21 thoughts on “Non-Stick Frying Pans”

    1. Or keeping the center of the pan slightly cooler.

      The decrease in surface temperature looks to be linear with temperature.

      Density, viscosity, and surface tension of five vegetable oils at elevated temperatures: Measurement and modeling

      Thankfully, if you highlight some text and hold down the right mouse button, that site will give you proper pronunciation, so you can correctly say “the Eötvös equation” to at least impress you significant other as you screw up the eggs again.

  1. Very interesting article, and great link from George. I never really thought about the connection between this and the stir-fry technique for oiling a wok or other pan, but now it makes sense. Real stir frying begins with getting the wok or other pan really, really hot, then adding cold oil, and swirling it to coat the entire surface. This gets the oil up to uniform temperature almost instantly, and you never develop a dry spot. There’s a Mandarin word for the process, but I can’t reproduce it.

    I can’t stand the taste of tallow, and lard is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Ghee is ubiquitous. I buy a 3.5 pound jar of it at Costco for less than the little 8 oz jars they sell in upscale supermarkets. However, I’ve found that avocado oil is an amazingly versatile neutral vegetable oil, and I use it frequently. For stir frying or deep frying, nothing beats peanut oil, IMHO.

    1. We use avocado oil, too. I have no trouble finding lard, but I go to a Mexican market. I’ve started making my own ghee, which is much cheaper than store bought, even at Costco. I instead buy butter in bulk from Costco, and render it in my cast-iron skillet, which does a nice job of enhancing the seasoning. I even keep it in the Costco ghee jars. But I like the taste of tallow; nothing makes better fries (which was why McDonald’s fries were good decades ago, until they went to vegetable oil, which was stupid).

        1. I should also add that when you render the milk solids out of the butter, don’t overheat it, or the ghee will be brown, rather than golden. Do it at reasonably low temperature.

      1. I’ve switched to avocado oil for most cooking. I’ve also got a jar of beef tallow for French fries.

        The other day I was browsing some random British breakfast recipes at the BBC, and the one for bubbles and squeak started out with:

        1 tbsp duck fat, goose fat or butter
        4 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped

        I thought it was the most British thing I’d ever seen. “Oh, I’m out of duck fat, but I have some goose fat…”

        Then the other day I was in Kroger’s, walking past the oils, and right beside the beef tallow sat a jar of duck fat. So now I’m intrigued. People here are using duck fat or they wouldn’t be selling it.

        1. I occasionally use duck fat myself, especially for sauces. D’Artagnan is a brand sold at Wegman’s (an East Coast upscale chain). I also use their duck and veal demiglace for sauces.

          Yes, I have to say that tallow does make the best possible french fries – but it’s the only application I’ve found for it so far. I had bought some to try it in making pemmican from the beef jerky I make, but it was just too strong.

          Yes, bacon grease is “a” source of lard, but I have found over the years that really good lard is refined. Goya was my go-to brand, but Wegman’s has stopped carrying their lard (and almost stopped carrying their product line).

          We have a small chain here on the East Coast called World Fresh, and it has the most mind-boggling array of international stuff I’ve ever seen, with heavy emphasis on hispanic and asian foods. Indeed, it’s difficult to sort through the enormous variety they have (the chain is small, but each store is bigger than any other food market I’ve ever seen). But I have yet to find lard there.

        2. “I thought it was the most British thing I’d ever seen. “Oh, I’m out of duck fat, but I have some goose fat…””

          Not to mention the “rashers of streaky bacon”, and the very name “bubbles and squeak” (which, by the way, looks really good)!

          British cuisine is widely trashed, but I’ve had excellent meals in British pubs and restaurants, including roast beef – something the world thinks the Brits can’t make at all. Interestingly, the very best restaurant barbequed pork ribs I’ve ever had anywhere (and I’ve had them everywhere) were at the Hard Rock Café in London!

          1. I love British breakfast food, and sometimes make Staffordshire oat cakes, which have a rabid following that doesn’t seem to extend beyond Staffordshire, for some reason. They’re so popular there that all the oat cake restaurants have their own style, so no matter how your oat cakes turn out, you’ll have replicated some professional restaurant version of the classic oat cake. Youtube has plenty of long documentaries on them.

            Anyway, back to the duck fat. Apparently French chefs swear by duck-fat roast potatoes. This of course makes me wonder what would happen if you added both duck fat and beef tallow to French fry oil?

    2. The Mandarin phrase you’re looking for is “Wok hei” which you could translate as “breath of the wok” – but it’s basically what you describe, and is said to be a marker of the chef’s skill.

      1. Not sure that’s the term I’m looking for, but thanks. In Cantonese, it’s “longyau.” I haven’t been able to find the exact transliteration in Mandarin, though some sources refer to “huaguo”, which seems to encompass more than just the oil heating technique.

        1. The bigger question is: Why are space nerds also such culinary nerds? I know you, Mitchell and Rand, personally and quite well, and the three of us certainly share the cooking gene. I get from the comments here that there are a number of others who visit this blog that are harder-than-casual-core cookers. It never occurred to me until now to ask why that is. Something about the multitude of degrees of freedom in both cooking and space system engineering? If so, nuclear engineers might share our interests…

          Just a thought…

  2. Another one here for avocado oil — the very high smokepoint is great for searing meat. I’ll do the others on occasion — I’m a big fan of ghee for cooking Indian — but avocado is my go-to.

  3. The TV ads for the non-stick pan I ordered online some years ago ($19.95) claimed to need NO OIL at all EVER! I usually use something anyway but even when I don’t I still have occasional sticking problems that I doubt are attributable to this Czech-described effect since there’s no fat at all involved in such instances.

    1. The best non-stick cookware I have ever used were GreenPan ceramic-coated frying pans from Target. They never stuck, as long as they had some oil or butter in them. But the surface was extremely short-lived, and once the first fleck came off, that was it – toss the pan.

      I’ve now standardized on Calphalon, whose surface durability has improved remarkably over the years, though it still wears out. I was encouraged by the fact that a very dear old friend and Escoffier-class gourmet chef uses only Calphalon.

    2. My sole non-stick is a small 9″ fry pan for eggs.

      It’s the house brand (“First Street”) of a restaurant supply shop, and it’s great – thick aluminum and a durable coating, and very slick.

      Most mass-market retail nonstick is either no better or gimmicky nonsense, and often far too thin to distribute heat evenly.

  4. Does anyone else find it strange that in an article about NON-STICK frying pans, they are addressing the effects of OIL? These guys offered exactly nothing as to why things stick to teflon-coated pans. They offered an explanation for plain-old frying pans where oil is used.

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