How To Clean Stainless Steel Pan (Without Scrubbing)

More and more cooks are turning to stainless steel when it comes to kitchen cookware.

One of the reasons that stainless steel is so popular to cook with is that it distributes and conducts heat evenly, and then is able to maintain this heat well throughout the cooking process so that food is cooked uniformly.

You can use stainless steel to cook everything from soup to eggs to fish.

The one thing you need to keep in mind about stainless steel is these pans aren’t non-stick. This means you’ll need to take extra care when cooking and cleaning stainless steel pans. Here’s all you need to know about how to clean stainless steel or carbon steel pan cookware.

Why Clean Your Stainless Steel Pan?

Good quality stainless steel pans can be expensive to buy depending on what brand of stainless steel pans you choose.

To get a good set of stainless steel cookware you can expect to pay more than you do for other pots made from materials such as cast iron and aluminum.

One of the top lines of stainless steel cookware is Calphalon pans or Made In Cookware. These pans are made with a brushed stainless steel over an aluminum base. Because of the cost of top quality stainless steel, you’re going to want to take care of your pans, so they last you for years to come.

Note that if you have a non-stick pan, you’ll want to season it like a pro. Find out more in this article here.

Now, back to cleaning stainless steel pans.

Cleaning stainless steel pots and pans using the right methods is one of the best ways to care for your cookware. One of the biggest benefits of stainless steel pans is that they’re strong, durable, and almost indestructible. This means you can do what you need to do to get your stainless steel cookware clean again.

Steps to Clean Your Stainless Steel Pan Quickly

Stainless steel pans are easy to clean and should be washed right away after using them, so food doesn’t have time to stick onto the surface. Most of the time all that your stainless steel pots and pans need is a good wash in warm, soapy water – follow these guidelines to ensure that your pots and pans are cared for in the right way.

  • Let the pan cool completely before washing it. Putting a hot pan into water can easily cause it to warp.
  • Wash with warm, soapy water.
  • Use a non-abrasive scouring pad to remove any stuck on food.
  • Dry your stainless steel pan right after washing it to prevent water spots from forming.
  • If water spots appear, rub the surface of the pan with a moist sponge or a piece of damp paper towel that’s been sprinkled with a small amount of baking soda. Then rinse the pan under warm water to remove all trace of the baking soda.

How Do You Clean a Stainless Steel Pan to Keep It Looking Good as New?

There are a few things you can do to keep your stainless steel skillet or pan looking as good as new. Stainless steel pans often get white, chalky spots on the surface that are the result of too much calcium in the water. To get rid of these spots, boil a solution of water and vinegar in the pan. Use a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Once cool, wash and dry the pan as usual.

Stainless steel pans can sometimes become discolored and have a slight rainbow glow to them. This can happen with repeated overheating of the pan. To get rid of this discoloration, wash your stainless steel pan with vinegar. If the discoloration persists you can cook food in the pan that’s high in acid, such as tomato sauce. The acidity can help to remove the rainbow streaks.

When stainless steel pans are too hot, food has a tendency to stick. Use a non-abrasive scouring pad to scrub off as much food as you can.

Then fill the pan with warm, soapy water so the surface is covered about two inches. Bring the water to a boil for about 5 to 10 minutes. Wash the pan, scouring to remove any food that is still stuck onto the bottom.

Tips From Seasoned Chefs for Cleaning Stainless Steel Pans

Experienced chefs have some tricks they use for cleaning their stainless steel cookware (unlike StoneDine cookware). Give these cleaning methods a try to keep your stainless steel pots and pans clean and shiny:

Lime and Salt

Using lime and salt to clean stainless steel may seem unusual, but it’s the acidity of the lime mixed with the gentle abrasiveness of the salt that does the job. The coarse texture of the salt scours the pan while the lime juice works to break down food particles.

To clean with lime and salt, cut the lime in half using a ceramic cooking knife. Then, squeeze the juice of one lime into the pan and add ¼ cup of fine or coarse salt. Wait for 10 minutes to allow the mixture of lime and salt to set into the pan. Add a sprinkle of more salt to the pan and then scrub the surface with a non-abrasive scouring pad.

The stuck on food should start to flake off. When the pan is free of food bits, wash with soapy water and rinse.

Cream of Tartar

While not all kitchens have cream of tartar in the pantry, chefs swear that this is the best method for removing food that’s stuck to the surface of stainless steel pans. Mix ¼ to a ½ cup of cream of tartar with just enough water to make a paste. Rub the paste over the bottom surface of the pan. Leave the cream of tartar paste in the pan for a few hours or overnight. The next day use a soft scouring pad to easily remove stuck on food. Using cream of tartar also leaves stainless steel nice and shiny.

Dryer Sheets

Use a dryer sheet to restore a burnt stainless steel pan. Add warm, soapy water to the bottom of the pan. Add a dryer sheet, pushing it below the surface of the water. Let the water soak in the pan for about one hour. Remove the dryer sheet and wash the pan with soap and water, drying thoroughly.

