Sticky Situation: Why Some Foods Stick to Pans

A University of San Diego scientist breaks down the biochemistry of cooking

It's happened to all of us: trying to flip something on the stove turns into a disaster because the food is sticking to the bottom of the pan.

A scientist at the University of San Diego is breaking down why this is at a molecular level so that home cooks can get perfect food every time. 

Flipping an egg that is cooking in a skillet can be tricky. Once the egg starts to stick to the bottom of the skillet, it is nearly impossible to not make a mess. 

"Proteins will start to interact and have a reaction with the metal," said Joseph Provost, a professor of biochemistry at the University of San Diego. "Without oil or something to minimize that reaction, it will really stick." 

Provost recommends cooking with olive oil or grape seed oil and not butter. 

"At a higher temperature, butter is not the thing for you," said Provost. "There's water, proteins, and sugars in butter and that's what burns and smokes." 

He also added despite popular belief, nonstick pans do not cause cancer. 

"The older ones were made of Teflon that could flake off and cause health concerns but the newer ones won't chip over time," added Provost. 

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