New to stainless – need help with sticking!!!

So I'm relatively new to cooking and VERY new to using stainless. I took a cooking class and things worked really well with stainless so I went and got a whole set of D5. My first attempt went really well – a pork tenderloin. But then I tried to sauté a chicken breast that was coated in parmesan. I heated the pan and put a good amount of oil in it and once that was heated added the chicken. That chicken stuck like glue! I tried it again with a second chicken breast and it did the same thing. Any tips on how to keep things from sticking when you are cooking "dry" things (i.e. not much liquid)? Any tips are greatly appreciated!!



Sara,Comerford August 15, 2013
Pat dry your chicken before you put it in the already hot pan, the chicken is then ready to be flipped once it readily releases from the pan.
shoresdiver July 1, 2013
While not wanting to engage in a dispute with Chef Ono, respectfully, towels are made of fibers, and therefore have a high surface area, probably approaching that of a sponge. The fibers (probably cotton) are not germicidal, and therefore, towel hygiene depends on substituting out the towel as it becomes contaminated, just like a sponge, and properly cleaning the towel or sponge before re-use. For most homes, a 1 minute microwave cleaning or a run through the dishwasher is a lot easier (and probably more likely to be done) than a towel wash with bleach, particularly as most towels, even white ones, are now the do-not-bleach variety. The USDA cite seems to confirm this.
JAC July 1, 2013
I work for a culinary store where we sell D5. I have heard this issue from customers. Once I even had the customer bring his pan to the store so that I could cook a chicken breast with him and then show him how to care for the pan.
There are many good answers here so I won't repeat. However, I would like to chime in on the cleaning side. All Clad does NOT recommend any kind of green, blue, stainless scrubbie. All Clad does recommend Barkeepers Friend and a sponge. Don't worry about germs on the sponge just follow the microwave suggestion. I use a sponge & BKF on all my pans and have never had a problem. Some of my stainless pans are more than 20 years old and still look great!Bon Ami is a good sub. I've used it a couple of times when the market was out of BKF. Note that the rainbow that sometimes shows up on the bottom of the pan has no effect on the pan's proformance at all but does go away with the vinegar trick as mentioned. Last, should something get heavily burned on, put liquid dishwasher soap full strength directly on the stain & let sit overnight. The stain will flake off easily in the morning. Rinse very well.
Good luck with your pans!
krusher July 1, 2013
Regarding sponges checkout update this year which says the following about kitchen sponges:
"Kitchen sponges can grow harmful bacteria, yeasts, and molds that can make you sick.

The United States Department of Agriculture says that the best ways to kill germs on a kitchen sponge are:

Microwave the sponge on high for one minute, which kills up to 99% of germs.
Clean it in the dishwasher, using both wash and dry cycles and a water temperature of 140 degrees F or higher.
Soap and water or bleach and water do not work as well for killing germs on sponges. Another option is to buy a new sponge each week."
sasher1 June 30, 2013
Oil should " shimmer" when pan is hot enough.
Make sure you have enough in the pan.
sasher1 June 30, 2013
When your oil is hot enough the oil should "shimmer." Things will stick if too wet or pan is not hot enough.
ChefOno April 3, 2013

That 90% of all food poisoning originates in home kitchens resulting in thousands of deaths every year is clear evidence a lot of what we believe to be safe isn't (or at the very least we're pretty sloppy about following the rules). Sponges are banned from commercial kitchen prep areas because there is no practical method for keeping them sanitary.

Take that kitchen sponge, the one just out of the microwave. Assuming it reached the pasteurization point throughout 100% of its bazillion square inches of surface area and that you didn't burn yourself removing it from the oven, how long do you think it will take that warm, wet bacterial playground to become dangerous enough to possibly send someone to the hospital?

4 hours. Or a few seconds depending upon how it is used. And then what? A stack of towels in the drawer, like we use in commercial settings, is by far the safest answer.

