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How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

Stainless steel is clean and lustrous until it gets covered in oil stains and scorch marks. Cleaning stainless steel returns it to the beauty of when it was brand new, and allows for better contact with induction cooktops. From everyday cleaning to removing years of grime, here’s how to clean stainless steel pans.

Everyday Cleaning

Stainless steel pans are dishwasher safe, but because we’ve found the dishwasher can affect the tinge of our stainless steel we like to clean them by hand. Start by wasting any excess oil or any food in the pan. Once it’s clear and cool enough to handle it’s time to clean. As you’ll come to see, it’s easier to clean a warm pan. Fill the skillet with a little warm water, and break up the remaining food bits with a stiff brush. Try to avoid completely submerging the pan in cold water until it’s fully cooled. Exposing your ripping hot pan to cold water, while it can make a satisfying sound, can also expose your pan to thermal shock. Thermal shock is the sudden temperature change that can cause a hot pan to warp. Once all the food is broken up, grab a sponge and scrub the entire surface of the pan in a circular motion. A scouring pad will bring quicker results, but a sponge will leave less scratches preserving the appearance of your beautiful pan. Finally, rinse and… clean!

Simply Scrub with Baking Soda

Set in oil stains require deeper cleaning than what’s capable with water and dish soap. For this we’ll be using baking soda and a scouring pad to a variety of extremities, beginning with the simplest method.

To start, mix together warm water and baking soda in the bottom of the pan. Be liberal with the baking soda, we need to get this pan clean. Once mixed and the whole pan’s coated (including the back), let it sit for a few minutes. At last, scrub off the mixture with a scouring pad, and rinse off the remainder. If the stains aren’t coming off, try again, but let the mixture sit longer.

Boil with Baking Soda, then Scrub

For years worth of grime and an easier time scrubbing, we recommend the following method: Pour a small pile of baking soda into the bottom of the pan, with enough water to almost cover the mound the baking soda. Set the water to a boil, once most of the water evaporates turn off the heat. Wait a few minutes until the pan is cool enough to handle, but not too long, the pan’s easier to clean when warm. Slip on your gloves (optional, but recommended) and scrub out all the gunk from the pan. This method will work great for cleaning the surface of the pan, but will be less effective for getting at the bottom of the pan.

Boil the Entire Pan with Baking Soda

To remove the most extreme stains and also minimize scrubbing (reducing scratches), this is the most proactive method, boiling the stains off. Although it’s a little cumbersome, getting a stock pot large enough to fit the pan, and it’s awkward fishing a large metal pan out of another metal pot, this method will leave your stainless steel sparkling and without less scratches than those methods relying heavily on scrubbing.

What we’re gonna be doing is completely submerging the pans in baking soda to obliterate stains and scorch marks. To boil the entire pan we’re gonna need to find a vessel large enough to fit the pan. For this, we use a large stockpot for pans that will fit, and for larger pans we use a roasting pan. Start by filling the vessel with water until the pan can be completely (or mostly) submerged. Bring it to a boil, then add a good pour of baking soda, about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup. Place your pan in the water slowly to prevent any hot water from splashing you. Reduce to a gentle boil, and let cook for 15 to 30 minutes. If the pan’s not fully submerged, flip or rotate throughout to ensure all sides are boiled.

Finally, remove the pans with care. Using tongs and silicone oven mitts can reduce the risk of injury. It’s time to scrub. If the pan’s too hot, you can wait till it’s cool enough to handle, or you can hold the handle with an oven mitt or towel. Just like the first method, add baking soda and water to the pan, mix, then scrub the entirety of the pan with a scouring pad. Rinse, and Ta Da! Your pan will be looking brand new, and glossy as ever.

Using Toothpicks for Cleaning out Nooks and Crannies

Hard to reach crevices of your pan can be an annoyance for cleaning, but there’s a solution. Using one of the methods involving boiling, it can make that gunk come off, or easier to get at. To pick it out, go at the rivets with a toothpick or a paring knife you don’t care about.

How to Prevent Your Pans From Staining

The best strategy to have a clean pan is to not make a mess at all. Prevention can keep your pan looking brand new, without any extra elbow grease. The main things that cause stains to appear on stainless steel are sticking and scorching. To prevent both of these we need good cookware, and good technique.

Use Fully Clad Pans

Traditional stainless steel cookware is notoriously bad at distributing heat, and with this comes hot spots. Hot spots can lead to more burning, sticking, and burnt on oil which we want to stay away from. If you’re gonna go for stainless steel cookware, go for fully clad. It’s marginally more expensive, but it heats extremely evenly and like stainless steel lasts forever.

Preheat Your Pan and Oil

When your preheat your pan and your oil sticking becomes much less likely to happen. You see when your pan is properly preheated, a reaction happens between the pan and the moisture in the food, and where the steam essentially lifts the food away from the pan, preventing it from sticking. When you preheat your oil this function is multiplied. Additionally, the meat will briefly cook in that layer of fat before it touches the pan. So if you’re gonna cook a nice piece of meat, first preheat the pan, then add the oil, and once the oil is shimmering and fully preheated, now add your meat.

Pat Meat Dry Before Searing

Patting your meat dry before it goes into the pan will ensure that when it goes into the pan it will sear right away. Otherwise, you’ll be cooking the layer of moisture before the meat itself. Wet foods can’t heat as efficiently, and will bond with the pan and keep you from getting that crispy sear.

Keep an Eye on Your Food

As simple as it may be, keep an eye on your food. An untended pan is much more likely to scorch than one with a home cook proactively stirring, or standing above their pan sensing for the smell of smoke or something not right. Keep an eye, save yourself time as I always say.

Congratulations, you now know everything there is to know to keep your stainless steel pans sparkling and clean!

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