How to Clean a Stainless Steel Pan: Proper Care for Your Cookware

Many chefs prefer stainless steel pans for their major cooking jobs. Unlike aluminum, stainless steel does not react with acidic foods. However, the material is not the best conductor of heat, so most quality stainless steel pans have an aluminum or copper core that is covered with an outer layer of stainless steel.

Although stainless steel is a relatively tough metal, a certain amount of care is required when cleaning a pan made from this material. Here’s a “how to” guide for cleaning your stainless steel pan, as well as some tips for especially difficult cleaning problems.

Use a soft cloth or sponge.

When cleaning your stainless steel pan, a soft cloth or sponge is the best tool for the job. Wet the pan first. Then use a mild detergent and a soft cloth to wipe away any food debris and grease. Make sure you do not use any type of abrasive cleaner on the pan. Steel wool or any type of abrasive material will leave scratches on the surface of stainless steel. If you absolutely must use an abrasive material of some kind, choose nylon scrubbers instead of steel wool.

Use vinegar to remove calcium.

If you see white, chalky spots or streaks on your pan, this is usually a result of calcium deposits. Soak the pan in vinegar, and then clean as usual with a mild detergent and soft cloth.

Use baking soda for burned food.

If you have burnt food stuck to the bottom of your stainless steel pan, add hot water and a few tablespoons of baking soda. Allow the pan to soak for several hours. Clean as usual with a soft cloth and mild detergent.

Use a specialty cleanser for hard stains.

Sometimes, grease or food will actually seem to cook itself into the pan, making the surface appear yellow or browned. In this case, you’ll need a mild abrasive to remove the residue. Choose a cleanser specifically designed for stainless steel, such as Bar Keeper’s Friend. Make a paste with the cleanser and some water, then rub it on the surface of the pan. Start in the center of the pan and work your way out in a circular motion, following the natural rings of the stainless steel.

Polish with a paste of water and baking soda.

If you’d like to polish your stainless steel pan so that it gleams, create a paste of baking soda and water. Rub it gently on the pan with a soft cloth, then rinse clean with warm water.

Clean spotted pans with vinegar.

Not only is vinegar good for removing calcium deposits, but it also works to remove spots that are left behind after cleaning. Rinse the stainless steel pan in a mix of water and vinegar, or add some vinegar to your dishwasher cycle.

Never use harsh chemicals.

Ammonia, bleach and other harsh chemicals may damage or discolor your stainless steel pan. Use natural cleaners like vinegar or baking soda, or specialty cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend, or very mild soaps like dish detergent. Do not use any other types of cleansers on your stainless steel pan.

Although handwashing is the best thing for your stainless steel pan, most can also handle a trip through the dishwasher.

With proper care and cleaning technique, your stainless steel cookware can provide years of quality service in your kitchen.

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