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6 Most Effective Substitutes For Cooking Spray

In most households, cooking spray has become an indispensable item to stop food from sticking to the bottom of pots and pans when we cook. Occasionally, we run out of it and need an effective substitute.

Here are 6 effective substitutes for commercial cooking spray that you can use as alternative non-stick products for your cooking:

  1. Butter
  2. Lard and Shortening
  3. Bacon fat
  4. A sprinkling of flour
  5. Cooking oil
  6. Make your own cooking spray

There are many different cooking spray brands, but most of us simply know them generically as cooking spray or non-stick cooking spray. The non-stick part of the name indicates the intention of this product and what we use it for the most. Even though most of us think we cannot cook without this product, many alternatives will do the same job.

Spraying Pam on a Grill

What Is Cooking Spray Made From?

If you understand what cooking spray is made from, how it works, and why it is effective, you will grasp the concept and begin to figure out alternatives to this product.

Most cooking sprays are made of vegetable oil, sunflower oil, or some other plant-based oil, such as avocado oil. There are usually a couple of other ingredients in the product that help the oils become a fine aerosol when sprayed out of the can.

The primary purpose of cooking spray is to stop food from sticking to pans when we cook. And the reason that it is effective is because of the aerosol nature of the oil coming out. the pressure and fine nozzle through which the oil is forced produces a very fine spray that evenly coats the surface of the pan.

The key to the cooking spray’s effectiveness is this thin, even coat that covers the surface and provides a slippery barrier between the food and the pan.

When you realize that cooking spray is simply oil that is expelled as a fine mist, the alternatives start to come to mind of what you can use if cooking spray were no longer available.

Cooking sprays are often considered to be healthier than the alternatives because the layer of oil that is deposited is extremely thin.

When you study the ingredients on the can, however, the health benefits of the product may be brought into question.

The Downside Of Cooking Spray

Cooking sprays do not only include oils in their lists of ingredients but also list the use of propellants that help to get the oil out through the small nozzle in a fine mist.

Many of these propellants can be hydrocarbons, propane, butane, or food-grade alcohol. Some of these included chemicals are known to be health risks. Some cooking sprays also contain chemicals such as Dimemythlpolysiloxane or Diacetyl to stop the oil from foaming, among other things.

In a population that is becoming more and more health-conscious, these chemicals are not products that people want to be putting into their bodies. Many feel that these chemicals’ inclusion negates the health benefits of the thin coating of oil that the spray lays down on your cookware.

Some cooking sprays include emulsifiers in the form of soy-based lecithin, which can prove problematic for people with certain allergies.

What Are The Alternatives To Cooking Spray

Cooking sprays have been around for quite some time now. They were first seen on the market back in the early 1960s, but many countries did not see them on their supermarket shelves till much later.

The main reason that people prefer to use cooking spray is because of its convenience. However, as we will see with some of our proposed alternatives, convenience does not need to fall by the wayside.

So what did people use before cooking sprays, are the methods effective, and what can you use as a modern alternative?

1. Butter Instead Of Cooking Spray

Butter has been used as a non-stick cooking solution for centuries, and it still works today. Some of the methods to use butter as a cooking spray alternative may require a little planning but are no less convenient than a cooking spray.

What we did in our household for years when we were growing up was to save our butter wrappers. Once you get the end of a brick of butter or a stick of butter, save the wrapper that it came in by folding it and placing it in a plastic container, and storing it in your refrigerator.

When you need to grease your cookware, pull out your container, and extract a piece of the butter paper. Rub the surface of the paper that was in contact with the butter over the surface of your pan. The residual butter that was left on the paper transfers easily to the pan to create a non-stick surface.

Another method is to simply rub a stick of butter on the bottom of the pan and then use a piece of wax paper or kitchen paper towel to spread it evenly over the whole surface. You can also wrap your finger in wax paper or a paper towel and rub it across the butter. This will collect a thin layer of butter on the paper. Then use your finger to spread the butter over the cooking surface of the pan.