Bar49 August 5, 2018
What kind of towels? Would you describe & post a photo? You wash dishes with them?
shoresdiver April 1, 2013
Re: the comment to banish sponges- a moist sponge in the microwave for 1 minute will be 99.9 percent germ free... Probably cleaner that virtually any alternative!
siryn511 November 25, 2012
Let the pan heat up before cooking & check your temperature. If you have the temp up to high the food will stick. Took me a long time to figure out med works a lot better than high.
Connie L. November 20, 2012
Sorry, but I have to agree with the hot pan/oil solution. That's how I prepare the pan to fry eggs, and if you do it right, no sticking and lots if flipping!!
threefresheggs November 18, 2012
Oops, and –

Of course a very experienced cook often creates the season as they go along, just because their heat v. oil skills are so honed. If you are a savant, rock on with your bad bad self! But for the those that want insurance and a back-up plan, you can't go wrong, or waste time seasoning a valuable new pan.
threefresheggs November 18, 2012
A little metallurgical perspective:

Despite All-Clad (or whomever's) claims, stainless benefits tremendously from 'seasoning'. While stainless is significantly less porous than most metals, and certainly very much less porous than iron, it does still have a degree of porosity and as for use as cookware *you* benefit greatly from seasoning all your metal cookware. Follow seasoning instructions for iron, and/or make your first few efforts in your new pans tostones, or soft-shell crab, or a deep fried turkey – you will notice the difference immediately. If your seasoning ever fades and due to accidents necessitating heavy scrubbing, more tostones! I recommend honey-lime yogurt dipping sauce with that, but that's just me.
Carletta November 18, 2012
Two priceless tips from The Frugal Gourmet: "Hot pan, cold oil - food won't stick" and for great white sauce, be sure to cook the flour before adding the milk!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!
Ophelia October 25, 2012
Just to add my 2 cents. We have one good stainless pan and I've only had problems with sticking when I try to make omelettes. I generally use coconut oil or lard (mostly lard) and allow it to heat along with the pan (cold pan, cold oil) this way I have a way to gauge the temperature of the pan. I wait until the fat is shimmery, but not smoking, add my protein and give the pan a shake before allowing the food to sit until it has formed a good crust and will allow me to flip it in one piece (Most of the time if it's sticking, it's not ready to flip). The biggest "trick" is to not skimp on the fat, especially if you are making something that might be better suited to deep frying.
In the event of sticking, but not yet burnt, a wet sauce can be deployed, and all the good stuff stuck to the bottom can be scraped up into it.
Marian B. October 24, 2012
This is so helpful! I've always wondered the best way to clean my cast iron. Better run out for some BKF.
threefresheggs November 18, 2012
Don't clean cast iron with BKF!!! It will remove all the patina & most of the seasoning!! Do this only if your pans are seriously f-ed up and need full resurfacing and re-seasoning!
K_Squared October 22, 2012
Comet is considered too scratchy & abrasive right?
yupnup October 19, 2012
What about the dark oily spots on the sides of your pan? Hard to clean off. Advise anyone?
yupnup October 19, 2012
I am also learning to use stainless steel pans. I am vegetarian and found that cooking tofu on the pan sticks like crazy. I don't know if tofu would develop a caramelized crispy skin like other proteins or not.
Greenstuff October 19, 2012
Tofu does indeed develop a crispy skin. Use enough oil, don't crowd the pan, and be patient--just like with meat.
chef O. June 22, 2012
For tough stick food try sea salt and rub it in with half a lemon. Use some warm water and it will come right out.
petrea June 13, 2012
I never scrub pans!
Simply leave the pan in the sink, add hot water,, and add dishwashing soap(like Cascade)-not much; just lightly over surface, then leave it alone for awhile. Same method shines my sink!
dmgf May 27, 2012
I just add water to the Pan boil until food stuff just wipes off easily. No chemicals or scrubbing
FoodieGoesHealthy May 16, 2012
We have had all-clad stainless steel pans for 20 years. We use them daily and they still look brand new. Here's our secrets: 1. Only use wood and heat resistant plastic utensils. Metal utensils scratch the interior. 2. To remove a "rainbow-colored" film, rinse the pan with vinegar, then water. 3. Only use non- abrasive cleaning powders for scrubbing like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend. 4. Only clean with non-abrasive scrubbers-- we have plastic ones that are gentle. The dark green ones are too abrasive. Sponges can be sanitized in the dish washer. Enjoy your new pots and pans.
FoodieGoesHealthy May 16, 2012
We have had all-clad stainless steel pans for 20 years. We use them daily and they still look brand new. Here's our secrets: 1. Only use wood and heat resistant plastic utensils. Metal utensils scratch the interior. 2. To remove a "rainbow-colored" film, rinse the pan with vinegar, then water. 3. Only use non- abrasive cleaning powders for scrubbing like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend. 4. Only clean with non-abrasive scrubbers-- we have plastic ones that are gentle. The dark green ones are too abrasive. Sponges can be sanitized in the dish washer. Enjoy your new pots and pans.
The S. May 16, 2012
I've always suspected I clean my pans a little too thoroughly (stainless only I mean). I was at a cooking class recently where the stainless steel REALLY did not stick, but it was also much more discolored than mine. I have to admit I prefer thoroughly cleaning mine, just because it makes me happy to do so. So in meantime I am just more generous with the oil. But I should probably get over it and quit scrubbing/dishwashing to the extent that I do.
carolcamille May 15, 2012
I know the Frugal Gourmet has been shamed, however, he said one thing which has served me well: hot pan, cold oil, food won 't stick!
ChefOno May 15, 2012

