The key to a non-stick, easy release surface is good heat and fat management! With these centuries-old tried and true methods, you'll be cooking like a pro in no time. Just like our ancestors did, long before the introduction of synthetic-coated, disposable non-stick cookware!
If you're new to cooking with iron, it's common to expect your new pan to be slippery 'non stick' like a synthetic coated non-stick pan. Building seasoning can take time and there are a few tips and tricks for achieving a low stick surface. Wrought iron pans get better with age and use (though our new Quenched finish has helped shortcut the initial seasoning steps). Our pans aren't cast iron, they are wrought iron, made from an iron sheet. They're super conductive and don't require as much heat as cast iron. The key to non-stick in iron pans is good fat and heat management. Medium is the new high with wrought iron pans. But don't worry, our pans can handle the heat so if you need a searing steak or crispy skin, once your pan is warm, turn up the heat to achieve your desired finish.
Ensure your pan is clean and the surface is smooth before every cool, build-up on your cooking surface ie feels rough, is likely to be carbon (baked-on food and fat), this will act like velcro. If your cooking surface is usually smooth, and food is still sticking more than you like, it will only be a matter of managing your heat and fat. Less heat is required for wrought iron as it is a superior conductor of heat to cast iron.
In summary, make sure you've done any required seasoning and the cooking surface is smooth. Use less heat initially than you're used to, though ensure your pan is hot enough before your start cooking and you may need to turn down the heat once you add your fats. Avoid turning food too early, allow the pan to release your food, then turn.
Preheat: Before the food is placed in the pan, ensure it is preheated to the correct temperature (remember, you don’t need a high stovetop heat to get a hot iron pan, iron is very conductive). Many newcomers don't allow enough time for pan/oil to come up to heat, and this often causes sticking. After several generations of synthetic nonstick, most home cooks have been trained to use far too low a heat to properly sear meats, generally stewing the juices out at low temperature instead. Match your pan size to burner size as closely as possible. Avoid fast high power in small burners, especially induction, with pans of much larger base size: the concentration of heat in the centre can warp the pan unduly.
Meat tends to stick when the temperature of the pan is too low so a 'crust' is unable to form, and/or if meat is too cold (meat should always be brought to room temperature before frying). You don't need a high heat setting to get a hot pan. Choose a lower setting and wait a bit longer until you understand the relationship between your pan and the heat setting of your particular stovetop. Our pans can handle hot temperatures, though it's important to let the pan slowly preheat as exposing a cold pan to high, instant heat can cause thermal shock.
Don't attempt to move the meat too quickly - let it form a crust. Give it a little jiggle with tongs when you think it might be ready, and if it moves easily you can then lift it to check properly. If it's still stuck firm, don't move it! All this becomes much more intuitive with practice.
Do it like the chefs: quickly sear room temperature meat to seal and brown (at which point the meat will naturally release from the pan when lifted), then transfer the pan to the oven to finish baking and retain the juices. A hot, well-seasoned pan doesn't need much oil, because it quickly caramelises and seals the surface. Coarse salt/pepper dry rub helps. Check out this video and this one.
Bacon: some bacon has a high sugar content and that's what causes gumming and sticking. Because iron cooking isn't so well known in Australia, there are lots of answers on USA forums and groups. This blog is full of useful info.
Fish: Fish is delicate and tends to only require cooking over low heat on most stovetops. You will, however, need to get your pan hot first, heat it on medium and test its temperature by carefully moving your hand over the bottom of the pan. When you can feel it radiating heat, that’s a tell-tale sign it’s ready to cook in. Add your fat, and at this stage, you may want to turn your heat down, add your fish. Let your fish cook, and the skin crisp until the pan releases it. If it's sticking, it's not quite ready to flip.
As our pans are highly conductive, it comes down to good fat and heat control and a little trial and error to find your sweet spot as all stovetops vary, and disperse heat differently.
Conversely, eggs often stick when cooked at too high heat and/or for too long. Butter/oil should be used generously. Use a well-seasoned pan on low temperature for scrambled eggs and scrape around the whole pan gently toward the middle to avoid sticking and burning. See this video for the fail-safe scrambies formed-iron and cast-iron method:
If your seasoning is young, it might struggle to manage starch without adding more fat. Potatoes sticking is fairly normal on iron unless it is very well seasoned/cooked on, more fat is used and/or very little starch is present. We do also have to resist moving our food too quickly and just allow the food to form a crust that releases the food from the pan.
Give it the time it needs to develop a natural seasoned surface through plenty of cooking in fats or spend some time doing stovetop seasoning. Turn your heat down and increase your fats until you find the happy medium.
For seasoning help, click here.
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