I have heard of putting chicken breasts in a pan and heating them No oil.

To get past any terminology issue, i've included a picture. Just imagine a chicken breast or pieces of chicken breast in the pan. And heat beneath the pan.

I heard you can cook like that, letting it cook in its own fat, no oil, nothing added to the chicken breast.

I wonder though, if it's bad for the pan?

Can this be done?

Can it go wrong, if so, how can I avoid it going wrong?

enter image description here

  • Is it a non-stick pan? (it looks to be). If so, pre-heating the pan (heating the pan while empty) can be bad. – Joe Jan 13 '14 at 15:46
  • @Joe I can get whatever pan is suitable. So should I be using a non stick pan or a stick pan? – barlop Jan 13 '14 at 16:13
  • well seasoned cast-iron. It has the non-stick properties that can reduce oil usage, without having the problems associated with pre-heating teflon-based non-stick pans. It's possible that some of the newer ceramic-based non-stick pans are okay. Trying to cook without oil in a non-preheated pan is just asking for lots of sticking troubles. – Joe Jan 13 '14 at 16:16
  • @Joe so are you saying I should get a cast-iron pan and pre-heat it. to get it to the right temperature to get the floating water bubble seriouseats.com/2009/12/… I can get a cast iron pan. At the moment my pan is stainless steel. Do I have to concern myself with the temperature rising anyway thus causing the meat to stick? – barlop Jan 13 '14 at 16:26
  • it doesn't specifically need to be to that temperature, but yes, cooking on a preheated skillet reduce sticking in the long run (they may stick, then release, like you'll get on a grill). – Joe Jan 14 '14 at 3:50

Doing this will not harm the pan, assuming you do not heat the pan to absurd temperatures (which is no different than if you used oil).

It may not give you ideal results for your chicken, though. Oil in the pan serves a couple of purposes. In traditional (as opposed to non-stick) pans, of course it helps prevent sticking.

It also provides a thermal coupling between the surface of the pan and the surface of the food, conducting heat from the one to the other (much akin to the way thermal paste helps your processor cooler work better).

Without this effect, you may get spottier and less reliable or uniform cooking of the chicken.

  • is there an infrared thermometer that would measure the temperature of the pan and not of the chicken in the pan? then I could see for sure if the pan is being heated to an absurd temperature. and if so, then how high is absurd? – barlop Jan 13 '14 at 16:16
  • Absurd is on the order of something exceeding 550 F / 290 C at which temperatures PTFE based non-stick coatings begin to be at risk for breaking down. – SAJ14SAJ Jan 13 '14 at 16:25
  • if I get an infrared thermometer, can I be sure it's measuring the pan and not the chicken? – barlop Jan 13 '14 at 16:27
  • If you have the chicken in the pan, the evaporative cooling will help mitigate the pan overheating; it is not something you need to worry about, really. The risk is before you add the chicken, such as leaving the pan on the flame to preheat. – SAJ14SAJ Jan 13 '14 at 16:31
  • Is there any danger to me if the chicken is cooked "spottier"? – barlop Jan 13 '14 at 16:33

I always cook with no oil (a lot heathier than fried!). Chicken breast (sliced in 2, not to be too thick) usually cooks fast. I do the same for beef and so many other things, in non-stick pans


Yes, it will almost certainly harm the pan.

Nonstick pans are sensitive to temperature, the Teflon starts to deteriorate at about 260 C. If you have a layer of oil in the pan (really a layer, not a few droplets from a spray, that makes it worse), then the heat coming from below is pumped from the pan into the oil everywhere, and the pan is unlikely to overheat. But if you are using a dry pan, the pan is full of air, which is a pretty good insulator, and the Teflon will quickly heat up above 260 C, at least in some spots. This will shorten the lifetime of your pan noticeably.

  • I don't see the reasoning here. A thin layer of vegetable oil is not going to provide much lateral heat flux to even out hot spots (certainly far less than the pan metal itself, no matter how thin). It won't help disperse heat into the atmosphere, and it doesn't have much thermal mass of its own. – Sneftel Oct 19 '20 at 13:00
  • @Sneftel oil is suprisingly good at reducing local overheating, else you'd be noticing spots of polymerized oil after every use. Admittedly, there is a window of temperature between teflon-decomposing-temperature and oil-polymerizing-temperature into which the pan probably goes sometimes, but it's still better than without the oil. And if you are in fact noticing polymer patches after each use, you are using too little oil. – rumtscho Oct 19 '20 at 13:20
  • I dunno. Even the notoriously hot-spotty stainless steel has a thermal conductivity around 16 W/mK. Canola oil's around 0.18 W/mK. It just doesn't seem like a significant contributor. – Sneftel Oct 19 '20 at 13:43
  • what about ceramic? ceramic seems to me like it'd be fine to preheat or to cook chicken fillet without oil. – barlop Oct 19 '20 at 14:25
  • 1
    @barlop ceramic has a different failure mode than teflon, and I don't know if it is connected to overheating or not. I have seen a lot of claims of it being connected to the combination of starch and oil (e.g. frying mekiza/langos in the pan), but I haven't seen proof for it. Maybe it happens sooner when you overheat the pan, maybe not. – rumtscho Oct 19 '20 at 14:29

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