How to Clean a Scorched and Burnt Stainless Steel Pan

If you’re doing a lot of cooking, it’s going to happen eventually – a scorched and burnt pan that seems like it’s impossible to clean. To make things worse, if you have an induction cooktop, it will affect the contact, and decrease the heat provided to the pan.

The good news is that you can save your pan without having to use rubber gloves and a harsh chemical cleaner. There are two methods you can use to clean stainless steel – one is using baking soda and the other is to use dish detergent.

Clean With Baking Soda

All you need is a scouring pad, 3 tablespoons of baking soda, 1 cup of white vinegar, and 1.5 cups of water or less, depending on the size of your stainless steel pan. Then follow these steps:

  • Add a thin layer of water to the pan.
  • Pour in 1 cup of vinegar.
  • Place the pan on the stovetop and bring the water and vinegar to a boil.
  • Take the pan off the heat and immediately add 3 tablespoons of baking soda to the water/vinegar.
  • Empty water from the pan and then scour to clean.

Using this method, your stainless steel pan should be clean and without scorch marks. If any scorch or burn marks remain you can make a paste using 3 tablespoons of baking soda and add just enough water to moisten. Rub the paste into the bottom of the pan and let the pan sit for about 15 minutes. Then scour again, focusing on those tough-to-clean marks.

Clean Using Dishwasher Detergent

For this cleaning method you’ll need dishwasher detergent, water, and a scouring pad:

  • Fill the sink or a basin with very hot water.
  • Add up to a ¼ cup of dishwasher detergent.
  • Put the stainless steel pan into the water and leave it there to soak overnight.
  • The next day, use the scouring pad to thoroughly scrub the pan.
  • Rinse well with warm water.

This method of cleaning can be effective, but you may have to repeat if there are still areas of the pan that are scorched or burnt.

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Pan Using Chemical Cleaners

There are going to be those pans that are so badly burnt and scorched that using baking soda or dish detergent just isn’t going to be enough. If you want to salvage your stainless steel pan you may have to turn to chemical cleaners to get the job done.

There are many different commercial products with chemicals that can remove burnt on oil from the pan. After choosing the right one, to clean your pan you’ll also need scouring pads, dish soap, and water. Since these cleaning products contain harsh chemicals you’ll want to protect your eyes and hands with goggles and rubber gloves:

  • Work in an area that’s well ventilated with an open window – if there’s not enough ventilation you can work outdoors.
  • Wearing the gloves and goggles, apply the cleaner to the surface of the stainless steel pan.
  • Using the scouring pad, scrub the surface of the pan, working the cleaner into all the corners and up the sides of the pan.
  • Leave the cleaner to sit on the surface of the pan for a few hours or overnight.
  • Use the non-abrasive scouring pad to scrub the pan.
  • When the burnt-on oil and scorch marks are gone, wash the pan with dish soap and warm water.
  • Rinse thoroughly, making sure that none of the cleaner residue remains.

If the stainless steel pan doesn’t come clean the first time, you may have to repeat the process one or more times.

Best Ways to Cook With Your Stainless Steel Pan

Here are some tips and best practices for cooking with stainless steel so that you can get the most out of your pots and pans.

When adding salt to boiling water, only add the salt after the water has come to a boil.

If you add salt to the water and then put your stainless steel pan on the stove to boil, small pockmarks can form in the surface of the pan.

This is known as “pitting corrosion” and can permanently damage stainless steel cookware.

When cooking with oil, heat your stainless steel skillet before adding oil to the pan.

When the pan is heated, carefully add the oil. Then allow the oil to heat thoroughly, without burning, before adding food to the pan. According to many professional chefs, adding oil to a hot pan creates a non-stick surface on the pan so that food doesn’t stick when cooked at higher temperatures.

To test the heat of stainless steel pans before adding the oil, you can do a “water test”. Drop a small amount of water onto the surface of the heating pan. If a ball of water forms that glides over the surface of the stainless steel pan, you’ll know that the pan is hot enough to add the oil.

When Heating Stainless Skillets and Pans

When heating stainless skillets and pans don’t place the pan over high heat to get the pan to the right temperature.

Remember that top-quality stainless steel cookware is ideal for holding heat so it’s best to preheat pans at a mid temperature.

Preheating over high heat can quickly cause the pan to overheat which can lead to burnt food. And burnt food can cause scorching and burning on the surface of the pan.

When cooking with stainless steel a good practice is to avoid adding cold foods to a hot pan. When stainless steel comes into contact with cold foods that have just been taken out of the fridge the surface of the pan will contract. This can cause the food to stick to the pan. Let foods from the fridge, such as fish and meat, come to room temperature for about 10 minutes before cooking. It’s also a good idea to use a paper towel to remove any excess moisture from fish and meat before cooking, again to prevent the food from sticking to the pan.

Now that you know how to clean your stainless steel pan, your cookware will look great and last for years to come.

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