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Sticking Pans

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
i was given a set of steel pans of good quality 25 year guarentee and i would like to know how to stop the pans from stiking/ burning the dish at the bottom. I fried a mix of potato turnip and cabbage heated the pan and poured in a small amount of olive oil and cooked on a low heat.The food stuck at the bottom in no time at all.The same happened to frying eggs Is there a way of stopping this I remember seasoning my wok to help in cooking chinese , but i dont no if this is the way to go
any thoughts
post #2 of 17
Well the first thing I'm sure most people will ask is whether you are heating the pan first, then adding the oil and ingredients (that can help quite a bit).

As for eggs, get a cheapo teflon pan, works wonders if all you need is a non-stick pan for eggs.
post #3 of 17
Like Blade says, some foods just do better in teflon pans. I don't think there is any one type of cookware that is all things for all foods. They all have their pros and cons. I have a set of stainless cookware (All Clad) and I love it to death but it is not suitable in all occasions.

post #4 of 17
As Jeff smith would say, "Hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick."

You have to also wait for the food to release. If you put it in the pan and try to move it, you're in trouble. Put it in the right place, leave it alone, and it will let go when it's cooked on that side.

Exceptions exist, eggs for example. Teflon or cast iron or plenty of fat will solve the egg problem.

post #5 of 17

cast iron

Cast iron all the way. over time they become nonstick. even with eggs.
post #6 of 17
First is the material of the pan. You said your pans were "steel." Cast iron or stainless? If cast iron they must be seasoned.

If they are not cast iron the next issue is the the heaviness/thickness sof the pan. Cheap, thin pans will burn and stick food.

Assuming you have a cast iron or otherwise heavy gauge pan, the final issue is getting the pan hot enough. One of the biggest mistakes home cooks make is not heating up their pans, (and then the resulting oil/fat), to a high enough temperature before adding the food.

Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
post #7 of 17
Cast iron is not steel.

post #8 of 17
Good point Phil.

I wasn't sure if norbellini meant steel as stainless steel, or was using the term "steel" more generally.

Just for the sake of intellectual curiosity though, what is the exact difference between the two?

Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
post #9 of 17
Carbon. Steel is iron that contains some. Stainless steel includes chrome as well which gives it its stain resistance. It's not truly stainless.

For knives, a "high carbon" steel is preferred. High carbon means about .5% carbon in the steel. Other additives improve the steel in different ways, and some negative ways. Silicon is a negative content but occors naturally and is difficult to remove.

For cutlery purposes, the chart at this link shows elements and their percentages for different steels


Clicking an element takes you to a glossary definiton that explains what the element does in the steel. (cobalt and nickel excluded for some reason)

18/8 and 18/10 steels for cookware refer to the chrome and nickel content of the steel, a 300 series steel, I want to say 320 but don't remember for sure. They contain very little carbon. These high contents in the cookware keep the cookware nonreactive and stain resistant. They'd make awful knives.

post #10 of 17
Interesting. Good link.


Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
post #11 of 17
I'll take Phil to task about the carbon content in high carbon steel (although it could be a typo??)

If I remember from my college days (a really long time ago) 0.3% to 0.5% carbon is considered mild steel. 1.2% carbon is a High carbon steel and it creates a very fine grain which makes it brittle. Additives make the steel more durable but almost always diminish its hardness and in the case of knives, its ability to hold an edge. (I bought a 10" HC non-stainless steel knife in Toledo, Spain a few years back. It held an edge like nothing else but the blade snapped off one day when I was smashing garlic!)

Cast iron contains around 3% carbon and for all practical purposes, nothing much else. Iron with a carbon content between 1.2% and 3% isn't much good for anything and much above 3% is pretty useless too. While 1.2% carbon gives a very fine grain and allows the steel to be hardened through conventional heat treatment processes, 3% carbon produces a relatively soft open grain cast iron. Actually, the surface of a cast piece is extreemly hard for the first few thousandths of an inch. Typically this is machined off to expose the softer gray iron underneath. That's the stuff that leaves your hand black (with carbon) every time you touch it. With cast iron pans the hard surface is not machined off and so you don't get all that free carbon in your food.

Bet you're sorry you asked now :D

post #12 of 17
I'd always learned that high carbon was at about 1%. I went with the .5% to match the link. AG Russell has hand made knives and knows more about knives than I ever will. His site mentioned the .5%. If you look at the steels in that list at the link, only two or three are not considered a "high carbon" even with %s in the .4 to .7 carbon range.

As to the cast iron, I didn't know it had carbon like that in it. Interesting.

post #13 of 17
A search turns up http://www.esabna.com/EUWeb/OXY_handbook/589oxy15_1.htm

That explains the carbon coming off on hands as it hasn't formed the carbides bonded wtih the iron that is useful to steel, but is merely present as graphite.

Thanks for making me look.

post #14 of 17
Yeah, I saw that on the AG Russell link and I was confused. I learned what little I know of metalurgy in Scotland in the mid 60's. There may be different standards in the US and 40 years later new technologies on both sides of the pond.

I can still see in my mind the heat treatment chart in my book that compared temperature and carbon content. The steels with carbon in the 5% to 8% range existed only on paper because they could not be effectively treated with conventional heat treatment processes.

You are right though, steel with carbon at 1% or more is very high carbon and if you have ever seen a broken file you can see the super fine grain that makes it so hard and brittle.

An interesting discussion though, and informative.

So, Phil, what do you do that you have such a knowledge of metals? I've seen your comments in other posts as well.

post #15 of 17
Knives are a hobby. I've liked knives as long as I can remember. I didn't know a whole lot until college when I stumbled on a Knives Illustrated compendium for the year and saw all the custom work being done. There I learned about 440C, a high end cutlery steel for the time and learned of the butterfly knife. I liked the butterfly not for it's martial aspects but for it's method of protecting you when not in use and for it's stablility when in use. A truly excellent folding design from the Philipines. Unfortunately, because is looks flashy, it has a scare potential and has been illegalized ins some places for appearance rather than actual danger....

That was the extent of my knowledge until the early 1990s when I first got on the 'net. I found rec.knives and began learning again. That shifted to knifeforums.com then after a spat between the operator and another high profile member, bladeforums.com formed. Bladeforums started off with much less personality conflict and I learned a lot more all of a sudden.

And I enjoy using knives in the kitchen and outdoors. When outdoors, I mostly cook in cast iron...

post #16 of 17
Here's a sample of metallurgy talk today in the main discussion forum. Some of this is over my head, but that's how you learn.


post #17 of 17

Are you still with us? How is your food doing in those pans?
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