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I recently purchased a stainless steel pan from AllClad, but I'm struggling to use it. Food, and in particular eggs, seem to stick readily to the pan, making it hard to use. There is a question on Seasoned Advice that pertains to cooking an omelette on a stainless steel pan, but I think the challenges of frying an egg are different and more challenging. I've been able to cook an omelette in this pan, but have yet to succeed with a fried egg.

Looking online, I learned that stainless steel pans, like cast-iron, need to be seasoned in order to be non-stick. The process that I followed to season my pan was as follows:

  1. Pour in 1/4 cup walnut oil.
  2. Heat pan on medium heat until the oil begins to smoke.
  3. Turn heat off and let the pan cool completely.
  4. Remove the oil and wipe the pan dry.

I tried this process, but when I try to fry an egg in the pan, it still sticks readily. There is some improvement, but it is still not possible to cook an egg without sticking that destroys the egg in the end.

I'm not sure what I may be doing wrong, or is a stainless steel pan just not something that one can use for frying eggs? Should I just expect that there will be some stick whenever I use this pan?

Update

After watching this short course on pay frying, I tried to pre-heat my pan, using the water-test as a guide, and adding just a bit of oil to the pan before dropping the egg in. The results were the same. The egg stuck to the pan thoroughly. So again I'm not sure what I'm doing incorrectly. Maybe the oil I'm using isn't right? I've been using ghee.

Update 2:

I've yet to succeed in frying a egg on this pan, but a few additional questions/issues have surfaced:

  1. Some answers here have suggested that despite the presence on the web of tutorials for "seasoning" stainless steel pan this is not necessary and may not be advisable.

  2. The trick may be to fry the egg starting at a much lower heat then you might with something like a piece of meat. For meat, you often encounter the suggestion to use the "water test", but as at least one answer has suggested here that may not work with a fried egg.

These are the possibly insights I've gleaned so far, but I've also yet to succeed, so these may turn out to be wrong as well.

Satisfying Answer (May be others)

The solution that I have settled on here -- i.e. what finally worked for me -- was to work with lower heat than I thought was needed, and not to season the pan. There is definitely a lot of conflicting information out there about stainless steel pans. There are a great number of blog posts and YouTube videos that talk about how to season a pan. Seasoning may still be a useful thing to do, but I was able to fry an egg on an unseasoned pan finally.

The method I used is more or less as follows:

  1. Clean pan thoroughly.

  2. Take egg out of refrigerator and let it sit in warm water for five minutes or so. (This may not be necessary.)

  3. Put pan on stove on medium flame/heat. (I only tried this on a gas stove.)

  4. Let pan pre-heat until it is warm when you hold your hands over the pan. Warm, not hot! This might take 20-30 seconds, maybe less.

  5. Add the oil (1-2 tbsp), and lower the flame to low. Let the oil heat a bit, perhaps another 10-15 seconds, or less.

  6. Crack the egg into the pan. The whites should stay clear, only slowly whitening. If the egg begins to turn white immediately, the pan is too hot. And the egg should also not stick at this point. There may be a bit of sticking, especially around the edges. You can dislodge the sticking gently by hand, but don't mess with the egg too much. Cook until done or ready to flip. Make sure heat stays low. If you see some sticking it may be (I'm not sure about this) because the pan has become too hot.

So that's the best I've been able to do with help from the selected answer.

  • I assume your answer is already among these 82 questions – user34961 Aug 6 '17 at 19:11
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    @JanDoggen If you want to link duplicate or related questions I think that is great. But to post a link with 82 items with so many that aren't relevant isn't really helping anything. – Cindy Aug 6 '17 at 19:21
  • Did you add oil before frying? Just because it's seasoned doesn't mean you don't need to add oil before cooking. – Wolfgang Aug 6 '17 at 20:50
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    Possible duplicate of Can't make an omelette in my all-clad pan because of sticking – Catija Aug 7 '17 at 15:10
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    @Catja I see your point. I guess the question is simply: can, and if so, how can this be done with stainless steel. If the answer is it cannot, so be bit. But there are plenty of videos on YouTube where people do succeed and so I am curious why I cannot. Also, I don't currently have a nonstick pan, and am not crazy about their chemical surface. – fraxture Aug 10 '17 at 16:23
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From your description there are two things that stand out to me:

1) stainless steel pans should NOT be seasoned in a manner similar to cast iron. These are completely different materials, and if you "seasoned" your stainless pan, such that it has a coating of basically burned oil on it, you have to first clean that pan until it's nice and shiny/bare steel again.

2) using the sizzle test for eggs suggests to me the pan is too hot. For eggs, you always want to use lower heat to prevent them going dry and sticking (even in a non-stick pan, you will have some sticking if you use high heat for eggs, especially when scrambling)

so try this: clean your pan. when ready to cook the egg, heat the pan on medium heat. to test for hotness, hold your hand close to the surface to see if it feels warm. obviously, don't burn yourself ;) add your ghee to the pan and let it heat a little longer until it looks very fluid and shimmery. swirl the pan to distribute the oil, then add your egg(s) and do your thing

