How to Keep Food from Sticking to Pans

From stovetop pots to baking pans, follow these tips to keep food from sticking.

Tips for Keeping Foods from Sticking to Pans:

  • Don't use metal scrubbers to clean pots, as these can leave tiny scratches in the finish where food can build up and stick.
  • If you use nonstick pans, don't use metal utensils, as these can scratch the coating.
  • Nonstick cooking sprays can leave a gummy buildup on pans, causing food to stick later. If you do use a nonstick spray, though, apply it to a cold pan, then put the pan on the heat. If your pan feels sticky or gummy after you've washed it, remove the buildup with a nonabrasive cleanser.
  • Season cast-iron pans and carbon-steel woks before you use them. Little will stick to these pans if you season them properly.
  • If you overcook food, it is more likely to stick to the pan.

How to Keep Foods from Sticking to Pans:

  1. Again, buy good pans and make sure your pans are free of food buildup.
  2. Buy good-quality, heavy pots and pans. Thin pots and pans can develop “hot spots,” which cause food to burn and stick. Heavy nonstick pans are great for cutting down on sticking, but some cooks believe food doesn't brown as well in them, and even the highest quality nonstick coating degrades over time.
  3. Follow your recipe carefully. Most recipes will indicate if a pan should be greased, greased and floured, or left ungreased.
  4. Make sure your pots and pans are completely clean before you use them. Old food buildup can burn and make food stick. Black spots on your cookware indicate food buildup. Scrub it off with a nonabrasive cleanser such as Bon Ami or Soft Scrub.
  5. If in doubt, grease.
  6. Try to have your food at room temperature before adding it to the pan.
  7. Heat the pan before adding the food, then add a small amount of cooking oil or other fat. When the oil is also hot, add the food. (The exception is with nonstick pans: don't heat them too long without putting something in them, or you could damage the coating.)
  8. Use nonstick cooking spray to quickly and easily coat baking pans.
  9. If food does burn, wait for the pan to cool, then soak it in hot water.
  10. To coat a baking pan with butter or shortening, use a paper towel to apply the fat. Coat thinly and evenly.
  11. To grease and flour a pan (usually for cakes), coat the pan with cooking spray, then add a tablespoon of flour to the pan. Knock the pan from side to side to coat it with flour. Don't forget the sides.

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