Egg sticking to non-stick pans
November 7, 2007 8:48 PM   Subscribe

Embarrassingly amateurish question: Why is egg sticking to my new non-stick frying pan? How do I stop it from sticking?

My mom recently bought a new set of non-stick pans (neither really expensive nor really cheap pans). Neither of us are cooks, so we only use them for two things: grilled cheese sandwiches and eggs (fried/over easy and scrambled).

The first few times the pans were used, we made grilled cheese sandwiches (no cooking spray added, there was butter directly on the bread but not specifically in the pan) with absolutely no sticking. But, when we started making eggs (they were real eggs, fried/over easy), there was more sticking than with the previous non-stick pan we had (that was strictly a STICK pan when it was finally retired). It was impossible to dislodge the eggs, and cleaning was difficult. To make matters more confusing, of the three eggs made (on two separate occasions), two came out sticking to the pan, but one didn't.

Admittedly, I haven't actually done the cooking with the pans yet. With the old non-stick pan, my mom would coat it with cooking spray, but she hasn't used any with this new pan. Do you recommend using a cooking spray on a new non-stick frying pan? I was under the (probably erroneous) impression that nothing needed to be used to prevent sticking with a new non-stick pan. My mom did say that she 'seasoned' it with olive or canola oil, though I thought that was something done with cast iron pans.. or, not non-stick, anyway. Of course, I did Google (and found many articles about frying eggs), but that's only left me more confused about what's been going wrong! Sorry to all the foodies for the very amateurish question!
posted by Mael Oui to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have the same problem with eggs (they stick to my non-stick pans even though nothing else sticks). I think only the really expensive, high-end pans are truly non-stick, and mine are just middle-of-the-road department store pans. So yes, go ahead and use some cooking spray with your eggs if that helps solve the problem.
posted by amyms at 9:00 PM on November 7, 2007

I have found that my non stick pans work best when they are

a) New
b) Very clean

Any abrasion to the surface though, and whatever I am cooking has a tendency to hang on. I do use non stick pans for eggs, but I also use olive oil when cooking because they cook better.
posted by tomble at 9:00 PM on November 7, 2007

Also, make sure you're not using metal utensils on the pans, that'll scratch them up and make them very sticky. Use silicon or wood and you'll be okay and the pans will last alot longer.

Oh yeah, I use butter when I cook eggs, not only to lube up the pan but because they taste better too.
posted by fenriq at 9:06 PM on November 7, 2007

Yeah, a little bit of butter will completely solve your problem.
posted by number9dream at 9:32 PM on November 7, 2007

Best answer: Here are some things I have learned about cooking eggs and their sticking potential (I eat eggs a lot, and have had years of mishaps with them):

- I say, always use nonstick spray, even in a nonstick pan. It helps a lot. Butter works too, but the spray is helpful for multitasking (see points below). Either way, your eggs should have enough lube to slide around in the pan. You should only have to use the spatula at a minimum if the pan is greased.

- Grease your spatula too (this is why nonstick spray comes in sooo handy.

- If you like to flip your eggs over, give the topside of your egg a 1/2 second spritz of nonstick spray before you flip.

Other tips:

- Try to use only fresh eggs for eating alone. If they're a couple weeks old, try to use them in something like a bread or fried rice.

- If you're cooking over easy, the pan should be hot (and greased) when the egg goes in. But not too hot! A drop of water should sizzle, but not flash boil. If you dry the eggs out too much, they will stick and whatever's left in the pan will be hard and flakey. Gross.
posted by SassHat at 9:35 PM on November 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Best answer: An ex-girlfriend's mom used to be a short-order cook and I learned the best way of frying eggs from her. Crack the eggs into any pan, let them set or crisp edge, then pour about a shot of water per egg between the eggs into the pan (some use butter). Cover the pan for a few minutes and voila. This works with sticky pans as well; if I'm frying one or two eggs I use a 10" All-Clad LTD and a lid from a 3Q saucepan. Never a stuck egg in my 15 years of doing it this way.
posted by rhizome at 10:24 PM on November 7, 2007 [21 favorites]

Best answer: I'm quite surprised that two important things haven't been mentioned here... not that the answers thus far are unhelpful..

It's really more in how you cook the egg once you have a sufficient non-stick surface, though butter definitely helps. Here's the two keys to eggs that don't stick:

1) Before you ever let those eggs get in there, the pan should be fully heated -- for a good 5 minutes!

2) You should not try to flip the egg too soon. The part touching the pan needs to cook and solidify enough to peel itself away from the pan.

Oh yeah.. also don't try to cook too many eggs at once. This sounds like a no brainer, but I used to always try to cook 3 since my pan was big and I wanted to eat 3 eggs.. I ended up with stick problems way more than when I'd cook 2 at a time.
posted by twiggy at 11:03 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Cooking spray is bullshit and it turns into a gummy mess when heated. Either use a little butter, or, if you're a total nut, put some olive oil in a little spritzer and use that. No bizarre propellants that need their own MSDS, and it actually works.

