A stainless steel skillet sits nest to a carton of brown eggs

How To Cook Eggs in a Stainless Steel Pan

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In the era of nonstick cookware, nothing screams “old soul” like knowing how to cook eggs in a stainless steel pan. 

But it’s not just for nostalgic folks. Protein junkies, girl-dinner girlies, brunch lovers, and everyone in between should know the secret to cooking eggs on stainless steel

If you’ve tried in the past and, one-too-many shredded eggs later, vowed never to attempt again, now’s the time to face your fears –  I promise, you’ve got this

Sit tight, and I’ll share my fool-proof advice for cooking eggs in a stainless steel pan.

Are Stainless Steel Pans Non-Stick?

Stainless steel pans have a lot going for them, but they’re very much lacking in the “non-stick” department. 

You could even call them the “stage 5 clinger” of the cookware world.

A lot of home cooks find the stainless steel learning curve too steep, and abandon it altogether in favor of modern non-stick cookware … not realizing that comes with a host of other issues far more grave than finicky technical requirements.

But I’m here to cheer you on! Even though stainless steel isn’t nonstick, I have faith that you can get to the point that you no longer notice.

It’s just a matter of adapting your technique to its quirks.

A stainless steel pan with scrambled egg fragments on it.
After sliding scrambled off the skillet onto a plate. The remaining eggs came off with a quick shake.

Why Cook Eggs in Stainless Steel Cookware?

Now, I know what you might be thinking: this is one of those “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” scenarios. 

But, in reality, there are quite a few benefits to cooking eggs in a stainless steel pan that make the juice absolutely worth the squeeze.

1. Health:

It’s true: you need more fat to cook eggs in stainless steel than you do with non-stick pans. (We’ll come back to this later).

However, the negative health effects associated with consuming fats aren’t as clear-cut as they were once thought to be.

The risks to your health associated with non-stick coatings, on the other hand, are well-documented

2. Environmental Impact:

If you choose not to brave the stainless steel seas, you don’t have many other options for cookware.

Cooking with a cast iron skillet is even more finicky than cooking with stainless steel. Cast iron is also absolutely worth learning to work with … but that’s for a different post.

That leaves you with ceramic cookware, which has a limited lifespan, and equally short-lived PTFE cookware, whose production is rife with ecological damage.

Stainless steel lasts for decades, which means less unusable cookware destined for the dump. And its manufacturing process is pretty benign. The time you spend learning to work with it is nothing compared to the good you’ll be doing for the planet.

3. There will be a situation when it’s your only option:

Let’s say you host a dinner party, and you have a little too much wine.

You wake up the next day, head pounding, craving a hearty breakfast – but all your go-to pans are dirty from cooking the night before! The only pan that’s clean is your stainless steel skillet.

If you don’t know how to cook eggs in a stainless steel pan, you’ll have no choice but to scrub and dry last night’s dirty pan, stomach yowling. 

Learning to cook eggs in a stainless steel pan now will keep you from sticky dilemmas like this later on down the line. 

A carton of brown eggs sits in front of a stainless steel skillet preheating on a gas stove.

Why Eggs Stick To Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans can make even the most even-tempered cooks shake their fists at the sky, pleading with the sauté gods for mercy.

But if you’ve ever had a hunch that eggs and stainless steel are an especially volatile combo, you’re correct. And it comes down to their molecular composition.

Stainless steel is full of pores, which expand and contract with fluctuations in temperature. When you put cold food on its surface, its pores contract. The effect is like a bunch of tiny suction cups grabbing onto your food. 

Proteins also bond with stainless steel, making its death grip that much tighter.

Eggs are a triple threat: not only are they cold and a protein, they’re also liquid. They sink down into the stainless steel’s pores more than any other protein. 

So no, it’s not just your imagination – eggs ARE harder to cook in a stainless steel pan than other foods. 

A carton of brown eggs sits in front of a stainless steel skillet cooking a fried egg on a gas stove.

How To Make Stainless Steel Non-stick: The Leidenfrost Effect

Let’s take a step back for a second, and talk about thermodynamics.

If you fulfilled your high school physical science requirement by the skin of your teeth, don’t let that scare you away. I’ll only go into as much detail as you need to know.

The reason why foods stick or don’t stick to stainless steel comes down to one thing: the Leidenfrost Effect, or the lack thereof. 

The Leidenfrost Effect occurs when a liquid’s boiling point is significantly lower than the surface it comes into contact with. Evaporation on contact creates a protective barrier, allowing the substance to move freely over the surface. 

Food only sticks to stainless steel when the pan isn’t hot enough to create a barrier between the two. 

The main takeaway here is to preheat your pan until it reaches the point where the liquid in the food evaporates and creates a barrier between the pan and the food’s surface.

Don’t crank up the heat too high, lest the liquid evaporate too quickly to protect whatever it is you’re cooking.

How To Tell If Stainless Steel Is Preheated

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to tell when your pan is in that sweet spot: add a drop of water to the hot pan.

  • If the water sizzles upon contact, preheat the pan for longer.
  • If it splits off into a bunch of little water pearls, let the pan cool down.
  • But if it balls up and dances around the pan, you’re ready to get cookin’!
How To Tell If Stainless Steel Is Preheated

Picking the Right Type of Stainless Steel Pan

In my opinion, stainless steel is the god-tier option for cookware.

Now, having said that, not all stainless steel cookware is created equal. If you want to join the stainless steel club, skip the cheaper options and look for all-clad (or fully-clad) pots and pans.

