We all (sooner or later) have noticed that foods relatively high in protein (especially those low in fat) are very prone to sticking to a pan, or in general to any non-specially-coated metal surface. For example really lean white fish, which is almost all protein, is one of those devils which will always want to stick. Likewise, egg whites can stick. To some extent, almost any food that doesn't have a generous amount of easy-rendering fat seems to stick, but higher protein is more sticky.

To counteract this tendency, one learns to compensate by putting some kind of fat (usually oil or butter) into the pan in advance of the food. Most people seem to get the best result by preheating the dry pan some, then adding the oil, letting it get up to temperature, then adding the food.

I was just trying to ask myself what would be a simple and general sketch of what is going on on the surface of a pan when sticking takes place, and in particular:

1) what features of a material (density, chemical composition, elasticity, specific heat,etc.)

2) and of the state of the surface (temperature, roughness, etc.)

have a dominant role in the physics of such a system.

3) Which phenomena (lubrication, intermolecular forces, order-disorder phase-transitions, etc.) are more likely to be responsible for what we experience in our every-day life.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Would Chemistry be a better home for this question? $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Dec 18, 2014 at 23:54
  • $\begingroup$ yeah.. but I'll answer it anyway.. $\endgroup$
    – TanMath
    Dec 18, 2014 at 23:57
  • $\begingroup$ also, this has some info in the first paragraph: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/11467/… $\endgroup$
    – TanMath
    Dec 18, 2014 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ Independently of the validity of this observation and the physical/chemical mechanisms that are responsible for it, I think the proper experimental procedure to work with the effect to produce deliciously fried food items is being taught in culinary schools around the world. The "sticking" actually happens to be a useful and necessary property, because it transfers more heat to the surface of the food where the Maillard reaction can then do its magic to create flavors that are otherwise lost in the non-stick cooking process. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Dec 19, 2014 at 1:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This question appears to be off-topic because it belongs on the Chemistry Stack Exchange $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2014 at 9:32


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