How To Clean Stainless Steel Pans (#1 Way Without Scrubbing)

Wondering how to clean stainless steel pans?

Your leftover food just keeps sticking on. And those stains are even tougher to get rid of.

Not to worry... we got you covered. 

We've found the easiest way to clean them (and without scrubbing).

Let's dive in and clean up those pans! 

But first, let's start with why. Why even clean your pans in the first place?

How To Clean Stainless Steel Pan

Why Clean Your Stainless Steel Pan?

How To Clean Stainless Steel Pan

A good quality stainless steel pot 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 and many other guides here.

Now, back to cleaning stainless steel pans.

Cleaning your stainless steel pot 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 sparkling once again, avoiding the previous discoloration.

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 (this means no steel wool too)
  • 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 water 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. Make sure the liquid is boiling, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Once cool, wash and dry the pan as usual.

How To Clean Stainless Steel Pan

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 (again, stay away from that steel wool)

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:

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

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 brillo pad, only using some good old-fashioned elbow grease.

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 every kitchen has cream of tartar in the pantry, chefs swear that this is the best method for removing food that’s stuck to the surface of your stainless steel pots. 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.

Cream of Tartar

Dryer Sheets

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 Burnt Pot – Scorched Stainless Steel

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 remove dirt from stainless steel – one is using baking soda and the other is to use dish detergent.

Clean With Baking Soda

 All you need is a brillo 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 the liquid from the pan and then scour to clean.
Clean With Baking Soda

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 brillo pad to thoroughly scrub the pan.
  • Rinse well with warm water.
Clean Using Dishwasher Detergent

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

How To Clean Stainless Steel Pan

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 remove dirt 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 brillo 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 brillo pad to scrub the pan (remember the all important elbow grease).
  • 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 liquid 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.

Cook With Your Stainless Steel 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 liquid 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

Cook With Your Stainless Steel Pan

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 make your stainless steel pan shine, your cookware will look great and last for years to come. It will also make you feel proud of having guests round the house and not feel embarrassed to have them pop into the kitchen in case your cookware looks all dirty.

About the author 

Nate Lau

Nate is an aspiring chef, and father of two. He is always on the lookout to try new healthy recipes and kitchen gadgets. He has a passion for cooking delicious miso black cod and enjoys a nice sip of pinot on occasion.

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