I know this is simple, compared to most questions asked here, but I notice this several times a week and I'm curious.

I notice if I break an egg and drop it into the frying pan, and the pan is still warming up, the egg sticks to the pan. But if I wait until the pan is quite hot, and I break an egg and drop it in, the egg barely sticks to the surface at all.

How does the heat make a non-stick surface work better then when it is merely warm or is still warming up?


2 Answers 2


Heat creates steam bubbles, which hold the egg away from the pan until it is somewhat cooked - see Leidenfrost effect.

  • $\begingroup$ Does egg yolk really have sufficient water to do this? $\endgroup$
    – Michiel
    Apr 3, 2013 at 17:28

The solid egg is not sticky like the liquid. If the pan is hotter it is solid on reaching the pan surface, so it doesn't stick.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't mean as the egg gets hotter. If I drop an egg on the pan when it's not hot, it sticks as it cooks. If I drop an egg on the pan when it's hot, it doesn't stick. So the variable is not how cooked the egg is, but how hot the pan is. (I point that out in the 2nd paragraph.) $\endgroup$
    – Tango
    Apr 1, 2013 at 16:31
  • $\begingroup$ Or how cooked the surface of the egg is when it touches the pan. Egg white is used to stick biological specimens sometimes (for microscope). $\endgroup$
    – f p
    Apr 1, 2013 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ That wouldn't explain it at all. You're grasping at straws. $\endgroup$
    – Tango
    Apr 1, 2013 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Tango : I think that COULD explain it (but I immediately note that it is very unlikely), because if the bottom layer of the liquid egg is already solidified upon touching the pan (because of heat radiated upwards) it will indeed not stick. $\endgroup$
    – Michiel
    Apr 6, 2013 at 10:14
  • $\begingroup$ Coming back to the unlikeliness: the time for the egg white to heat up and solidify is almost certainly far greater than the time it takes for the liquid egg to fall into the pan due to the really low heat capacity of air which stretches out the heating time. $\endgroup$
    – Michiel
    Apr 6, 2013 at 10:16

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