Stainless steel skillet pan on a white background
Food - Drink
The Scientific Reason Your Stainless Steel Pans Are Sometimes Non-Stick
When you heat a stainless steel pan to the right temperature, it will deliver the perfect sear and a slippery non-stick surface that every chef dreams of, but this isn't a foolproof process. You may have heard that some cooks test if a steel pan is hot enough by adding a drop of water, and this is the science behind this test and what it can tell us.
The Leidenfrost Effect is a phenomenon that occurs when a surface is much hotter than the boiling point of a liquid, meaning the liquid will vaporize when it hits the surface, creating a layer of steam. This steam keeps the hot surface (in this case, your pan) and the liquid physically separate, so if you add more drops of water to the pan, it will form bead-like droplets that bounce around.
Since food contains moisture, the Leidenfrost Effect also occurs when your ingredients make contact with a stainless steel pan that's hot enough, allowing the food to slide around instead of bonding to the metal. To make your pan non-stick, preheat it well before adding oil and only add food that is at least room temperature, so the pan's temperature won't drop.