How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans the Right Way

Though they're a workhorse in the kitchen, stainless steel pans are easily susceptible to discoloration and stuck-on food.

Durable and excellent at conducting heat, stainless steel pans are a kitchen essential. From searing and sautéing to oven roasting, this type of cookware is extremely versatile. The only downside? It can feel impossible to remove food residue, burnt-on bits, and discoloration from stainless steel cookware. But with some guidance and the right cleaning supplies, you'll be well on your way to returning your stainless steel pans to their former glory.

stainless steel pans hanging on kitchen wall next to plant

Materials Needed

Make sure you have these basic cleaning supplies on hand before getting started.

  • Non-abrasive pan
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Microfiber towel

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Pan

For many people, the immediate reaction may be to rinse your pan off immediately after cooking, but a hot pan should never be immersed in cold water. The temperature shock can cause permanent warping. "Always allow the pan to cool prior to cleaning," says Wendy Dyer, international product director at All-Clad. "Once the pan is fully cooled, you can begin cleaning it.

  1. Rinse off excess food with warm water.
  2. Soak the pan in warm, soapy water.
  3. Wash with a non-abrasive scrubber and warm, soapy water.
  4. Wipe dry immediately with a microfiber cloth to prevent spotting.

How to Remove Burnt Food From Stainless Steel Pans

It happens—you stepped away from your dinner for one minute and ended up with some burnt bits. If you can't remove burnt, stuck-on food with everyday cleaning methods, try this technique, which Dyer says will help loosen food particles from the surface.

  1. Sprinkle the surface of your pan generously with baking soda.
  2. Fill the pan with enough water to cover the stuck-on food.
  3. Bring it to a boil.
  4. Pour out the dirty water.
  5. Clean with warm, soapy water.
  6. Wipe dry with a microfiber towel.

How to Remove Discoloration From Stainless Steel Pans

Stainless steel pans can often acquire some discoloration, which is often caused by overheating. While these stains won't come out with regular dish soap, a little vinegar will do the trick.

  1. Pour some vinegar into your pan.
  2. Wipe the pan with a non-abrasive scrubber.
  3. Rinse.
  4. Wipe dry with a microfiber towel.

How to Care for Stainless Steel Pans

Since stainless steel pans are used so frequently, they're bound to acquire some wear and tear over the years. There are some tricks you can use to prevent them from tiring too quickly.

How to Prevent Scorch Marks

There are two easy ways to prevent a pot from scorching. First, always ensure there is enough fat or liquid in the pan and that the pan is hot before adding any liquid. "Heat up your stainless-steel pan on low to medium heat for two to three minutes before adding oil, fat, or food—this will help prevent or reduce burns," says Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority.

The other way to prevent scorch marks in a stainless steel pan is to move the food around frequently with a spoon or tongs. This way, the food won't have a chance to sit at the bottom of the pan and will ultimately cook more evenly.

How to Store Stainless Steel Cookware

Keep your stainless steel pans safe from scratches by storing them properly. "I love to keep my stainless-steel pans in an easy to reach cabinet," says Stapf. "A tip when stacking these stainless-steel cooking items: add cookware protectors in between each to avoid scratching their surfaces."

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