I don't think a green scrubby could do anything detrimental to a stainless pan (other than to the outside polished surfaces) so if the bottoms are visibly clean, you should be okay from that standpoint. Stainless is inherently non-stick so usually a problem is due to technique. I always hesitate to blame the tools but it could be the cookware's construction is part of the problem due to uneven heating. Emphasis on the word "part", witness the occasions I'm called on to cook with 60+ year-old warped and battered Revere Ware or K-Mart Blue Light Specials in rental units.
grnerd May 15, 2012
Great discussion, I have abandoned my stainless pans for the most part because they stick so much. I mainly use my trusty cast iron skillet or a commecrial grade nonstick from Costco. If I have been using a green scrubby for years on the stainless, have I ruined them, or can they be revived?
cranberry May 15, 2012
Well, if we're going to talk pan cleaning, washing soda is the best. I sometimes put a bit in water and boil it in the pan to remove the gunk, or just use it straight as if a scrub. I also use it to clean greasy stovetops, etc. You should wear gloves with it because it has a high pH and will give your hands that slippery feel.

To scrub my stainless pans, I use one of those stainless steel-wool looking scrubbers and move in a circular motion around the pan, following the "grain" of the metal.

For me the biggest thing about sticking is not to mess with the food too quickly - let it cook enough to separate from the pan on its own. And not to overcrowd the pan so things can stay hot enough. I have a hard time with it though!
belfman May 12, 2012
I often add some water and a dash of baking soda if I haven't made a reduction sauce to clean a pan. I heat the water and baking sodain the pan and scrape up the stuck bits with a soft spatula. Remove from heat and wash as usual.
ChefOno May 12, 2012

Mr. Science stands corrected. Apparently the MSDS he referenced was either obsolete (it was dated way back in 2011) or someone at Bon Ami is behind on their paperwork.

The ingredients list pulled from the manufacturer's Web site this morning lists Nepheline Syenite (a different mineral abrasive), a surfactant (wetting agent), Sodium Chloride and Citric Acid. So, yes, it also cleans chemically. Basically the old salt and vinegar trick -- but much better smelling no doubt.
Greenstuff May 12, 2012
If Kleen King's an abrasive cleaner, it's such a mild one that it's ineffective. It is however, quite good as a chemical cleaner. No scrubbing, just wait, rinse, buff dry.
ChefOno May 11, 2012

Mr. Science says:

Bar Keeper's Friend contains oxalic acid which chemically reacts with (oxidizes) rust, stains and culinary crud -- it cleans effortlessly without scratching. Bon Ami's Kleen King is an abrasive (quartz) cleaner.

You don't want to breathe dust from either (actually *all* dust is bad for you). But before anyone gets freaked out about oxalic acid being poisonous, it's found naturally in spinach, chives and black tea -- and of course we all know anything "natural" is "healthy". With the exception of raw rhubarb leaves but that's another thread.

Mr. Science got distracted -- what was his point? Oh, yes… The abrasive of your choice is fine for pot and pan bottoms -- just keep it away from the nice shiny new stainless. Patina must develop over time.
davidpdx October 25, 2012
Just to be perfectly pure (chemically), oxalic acid's action on rust is actually as a reducing agent rather than an oxidizing agent. After all, the rust itself is iron oxide.
ChefOno October 25, 2012
Sometimes, usually late at night, Mr. Science becomes a little cixelsyd. I'm glad someone is paying attention.
Greenstuff May 11, 2012
With the D5, your pans may last a lifetime or more, even if you do abuse them. I still have some of my mother's flimsy Revereware from the '40s. It looks great. Though I grant you, a lot of pieces have been destroyed over the years. I also have some fancy stainless. My general rules to avoid sticking are to use a little more oil than some people might and wait a little longer--just a little--than I'd like before I flip. I do not worry too much about scratches, as a lifetime (or more) of scratches looks better than one big scrape. For discoloration, I like Kleen King. (It works even better on copper than on stainless.)
ChefOno May 10, 2012

Umm… Banish sponges, period. Icky, eewey, full of germs and other microscopic crawly things!

