Module 2-2 Pan-frying with Stainless Steel

Check out this video.


Temperature control is key in using stainless steel cookware. The surface of a stainless steel pan is porous at the microscopic level. As the pan is heated, it expands and these pores shrink. If food gets pinched by these pores, it will stick. To prevent this you need to follow a few simple rules:

  • Preheat your pan properly by using medium to medium high heat and check the temperature with the water droplet test.
  • Add cooking oil AFTER preheating. You will heat the oil until you can see the first wisp of smoke and then IMMEDIATELY add your food. This is the reason that your food should already be prepared and waiting for you. This is known as “mise en place”.
  • If the oil gets too hot, pour the oil into another container, allow the skillet to cool, and then wipe out the oil with a paper towel. If the skillet has become discolored, wash and dry the skillet before continuing.
  • Depending on what you are cooking, food should be close to room temperature before cooking. Temperature differences make food sticking to the pan more likely.

Properly heating the pan

The water droplet test is a time-proven technique that will tell you exactly when your pan is ready for adding oil. Watch this youtube video by Rouxbe before continuing.

Water Droplet Test
  • Heat your pan over medium to medium-high heat and let it sit for a few minutes on the burner.
  • After a few minutes add a drop of water to your stainless steel pan
  • If your pan is too cold – the water droplet will bubble and evaporate extremely fast. Adding oil and food at this point could cause food sticking problems.
  • Wait about 15 seconds and try again.
  • If your pan is too hot, the water will split into smaller droplets and dart around the pan very fast. If this happens, wipe the droplets from the pan, turn down your heat and let the pan cool for a moment.
  • When your pan is ready to add the oil, the water droplet will stay intact and move around the pan like a ball of mercury. This is when you should wipe your pan clean of water and add your oil. Do NOT add the oil without wiping the pan.

Adding the oil

So now you know when to add the oil, but when do you add the food? Now watch this Youtube video from Rouxbe on adding oil and when to add the food.

Think about this:

When adding oil to your pre-heated stainless steel pan, it immediately begins to smoke and turn brown. What should you do?


You should discard the oil and clean the pan. Burnt oil can alter the flavor of your food. Additionally, oils that have exceeded the smoke point can be dangerous to your health.

What is Mise en Place?

It is a French phase that means, to put in place. Chefs use this phrase to describe the things that need to be done to prepare a dish. This includes chopping the necessary veggies, measuring spices and placing in little bowls, etc. The end result is that all of your measured ingredients and preparations are complete and at your fingertips as your prepare the food †

Mise en Place

What are sucs?

The word “sucs” describes the caramelized bits that stick to the bottom of a pot or pan. When pan-frying, the juices from the meat caramelize and form browned bits. Sucs have an intense, sweet flavor, which can be released from the bottom of the pan by deglazing.

To develop the best sucs, which are dark-golden brown, it is essential that you properly heat and oil your pan before adding any ingredients. The ingredients must be patted dry before adding. To properly develop and preserve the sucs during cooking, the heat must be controlled. The heat must be high enough to develop the sucs in the first place, but not so high that the sucs burn. Burnt sucs must be discarded as they will only add a bitter flavor to the dish. If the heat is too low or if the pan is overcrowded, little or no sucs will form.

It is also important to not leave too much space in between ingredients, as this could cause the exposed oil to continue to heat and burn. Therefore, you should always use an appropriate-sized pan for the amount of food you are cooking or cook in batches.

The last thing to note is the amount of sucs that form depends on what is being cooked. Leaner cuts of meat will yield less sucs versus meats with higher fat content. In addition, foods that are high in natural sugars, will yield more sucs.