Fully-clad cookware is made with a stainless steel core and outer layer bonded with a middle layer of another metal, typically copper or aluminum. This middle layer gives cookware consistent heat distribution, heat retention, and extra durability.

Good temperature regulation is a must for any kind of cookware, but stainless steel is where it REALLY makes all the difference. You don’t want one half of the pan to be the perfect temperature and the other half to be too hot/not hot enough – that’s a recipe for a sticky situation. 

How To Cook Eggs in a Stainless Steel Pan (Without Sticking!)

So, just to recap, we’ve gone over the whats and whys of cooking eggs in a stainless steel pan. Now, we get to the fun part: the how. 

Here’s the cooking process for eggs in a stainless steel pan, step by step.

Step 1: Preheat your pan

Place your stainless steel skillet over medium heat or medium-high heat, depending on your stove’s tendencies. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a gas or electric stove, you always want to preheat the pan. I’m using a Heritage Steel x Eater 10.5 Inch Frying Pan (because I big-heart-eyes-love-it!).

How long it takes to reach that perfect temperature depends on the pan and the stove it’s on, so don’t try to wing it at this step.

Just wet your fingers and let a few drops of water fall onto your pan. If they ball up and move around the pan, it’s ready.

For future kitchen adventures, you may want to make a note of how long it took to preheat.

Top view  of a carton of brown eggs sitting by a stainless steel skillet preheating on a gas stove.

Step 2: Add a fat

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need to go overboard on oil when you cook with stainless steel- but you do need enough to cover the bottom of your pan.

It creates a more even barrier between food and the surface of the pan than water alone, providing some extra non-stick oomph. I recommend an extra virgin olive oil, but since there’s a shortage right now, any cooking oil will do. You can also use a cooking spray like olive or avocado oil.

Usually, butter burns at the temperature required to cook eggs in stainless steel stick-free. Some people don’t mind browned butter, though. If that’s you, feel free to use it instead.

Step 3: Add and cook the eggs

Crack the eggs into the hot pan and cook them to your preferences. I personally choose Vital Farms eggs whenever I can, as they have ethical and sustainable practices – but also have a quality above other options that you can see and taste. (That’s not an affiliate link, I just really love them.)

They should cook pretty quickly, so don’t walk away for too long or you’ll end up with eggs with the texture of fried crickets (unless that’s how you like them, in which case, more power to you).

A fried egg sliding off the edge of a stainless steel skillet.

Step 5: Enjoy like the kitchen whiz you are

Scoop them up with a spatula, marvel at how easy it is, season with salt and black pepper, and eat up! Give yourself a pat on the back, too. You deserve it. 

Will Scrambled Eggs Stick to a Stainless Steel Pan?

We already established that the perfect storm of protein, porous stainless steel, and liquid makes cooking fried eggs in a stainless steel pan especially tricky. 

Whole eggs at least have a bit of substance to them, but to make scrambled eggs, you need to whisk those whole eggs until you get a much runnier consistency. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that scrambled eggs are kind of the “final boss” of cooking with stainless steel.

Add cheese into the mix, the whole thing goes from gooey to gluey. 

But if you’re a scrambled egg devotee, don’t feel like cooking eggs in stainless steel is out of the question! Just like fried eggs, scrambled eggs won’t stick to stainless steel if you use the correct technique. 

Scrambled eggs cooking in a stainless steel skillet.

How To Cook Scrambled Eggs in a Stainless Steel Pan

Even though it presents a few more challenges, cooking scrambled eggs in a stainless steel pan isn’t all that different from cooking fried eggs. 

1. Get your scrambled egg mixture ready to go before anything else. You don’t want to spend time fiddling with it once your pan is hot enough. That could be the difference between just right and too hot. 

2. Place your pan on the burner and turn the heat to medium-high to preheat. This step is especially important to get right when you’re cooking scrambled eggs, so make sure to use the water droplet method we talked about. Even if you’re familiar with how long it takes your pan to get hot enough, it’s always best to double-check. 

3. Add enough oil to your pan to cover the bottom. Whatever oil you typically cook with should be fine.

4. Add the egg mixture, and let it cook undisturbed until it forms a film. This will happen quickly! With a silicone spatula, start scraping the bottom of the pan, breaking the chunks of cooked egg up as you go. Add cheese if you wish.

5. Once the eggs are cooked through, serve them up, season them, chow down, and feel accomplished knowing you made it through a cooking rite of passage

Scrambled eggs cooking in a stainless steel skillet.

What Is the Secret to Cooking With Stainless Steel? My Final Thoughts

Cooking with stainless steel can be one of the biggest challenges for fledgling home cooks, and using incorrect cooking methods results in the same frustrating results, time and time again. 

Fortunately, there IS a secret to cooking with stainless steel that changes it from an adversary to an asset, no matter what it is you’re cooking: temperature. 
Whether you’re whipping up eggs for a Sunday brunch or lamb chops for a date night in, preheating your stainless steel pan to the correct temperature will give you the stuff of professional chefs every time.

About Author

TiaGoodnight

Hey! I'm Tia, and I started this site to bring you the best information on all things kitchen so you can enjoy and elevate your everyday life.

I love trying new techniques and tools, living for the thrill of pulling off a new skill. On weekends you'll find me at the local farmer's markets or hosting friends and family for an evening of yard or card games and delicious food.

If you're looking for honest, real-world advice on all things kitchen and cooking, you're in the right place!

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