite earlier disasters when the pan was too hot and the eggs reached through the thin fat layer to grab and burn.
This is perfectly do-able.
Heat some cooking fat (olive oil works well; butter works OK) in the pan until it is, in the words of Usborne's My First Cookbook, "hot but not smoking".
Keep it at that temperature. Ideally, this is done by setting the hob to the correct power, i.e. turn the hob down fairly low once the pan is up to temperature. You might need to temporarily move the pan partly or entirely off the hob, to stop the pan overheating, if you overshoot with the hob power. (You haven't failed if you need to do this! And as you get used to the rate at which your pan gets to temperature on your hob, you'll need to do it increasingly rarely.)
Tilt the pan to coat the inner surface evenly with a thin layer of the hot fat. This will act as both a cooking medium (i.e. it conducts heat from the pan to the food) and as a semi-non-stick surface (i.e. it provides a very thin, slippery barrier between the hot steel and the food).
Add the whisked eggs (or whatever you are cooking) to the pan.
As the food cooks, slide the tip of a stainless steel fishslice under the food to lift it off the pan before the food sticks. Also use the fishslice to turn the food as necessary. Keep doing this, actively, until the food is cooked to your satisfaction.
If you let the pan get too hot, or weren't active enough with the fishslice, then the food will stick. If this happens, don't worry: it won't burn immediately. But act swiftly: get some suitable water-based liquid (e.g. milk, in the case of scrambled eggs; or water if you were cooking a stir-fry), and pour a small amount (one to several teaspoons' worth, depending on how bad the adhesion is) into pan as close to the adhesion as possible. This may spit slightly so don't put your face close to the pan while you do it. It will deglaze the pan and eliminate or at least reduce the adhesion, allowing you to resume your work with the fishslice. (You might need to press the tip of the fishslice at a shallow angle fairly firmly into the cooking surface of the pan, as you slide it under the food, if the food is sticking. That will let you scrape the food off the surface of the pan. Plastic fishslices aren't usually up to this task, which is why I emphasised, above, using a stainless steel one.)
Well, if you must use a stainless steel pan (you should ideally use a non-stick pan) the two things you must do is -
1/ Cook over the lowest heat you can get on your cooker hob and,
2/ Stir continuously, don't stop for a second.
It's a similar principle to making roux (fat and flour) cook over low heat and stir continuously otherwise it sticks and burns.
That's what's happening to your eggs, they're sticking and burning because they're cooking too fast (because the heat's too high) and sticking because you're not stirring enough or fast enough to stop them sticking.