The 3 Stickiest Foods We Only Ever Cook in a Nonstick Skillet

Cast iron and stainless steel, step aside.

October 12, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

Didn't you hear? We're in the age of the cast-iron skillet. Before that it was all about the bright and shiny and new stainless steel pan: It's what all the Food Network chefs were using on TV. Way before that was the cast-iron skillet, again—or rather, the first time. Think: Mama Joad's biscuits and gravy in Dust Bowl–era California...

It seems that in the past five years or so, you can't turn a corner without seeing a love letter to cast iron. It's the best pan, they say, the only way to cook in 2018. You're not a real bonafide cook's cook if you don't cook in cast iron. I actually do agree with this to an extent (I j'adore my 10-inch skillet, even my tiny 3 1/2-inch one—a single filet mignon cooks up gorgeously in it).

But have you ever tried scrambling eggs in cast iron, or even in stainless steel? Sure, if you use an heirloom cast-iron skillet that's been seasoned with 200 years of fatty bacon breakfasts and chicken-fried dinners, washed only with the tears of two turtledoves, then maybe your eggs will slip right out. Or get your stainless steel pan smoking hot, and fried eggs will slide on down onto the plate like a luger at the Winter Olympics annnnnddd WHOOPS! There's the fire alarm.

For me, there are certain foods where only a nonstick skillet will do. When there's no thinking involved, no technique. The meals that aren't a flash in the pan. Which is all any of us really needs.

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Top Comment:
“I have learned through several years, ruining far too many non-stick pans from the cheapest to one that was more than $125, that my stainless steel ones are the best for just about everything, except fried sunny side up eggs. Cast iron is simply too heavy for me to lift. But I now cherish my stainless steel, and do almost everything int it, including my brownies.”
— judy

I reached out to my colleagues to see what foods they only ever cook in a nonstick skillet. Here's what they had to say.


"Scrambled eggs," says Kristen Miglore, creative director and author of Genius Desserts. "I know everyone else will say this."

"Scrambled eggs," reverberates Caroline Harris, SVP of partnerships. "I hate it when there's egg residue on a pan because I feel like it's wasted food."

"I agree with scrambled eggs" was the third motion from Sean Lee, VP of people and culture. "But also omelets," he tells me, "especially if you're making omurice. That top layer of egg comes out perfectly."

"I make my omelet every morning in it!" adds Digital Designer Megan Güntaş. "It slides right onto the plate."

"Ever since I got my GreenPan 4+ months ago, I've only used another pan once," enthuses Marketing Coordinator Danielle Curtis-Williams. "And that's only because my GreenPan wasn't big enough to fit everything I was cooking. I heart cooking eggs in this pan (scrambled, fried, omelet), makes things so much easier."


Eggs are clearly the one thing we love cooking in our nonstick skillets.

But for me, it's seafood. There's nothing I despise more than when my scallops stick. A part of me also dies a little inside when skin-on fish doesn't slip off the pan perfectly; I love the crispy skin on fatty fish, especially salmon, and want none of it to go to waste.


Is there anything stickier than rice? When you want to—need to—fry it, like really caramelize it (because caramelized rice tastes divine), it helps when you don't lose half of it in the process. It's really all about nonstick for recipes like above.

The nonstick skillet with the red dot in the middle (you know the one?) was iconic for me growing up. My mother cooked everything in it.

So do my colleagues, apparently:

"I do everything in my Ballarinis," says Operations Director Jon Schober.

"I cook everything in nonstick, too," echoes Victoria Maynard, director of finance. "#lazy."

"I did not grow up with nonstick," says Kaitlin Bray, director of social media, "because my mom is a hippy and thought they were 'creepy.' But I love my nonstick pans."

What do you only ever cook in a nonstick skillet? Let us know in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • W J Freeman
    W J Freeman
  • judy
  • Nora
  • HalfPint
  • Winston Byrd
    Winston Byrd
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


W J. February 5, 2020
Did you ever go to a diner and watch a short order cook scramble and cook eggs in a beat up, well used aluminum pan?

Well, I have on many, many occasions, and while I watched that efficient and constantly repeated process, I always wondered as a chemist how did those battered pans became nonstick in the first place?

Sure the short order cooks liberally use commercial butter flavored oil, and that helps, but it doesn't explain how a pan is "broken-in" from new to nonstick. Many of those small pans are well speckled and brown varnished on the upper rims and outsides from polymerized unsaturated fats, but the bowl portions of the pans where the nonstick magic happens are invariably bright and shiny from what I can see from my side of the counter. They are beautifully nonstick for the eggs always slide out clean as a whistle. The pan is usually tossed carelessly to the back of the grill, unwashed until the next order, where the process is repeated time and time again. Surely most people have seen this ballet, this every day mini-theater of food preparation, performed in front of their eyes with a minimum of motion and a maximum of efficiency.

Seems to me that here is an opportunity for some enterprising food writer to explore just how well experienced, short order cooks go about breaking in a new pan to get that kind of dependable performance.

Is there any special lore about how this should be done? Any special pretreatment? Are the bowls of the pans polished in any way? Any special type of construction or brand of pan? How many eggs must one cook and under what conditions to get the consistent nonstick performance? Are these pans ever washed or just wiped clean? Is a pan once conditioned and reliable ever used for anything other than eggs? If so what? Are any foods to be avoided to be cooked in a good egg pan?
judy June 5, 2019
I have learned through several years, ruining far too many non-stick pans from the cheapest to one that was more than $125, that my stainless steel ones are the best for just about everything, except fried sunny side up eggs. Cast iron is simply too heavy for me to lift. But I now cherish my stainless steel, and do almost everything int it, including my brownies.
Nora October 14, 2018
I don't know if it's different with the Greenpan line, but I was always told that you should NEVER use metal utensils with nonstick cookware. They will scratch off the coating (which will then end up in your food).
HalfPint October 13, 2018
Crepes and pancakes
Winston B. October 12, 2018
I polish my Cast Iron so it acts like nonstick. 2000 grit is the last step until I find finer grit