Don’t you hate it when your food sticks to the grill? Or the skillet? When you have to scrape and scratch and hope and pray that it’ll release without ending up looking like something the cat dragged in?
Sure you do.
Here, then, is how to prevent that. And it works whether you’re cooking on the grill or the stovetop. Follow these steps and scrape no more. :)
1. Preheat your cooking surface.
If you’re grilling, that means getting the grate good and hot and then cleaning it, with a wire brush if necessary, to make sure it’s pristinely free of debris.
If you’re cooking on the stovetop, preheat your pan. How do you know if your pan is hot? Hold your hand just above the surface and feel the ambient temperature. You can also gingerly touch it.
2. Preheat your fat.
If you’re grilling, that means oiling the grate. I use a pair of tongs to lightly dip a wadded paper towel into some high-heat cooking oil, then rub the paper towel over the grate to give it a light coating. If the grate is nice and hot beforehand, the fat will heat up immediately.
On the stovetop, add fat to your pan and wait until it’s thoroughly heated. How to tell? Watch for it to shimmer ever-so-slightly. Or simply smell it—non-neutral flavored oils, like olive or peanut, will release their scents when they become hot.
3. Then, and only then, add not-cold foods.
In other words, bring your foods to room temperature before putting them on your hot and hot-fatted grills and stovetops.
I know, I know. We all worry about food safety. But it won’t kill you to leave your pork chop, chicken breast, or steak at room temperature for an hour before cooking it. Honest. (For fish, which is a little more delicate, go for a half hour at room temp.)
And when you add your not-cold food to your grate or skillet, if your fat was indeed hot, it should sizzle. If it doesn’t, don’t add more food—wait until the first pork chop starts sizzling before adding the second.
If you’ve done these three things—preheated your cooking surface, preheated your fat, and then, and only then, added not-cold food—the only reason your food will stick is because it hasn’t yet developed enough of a crust to release. Try pulling up a little corner of your chop and if it resists, leave it alone for 30 or 60 seconds—have a sip of wine or toss a ball for the dog—and try again. Eventually it will release.
If you didn’t do these things, all bets are off.
Two recipes to practice on, one grilled and one not:
Spice-Rubbed Pork Chops with Grilled Tomato Sauce
Cornmeal-Crusted Petrale with Tomato-Tarragon Relish