We wanted to know if we could make a regular stainless-steel skillet more nonstick with the help of a vegetable oil spray like PAM.
When cooking delicate foods like fried eggs, we usually turn to a nonstick skillet. But what if you don’t have one? To find out if we could make a regular stainless-steel skillet more nonstick with the help of a vegetable oil spray like PAM, we sprayed the entire surface of a 10-inch skillet and heated it over medium heat (any hotter and the spray discolored) until shimmering before adding an egg, which we also sprayed on top. For comparison, we heated 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (a generous amount for a 10-inch pan) in an identical stainless-steel skillet over medium heat until shimmering before adding an egg, which we drizzled with oil before flipping.
The spray easily trumped the oil. Why? As oil heats up, it tends to form an uneven layer because the surface of the pan heats unevenly, causing the oil to pool in cooler areas and disappear in other areas. Vegetable oil sprays prevent sticking better because they contain more than just oil—they also include lecithin, an emulsifier that bonds the oil to the pan so it forms a thin, complete layer of oil between the pan and the food.
The takeaway? In lieu of a nonstick skillet, vegetable oil spray and a stainless-steel skillet can work nearly as well. Be sure to spray the entire surface of the pan, including the flared sides. (Foods like scrambled eggs won’t work with this method. Because the food is moved around the pan during cooking, the layer of nonstick spray is lifted from the bottom of the pan.)