We don't use sponges in my kitchens. Consider the Oxo soap dispensing dish brush with holder.

As for green scrubbing pads, you'll still need those to remove discoloration from the bottoms of your new pots and pans.

(Congrats on the acquisition. They'll last a lifetime if you don't abuse them.)

n0b0dy August 7, 2012
I use only the blue scrubbing pads - they clean but don't scratch.
healthierkitchen October 19, 2012
Aren't sponges are fine as long as you either run them through the dishwasher and/or run them, wet, in the microwave.
ChefOno October 19, 2012

Sure, sponges can be kept sanitary -- in theory. In practice, it just doesn't happen. There's a reason they're not allowed in commercial food prep: Outside of a Petri dish, you couldn't design a better environment for growing bacteria than a damp sponge. Kitchen sponges are the most infectious source of bacteria in the home (worse than the toilet, even worse than a garbage disposal's plastic baffle). Half the people in the U.S. use the same sponge to wipe the cutting board, counter and dishes. It's no wonder 1 out of every 6 of us gets food poisoning every year. It's far easier and safer to keep a stack of cloth towels at hand, washing (with bleach) and drying between uses.

Reiney May 10, 2012
The only time I use cold pan + cold oil, heat gently method is if I'm making aglio e olio. In that case the oil doesn't get hot enough because you stop the cooking process when the garlic starts to sizzle. (And, there's so much oil in the pan that sticking definitely isn't a problem).
Reiney May 10, 2012
The best way to see if your pan is hot enough is to flick a few drops of water on it. If they bead like mercury and dance around the pan, you're ready to add the oil (after the water evaporates of course!). Let the oil heat briefly, but not too much (disagree with the cold oil concept, but if it works for you go for it).

Then, as above, ensure your meat has been dried off well.

Lastly - be patient & resist the temptation to move the proteins in the first minute or so. It can still stick at this point until the surface has a chance to caramelize/crisp. If you find it's still sticking, don't touch it and wait a bit longer, then try again to move it.
Peter May 10, 2012
Wow. I've never heard of adding the oil to a pan so hot as to make the water bead -- (though I know the beaded water trick -- that's how I know if the pan is hot enough for pancake batter). I've always thought you should add the oil to a cold or warm, but not incredibly hot pan... let the oil heat up until shimmering (which is just short of smoking) then add your protein.

Not to hijack the thread or anything, but what the heck -- let's hijack it. Anyone else want to weigh in?
ChefOno May 10, 2012

The main reason to add oil to a hot pan is so that the oil doesn't get too hot while you're working on something else waiting for the pan to heat. Smoke = free radicals = carcinogenic = bad Fire is even worse (at least in the immediate timeframe).

You don't want to heat a non-stick pan dry however due to the danger of overheating the non-stick coating.

Melusine May 10, 2012
Years ago, I was watching an episode of The Frugal Gourmet, as he explained his 'hot pan; cold oil; food won't stick' mantra. It's not 100% accurate, but it seems to help. I also have to resist the urge to turn the food until it's well-browned and essentially releases itself. And yep, BKF is fabulous stuff.

Voted the Best Reply!

Peter May 10, 2012
Sticking or not, get yourself some Barkeeper's Friend. It's a powder like Ajax but won't scratch your new pans and will be the only way to get some of the messes off. Combine it with Dobie sponges -- those yellow sponges covered with white mesh.

Also, banish any sponges with the dark green scrubbing pads -- those scratch stainless badly.

Finally, welcome to cooking!
adashoflife May 10, 2012
Thanks for the tips Peter! Thankfully, someone in my cooking class turned me on to BKF...that stuff is amazing! I'll be on the lookout for Dobie sponges for sure.
Merrill S. October 23, 2012
Barkeeper's Friend is the best!
adashoflife May 10, 2012
Thanks vanbinh! I think it was a combination of both actually – I was impatient and probably didn't have the pan hot enough yet, and the chicken was only minutes out of the fridge. Thanks for the advice! Like I said, I'm still very new to this! :-)
ChefJune October 23, 2012
Patience is the most important ingredient. Heat the pan over medium heat. Then add the fat. You will notice that the heat causes the fat to disperse faster. (I believe this helps the cook to use a bit less.) Your meat/fish should come out of the fridge well before you set it into the pan. The temperature should be at or very near room temperature. The meat also needs to be dry. I would not add the coating until just before cooking.

And don't be too hard on yourself. We all make mistakes!
vanbinh May 10, 2012
Either pan not hot enough, or chicken was cold and/or wet.
Recommended by Food52