I would suggest that if your mother seasoned the pans with oil - which in my experience means oiling the pan and heating it at 350F for an hour - that your sticking problem is right there. Seasoning a standard cast iron skillet is good because the oil smooths out the surface of the pan dramatically, whereas I'd imagine with a nonstick pan that oil sits on the surface of the coating and after 350F for an hour, even oil will stick to teflon in some capacity.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:59 PM on November 7, 2007

Oh man, I just used rhizome's water in the pan thing, it was great. The water cools the pan to keep the eggs from burning, and the steam cooks the top of the egg slightly. I just ate some perfect eggs thanks to mefi. Definitely a trick I am using from now on, and showing to people to impress them.

Perfect sunny side up, so good . . .
posted by milqman at 12:15 AM on November 8, 2007

This site claims that cooking spray polymerizes in high-heat cooking, and my experience tends to agree. Nonstick pans that never see nonstick spray end up better in the long run.

Put down a tiny dollop of butter for those eggs--you can use far less than you would use in a regular pan. Also, butter tastes good.

High-heat cooking in can ruin teflon pans, so if you've let your pans get too hot, that could also explain it. And it also emits poisons deadly to birds and causes flu-like symptoms in humans.
posted by IvyMike at 12:45 AM on November 8, 2007

Having the surface ruined by high heat is unlikely for such a new pan. It would take a fairly catastrophic heating where smoke is coming off the ungreased pan to kill it that quickly. That is why it is best to add the grease while the pan is still heating. Most will sizzle or smoke before the pan gets into the danger zone.

I have always used a little butter or oil (according to OC I am a total nut). Nonstick pans don't really work for sticky foods like eggs without some grease. Also, frankly the higher end pans are a little less slippery, but they do last much longer and have far better heat distribution. Having the pan hot before putting in the eggs makes a big difference, but five minutes on high heat is not good for an aluminum nonstick pan. Just heat it high enough for a drop of water to sizzle in the grease.
posted by caddis at 6:17 AM on November 8, 2007

Best answer: In my time cooking, I've learned to not take "nonstick" literally. It's better to take it as meaning "far less likely to stick than most pans". No matter what I'm cooking in one, I'll always add a smidge of butter or a spritz of oil to make it truly nonstick. It doesn't take a whole lot to make a big difference.
posted by mjgrady at 6:22 AM on November 8, 2007

Before you ever let those eggs get in there, the pan should be fully heated -- for a good 5 minutes!

Good eggs? Maybe. Worth it? Probably not.
Studies conducted during the past 40 years by many research groups demonstrate that at high temperatures, the polymer can emit airborne poisons, an environmental group reported in a self-published review last week. . . . Manufacturers responded [to workers' sickness in the 60s] by requiting the use of respirators wherever PTFE reached 400F or hotter. In tests just last month, Houlihan's group demonstrated that an empty nonstick pan on a home-kitchen stovetop can reach 400F within 2 minutes and 730F in 5 minutes.
I have eggs for breakfast every day, and I have no trouble with nonstick pans after I give them a brief spray of Pam. But I don't think heating an empty nonstick pan for a whole five minutes is a good idea.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:18 AM on November 8, 2007

I find it's more of a heat issue. If the pan is not hot enough, it will stick. Get the pan hot first, throw in some fat (oil, butter, bacon grease..), toss in the eggs, and let them cook for a bit before try and move them. Let them proteins coagulate.
posted by nivekraz at 9:52 AM on November 8, 2007

I have always used a little butter or oil (according to OC I am a total nut)

I was referring to those so fearful of any product containing fat that even a half teasopon is too much, and so they instead spray the oil from a spritzer or atomizer. I use a shitload of butter, my own self.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:43 AM on November 8, 2007

hmmm, I might still be a total nut...... ;)
posted by caddis at 12:39 PM on November 8, 2007

I do have a high-end nonstick pan -- I have to use a little oil, butter, or Pam for almost everything, especially eggs. I think that 'non-stick' must refer to ease in cleaning, not ease in cooking.
posted by wryly at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2007

also, as a rule of thumb, use butter instead of oil for cooking eggs. something about oil just won't do the trick for them.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:42 PM on November 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the very helpful answers! I feared this was kind of a dumb question, but I didn't realize eggs really ARE as complicated as they seemed to me!

I don't think we've ever preheated the pan.. just put it on the stove, turned the heat up to medium, and dropped in the eggs. As far as the pan temperature goes, I don't think it gets too hot.. it's possible, as nivekraz says, that the pan might not be hot enough. I like my eggs really runny, and that might be part of the problem.

Anyway, I think all your helpful information (once relayed to my mom) will end our stuck-on egg gunk days! Thanks again!
posted by Mael Oui at 12:03 AM on November 9, 2007

I spent a while working in a Waffle House in Louisiana, and estimate that I cooked about 300,000 eggs during my time there. A man learns a lot of things on his way to 300,000 eggs, but none more important than this:

More butter.

Other thoughts?

I never used a "non-stick" pan, I never greased a spatula (you probably don't need one to cook eggs), I never "spritzed" anything for eggs (but I sure did for waffles), I always swore by fresh eggs, I never really let the pan get cool, I wouldn't touch that water trick to save my life, there's no such thing as flipping too early (just cooking too slow), most of your cooking should probably occur on the plate, and the number of eggs you can cook in a pan at a time is inversely proportional to how nervous you are about breaking the yolks (scrambling? go a dozen at a time).

Oh, yeah, and make that clarified butter.
posted by rush at 1:22 PM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

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