How to Cook with Stainless Steel

I simply adore my stainless steel pans.  I have been cooking with All Clad, Viking and the like for decades.

Basically, my mom is the type that abhors microwaves and was completely repelled by the concept of Teflon coated pans.  She always warned me that if something was coated in some sort of manufactured chemical, then chances were pretty solid that super heating it with food for consumption might not be the most genius idea.  Actually, it makes sense when you think about how cooking with cast iron pans is recommended for those who are needing to increase their iron intake.  Cooking with cast iron pans will infuse your cuisine with trace levels of iron, which is so necessary for a myriad of functions, including the manufacturing of blood.  So why would I want a chemically coated pan?

Yes, Teflon coated pans make sliding food out onto a plate a total cinch, but these days we are all joining my mom’s bandwagon with avoiding even water bottles that are not marked BPA Free.  Who wants to increase the risk of cancer with something as simple as the containers we drink out of or cook in?  Have you ever seen a Teflon pan that has not been scratched?  Seriously.  Seems like pretty much a no-brainer when it comes to avoiding unnecessary exposure to chemicals.  Yes, they have come out with new coatings that are supposedly safer than Teflon, but why risk changing information when a perfectly excellent option has always been available?


Here’s the deal: stainless steel is gorgeous, does a way better job of evenly heating, and can be pretty non-stick when used correctly.  The trick is knowing what “correctly” actually is when it comes to technique.

Interestingly, stainless steel is a porous surface, which is why food sticks so easily when not used properly.  If you are switching over (or have switched) from Teflon coatings, then you may have encountered some pretty gnarly frustration at having to scrub away like a dog after just making a meal.  There is nothing worse than having to log some serious time scrubbing when all I want to enjoy is a good meal and a great visit after I cook!

The key is to heat the pan.  When the pan heats, the pores expand until they close.  There are no more microscopic crevices for the food to seep into and cling.

Check it out:


If I start with a cold pan and add cold oil and then let the two warm up together, then the oil seeps into those pores and will allow the food particles to do the same.  Here, after warming the oil up with the pan, I cracked an egg for breakfast.  The egg formed a glue like grip to the pan as it seeped into those oil lined pores.  The pan was not letting go easily!  Now imagine this with chicken, sausage, or anything else.  Yikes!  Again, I HATE scrubbing pans after I cook.


For comparison, here is a pan that I heated with nothing in it…dry as a bone.  I usually splash a bit of water into the hot pan to check on readiness.  If the water droplets start scurrying around the pan like little hyper pearls, then your pan is ready.


Add oil at this point, and then the egg.


Ok, I was a little sloppy with my yolk, but you get the picture.  The egg was way easier to release from the pan, and I am left with a surface that practically needs only a wipe out!


Now that you know how to cook with your stainless steel, it is time to know how to care for them (especially if you already have a few that look a bit worse for the wear, like these below).


Whether dealing with residue or nasty burning, NEVER use a metal scrubber.

Stainless steel’s magic is in preserving the smooth finish so those pores will seal beautifully once the pans are heated.


Obviously, you can simply clean your pans with soapy water and a sponge.  However, when the task is to remove such stubborn stains as both of these pans have, the key is using either baking soda or my favorite cleanser: Bar Keeper’s Friend.


Whichever you choose, sprinkle it on and rub with a wet sponge.  Most of the time you will not even have to use the scrubby side.


Dang!  I sure do love Bar Keeper’s Friend!  It makes me feel like a magician!


Gorgeous and like new!


I hope that helps you conquer some great meals with your stainless steel!

Happy healthy cooking y’all!



Comments 2

  1. OH MY GOSH. This is the best trick (?) ever!! I am terrified of my stainless steel pots and pans because my food always sticks, but I just whipped up some breakfast potatoes and NO sticking AND they turned out better than ever!

    I always thought it was a no no to heat up a pan with nothing in it, so I would have never thought of this myself. Thank you!

    1. Post

      Haha! I love it, Linsey! I am so happy that it helped. Now if I could just get my hubby to on board, I would be one happy lady (I think the word Alclad is TOTALLY lost on him 😉
      Send us a pic of one of your culinary creations sometime. We love the community of cooks.

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