Butter works equally well as an alternative for frying as well as for greasing pans for baked goods in the oven.

2. Lard And Shortening Instead Of Cooking Spray

Lard and shortening are products that are used for the same purposes in cooking. The difference is that lard is an animal product, usually made from pig fat, and shortening is made from vegetable oil.

In the USA, shortening is often referred to by a brand name, Crisco, which produces shortening as easy-to-use sticks.

This option, therefore, has options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. The methods you can use to apply the lard or shortening to the pans’ surface are precisely the same as you would use for the butter example that we discussed.

The key to getting a good non-stick coating is to take your time and make sure that you coat the pan’s entire cooking surface evenly. Pay particular attention to the transition between the flat bottom and the vertical sides.

This area is often neglected and does not get a sufficient coating, and your food will stick to the pan in this location.

3. Bacon Fat For Greasing Pans


While this method is definitely not vegetarian and is also not suitable for some types of cooking, such as making baked goods, it is excellent for other cooking.

When you cook bacon for breakfast, much of the fat in the bacon renders and becomes liquid oil in the pan.

If you intend to fry some eggs to go with your bacon, use a second frying pan for the eggs. Pour a little bacon fat from the bacon frying pan into the clean frying pan. Try not to let small bacon bits go with it. Use a paper towel to spread this bacon fat all around the frying pan.

Once the pan is coated with a thin layer, pour in some more bacon fat till you have enough to fry the eggs. This method not only works well but imparts a good flavor to the eggs.

You can also pour the rendered bacon fat out of the frying pan into a glass jar, through a strainer, of course, and store it in the refrigerator. You can then use this fat in the same way you would use lard or shortening. Just be aware that the oil will impart a smokey bacon flavor to what you are cooking.

This bacon fat not only makes for an excellent non-stick coating, but you can also use it as a light coating over roast potatoes. It gives the potatoes and delicious, crisp outer layer and keeps them soft on the inside.

4. Flour As A Non-stick Substitute

Flour can be used as a non-stick alternative when making baked goods. This works particularly well when making bread or pastries since bread dough is stickier and less liquid than a batter that is used to make cakes or muffins.

For bread making, simply dust the inside of the bread pan with all-purpose flour or even some of the bread flour that you used to make the bread. Shake the flour around the pan to coat all the surfaces. Pour out the excess flour, and then place your bread dough in the pan for baking.

If the flour does not stick to the sides of the pan, you can give this a light coating of butter using the method we have already mentioned. The flour will then stick to the butter on the sides of the pan.

When using flour for baked goods with a runnier batter, such as cakes and muffins, you can also coat the sides with a thin layer of shortening or butter and then sprinkle the flour on as an additional non-stick measure.

5. Cooking Oil As A Cooking Spray Alternative

Considering that the main non-stick ingredient in cooking spray is oil, it makes sense that using an appropriate cooking oil should work as a substitute for the spray variety.

As we have said, the main reason for the effectiveness of cooking spray is the thin, even coating that it is capable of applying to the cooking surface.

The best way to achieve a similar even coating while limiting the amount of oil you use is to dab some oil onto a kitchen paper towel and rub this over the pan’s entire surface. Pay special attention to the corners and transition surfaces of the dish or pan.

If you are less concerned about the amount of oil you use, then simply pour a dollop of oil, about half a teaspoon or so, and then rub it around the pan with a piece of paper towel.

These methods work better and more effectively and use less oil than simply pouring oil into the pan and swirling it around to try and coat all the surfaces.

The oils that you can use for this purpose for different cooking applications are as follows.

