Many a cook has lamented how food sticks to their pan-especially chicken. I once worked at a Crate and Barrel, and it wasn’t unusual for people to return pan sets, even “non-stick” pan sets, complaining that somehow they “didn’t work.” Actually, it is not the pan’s fault.
Prevent your food from sticking by following these rules closely.
- Make sure your protein (fish, meat, or vegetable protein) is at room temperature before cooking. If this means letting it sit out on the counter for 30-45 minutes, don’t worry, it’s fine.
- Make sure it’s dry. While you may not be able to get a chicken breast or filet of fish completely dry, do pat it with paper towels before cooking to soak up any excess liquid.
- Lubricate both your pan and your protein! Don’t be afraid of a little cooking oil, and stay away from cooking sprays for sautéing or browning. They are full of other ingredients that will just gunk up a good pan. Apply a good dollop of oil or portion of oil and butter to your pan and your protein and make sure it is evenly spread around on both. It’s possible, but not ideal, to use only butter for browning foods. Clarified butter or ghee is another option. Better to use a extra virgin olive oil, canola, peanut, or coconut oil, which tolerate higher heat. You can see more about oils and their smoke points here. You can also fry with olive oil, despite popular belief to the contrary.
- Make sure that pan is hot! Your oil should be shimmering hot and near smoking when you are ready to lay your meat/protein into it.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan. If you’re cooking, say, many pieces of chicken, don’t lay them all in at once. Instead, do them in batches, wiping the pan clean between each batch. If you lay too much food in the pan at the same time, you will end up cooling it down and the food will end up steaming in all the juices released, rather than browning at high heat.
- Be patient. Chicken, beef, pork, and several types of fish take several minutes to brown and be ready to release from the pan. Just because it sticks at first doesn’t mean you have failed. Once the proteins begin to brown, gently slide the spatula beneath the meat. If it doesn’t release easily, wait another minute (or two).
- Get your heat right. Usually, medium to medium high heat is just right for browning everything but the most delicate proteins. Too hot, and you will burn your food before it can brown. Too cool, and your food will begin to steam and may not brown at all, and may soak up more oil than you’d like. If you need to turn your pan down after initially bringing it to high heat and adding in your items, that’s fine.
If you find these tips helpful, please leave a comment and share!