  • I tried to do what you said as best as I could, but achieved basically the same result. I first cleaned the pan with Bar Keeper's Friend. I dried it thoroughly, and then I put it on a medium to medium low flame. When it was warm (may 30-40 seconds on the flame) I put in the oil and waited for another 15-20 seconds, and then cracked the egg into the pan. But it stuck again. You can tell it's sticking without touching it because the egg's surface fissures, especially around the edges where it's thinner. I tried this twice, once with Ghee and once with Walnut oil. No luck. – fraxture Aug 10 '17 at 13:16
  • This is a bit of a timely technique I might try that seems similar to what you are suggesting: youtube.com/watch?v=deSZka-j0Y0 – fraxture Aug 10 '17 at 13:27
  • After watching this video, I wonder if I need to start with even less heat... – fraxture Aug 10 '17 at 13:32
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    Finally had some success follow your instructions, or the spirit of them, a bit more closely. In my first attempt, I allowed the pan to get too hot. When you said warm, I didn't really think warm the first time. But taking that more literally I basically added the oil after about 20-30 seconds on medium flame. Then waited another 10 seconds maybe and dropped the egg in. The heat was so low that the egg only slowly began to whiten. It didn't stick at this temperature. – fraxture Aug 11 '17 at 17:15
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Like the OP in this previous question (Why do scrambled/fried eggs stick less when cooked with butter instead of oil?), I believe you are blaming the equipment when the fault may well lie with the operator...

See this answer and the linked material there (especially the Alton Brown video) to improve your technique.

The keys are thoroughly warming the pan and oil to a medium heat and patience.


(should this be considered a duplicate question?)

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    if you had read my question, you would have seen that in my question I stated: "I'm not sure what I may be doing wrong..." Also, in my update, which you apparently also did not read, I stated that I'd tried pre-heating the pan according to the so-called "water test." I will check out your links. I'm quite sure I haven't learned to use this pan correctly. But what I'm looking for is some sort of guidance about how to improve my "operation" of the equipment. – fraxture Aug 7 '17 at 15:00
  • First, I assure I did read your question completely and several times. My comment about the equipment vs user comes down to whether we should judge this as a duplicate (to several other candidates) in which your question differentiates solely on the pan. Secondly, the 'water test' tells you the pan is 'at least' hot enough, but does not address the question of whether or not your pan may well be "too hot" (which..ooh.. can cause sticking). – Cos Callis Aug 7 '17 at 15:22
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    You wrote: "I believe you are blaming the equipment..." That's wrong -- as the question makes clear. What you say about the "water test", I believe, is also wrong. If when you drop water on the pan, it breaks apart into several beads, that's an indication that it's too hot (according to the course I linked in the update to my question.) – fraxture Aug 7 '17 at 16:05
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    In the video linked from that Q, Alton Brown appears to be using a non-stick pan. – fraxture Aug 10 '17 at 12:59
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I have had a set AllClad pans for over a decade and I had this issue at first but here's what I do that mostly avoids sticking:

  • Heat: I throw small drops of water on the pan. If they dissipate immediately the pan might be a little too hot. If they turn into little balls that roll around as if there is no friction, then it's perfect.
  • Use Butter: I prefer this to oil mainly for the flavor but it also is helpful to know whether the pan is the right temperature. If it starts bubbling hard and browning, it's too hot. You can still use it but turn the heat down.
  • Once the butter has laid down flat and the water has left it, you can drop the eggs in. My eggs are cold from the fridge so I usually turn the heat down after they have warmed a bit.
  • Wait a bit before breaking the yolks. The yolk sticks a lot more than the whites. For scrambled eggs, I typically wait for the white to go translucent and then gently break the yolks. Let the yolk harden a bit and then fold. At this point I let turn the heat way down (off even) and let them get to the desired consistency.

This typically results in no sticking that would require more than a brush or scouring pad. I would recommend getting some Bar Keeper's Friend powder for maintaining the pans especially if you want to keep the outside of them looking nice. What's worse than eggs is burned-on oil and if you are bound to do this at some point especially if you use the pan for searing. Detergent won't put much of a dent on that. The oxalic acid will take it off in seconds with a little elbow grease. Baking soda is also a decent option for this. Kosher salt can be used in a similar manner for eggs if you really get them stuck.

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I have two All Clad tri-ply stainless steel pans. First things - these pans are much more efficient. The highest heat level I use is medium high. That's for searing only, then reduce heat to medium for cooking. Seasoning the pan, I preheated the pan on the stove you can trust with a drop of water. If it bubbles the pan is ready then turn the heat off.

Use whatever oil you cook with. Remember this well - Oil will affect the taste of your food. Use a paper towel to wipe excess oil off the pan. I did this twice before I cook on it. You could check All Clad website for more details.

PS. I only use high temperature to boil water in the pan. Always wipe pan thoroughly dry after washing it with soap and water and soft sponge only.

  • Welcome! I've attempted to improve your post by adding some punctuation. Please review the edit and feel free to fix anything that was wrong. If you could, in future, please attempt to use proper punctuation so that your meaning is more clear. – Catija Aug 7 '17 at 4:58
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    This answer doesn't really address the question. – GdD Aug 7 '17 at 7:52
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Use plenty of fat! I always fry my eggs in butter - I love the flavor. Use plenty so it creates a nice puddle for your eggs. I have no difficulty in my pan either on high heat (you must stay there and babysit it!) for brown butter; or lower and slower. Yumm. Always delicious, easy, never seasoned a stainless steel pan in my life. Chandler. Good luck.

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Here’s the best answer, based on decades of cooking at home and decades of life experience and much time spent researching this: Don’t use stainless steel to cook eggs. At all. No professional chef does this. At all. Use cast iron or nonstick pans for eggs. Period.

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    Please do not insult other users here. This time, I edited it out, but it is our job as moderators to also sanction users who repeatedly break our Code of conduct. – rumtscho Mar 6 at 8:23

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