  • Sunflower oil– Sunflower oil is probably the best all-purpose oil that is suitable for most cooking applications. The smoke point temperature is 450F or 232 Celsius, which makes it great for high-temperature cooking.
  • Almond oil– Almond oil has a mid-range smoke point of 430F or 221 Celsius, which makes a good substitute oil for sunflower oil. The disadvantage of almond oil is that it is significantly more expensive than sunflower oil.
  • Canola oil– This oil is a little more delicate than sunflower oil, with a smoke point temperature of 400F or 204 Celsius. You could use the oil for low-temperature frying, but it should not be used for high-temperature searing of meats.
  • Avocado oil– This oil is heat tolerant and has one of the highest smoke point temperatures of 520F or 271 Celsius, making it ideal for high-temperature frying. Unfortunately, avocado oil is also one of the most expensive oils for cooking.
  • Coconut oil– Unrefined coconut oil is not suitable since it has a very low smoke point temperature of 350F or 176 Celsius. In comparison, the refined version has a higher smoke point of 400F or 204 Celsius, which can be used for frying at lower temperatures.
  • Olive oil– Extra virgin olive oil is tasty on a salad or used to make a salad dressing, but it is not a great oil for high-temperature cooking. It only has a smoke point of about 400F or 204 Celsius. For example, While you can use it to fry an egg, you should use a much lower heat, which will take longer. However, olive oil is not a good oil for searing a steak since the high temperatures cause the oil to break down and begin to burn.
  • Peanut oil– The smoke point of peanut oil is 450F or 232 Celsius, which is the same as sunflower oil. This means that it can be substituted for sunflower oil for most cooking applications. Peanut oil is, however, generally more expensive than sunflower oil.

6. Make Your Own Cooking Spray

Someone spraying homemade cooking spray onto a pan

Of course, if you like the convenience of a spray-on non-stick solution, you can always make your own. It can be surprisingly simple to do and really quick. However, you will need to plan ahead and get a few supplies in to make your own cooking spray.

There are multiple ways to make your own cooking spray, and the variety of recipes you choose will depend on the type of spray bottle you have on hand or are willing to buy.

You will need a spray bottle that is food-grade plastic, or the better choice of a stainless-steel or aluminum salad dressing mister, or the best option, a purpose-made oil misting bottle. Glass or stainless steel are better choices for your container than plastic. Still, if you want to try the method out before investing in a more expensive container, then a plastic spray bottle will work.

A salad dressing mister or an oil mister usually has a pump mechanism that you can use to pressurize the bottle’s contents, making the oil come out easier and allowing you to use unmixed oil directly in the container. An example of this type of product is the Misto range of oil sprayers.

If you are using a standard spray bottle with a squeeze-style sprayer, it is necessary to thin out the oil so that it can come out of the spray nozzle.

To thin out the oil, use the following mix ratio. You can use your favorite oil, but the recommendation would be the best all-purpose sunflower oil.

  • Mix 1 part of the oil of your choice.
  • 5 parts of filtered water.

Secure the sprayer onto the top of the bottle and set the nozzle to the “mist” function. Shake the contents well to mix the oil and water. You may need to squeeze the sprayer’s trigger multiple times to get the oil to begin coming out of the nozzle.

Store your homemade cooking spray in a dark, cool, and dry kitchen cupboard. You may need to clean the spray mechanism out every 6-8 weeks with warm soapy water to prevent the nozzle from becoming clogged.

Other Tips To Avoid Food Sticking To The Pan

There are some other tips and methods you can employ to minimize the potential of your food sticking to your pans and also reduce the amount of oil you need to apply to stop your food from sticking.

  • Cook with less or slower heat. Often the reason food sticks to the pan is that we are in a hurry and we have the heat on too high. Using less heat and controlling the heat better will help you avoid the food sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Use better cookware. Better quality cookware usually does not have as many issues with food sticking to the cookware as cheaper pots and pans do. Cast iron is an excellent example of this. If it is properly seasoned, it requires very little in the way of greasing the pan or applying the cooking spray to prevent food from sticking.


Commercial cooking sprays are considered a convenience, but it is more a perceived convenience than an actual one.

Using an alternative method of providing a non-stick coating to your cookware may take a little more planning to have available but it does not take much mot than maybe a minute longer to apply than the commercial spray.

Maybe it is worthwhile to take those extra few minutes to use an alternative method that is better for your health. And if you make your own cooking spray, you will have exactly the same convenience!

Related 8 Best Substitutes for Vegetable Oil in Brownies.