How can I keep food from burning in a stainless steel pan?

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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“I switched from nonstick to stainless pans, and now when I sauté onion and garlic they burn or turn to mush. What am I doing wrong?”

When you used your nonstick pans, you may have used little or no oil to cook garlic and onion over medium high heat. If you try to do that in pans without a nonstick surface, the vegetables will scorch. You need a thin coating of oil in the pan, and you can’t cook the garlic and onion over very high heat for more than a couple of seconds.

As a rule of thumb, a 12-inch skillet is nicely, but not excessively coated with 1 tablespoon of oil.


Marge Perry
Oct, 2012

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