Crowd Control | Don’t Overcrowd Your Pan

There’s a scene in the movie Julie & Julia where Julie realizes she’s been cooking mushrooms the wrong way her entire life. This is not uncommon. Like most people, she’d been piling her pan high wondering why they never crisped and browned like they should. If you’re like Julie and can’t figure out why your mushrooms don’t end up crisp and delicious or your chicken is never quite reaches that picture perfect golden brown you see in cookbooks, keep reading. The solution’s easier than you think.

Don’t Overcrowd Your Pan

Adding any amount of food to a pan — whether mushrooms or chicken — lowers the temperature in the pan. If you overcrowd your pan, the more food added, the lower the temperature falls. A crowded pan will cool down a lot faster and as your pan cools down, your food will stick, won’t brown and it will release all its moisture into the pan so instead of a crisp sear, you’ll end up with food that’s soft, doesn’t brown properly and dry.

Use a larger pan (make sure it’s nice and hot) or try cooking food in batches, a little at a time, so it cooks properly. For smaller foods, add only enough to cover the bottom of the pan in one even layer. Larger foods, like chicken pieces or steak, should have an inch or two between them and should never touch.

Need practice? Try  a la Julie & Julia or


Large sauté pan

The tools section may contain affiliate links to products we know and love.


How to Sauté

How to Sear