Your Guide to Cooking with Stainless Steel

Once you get the hang of it, cooking with stainless steel pots and pans is a breeze

Stainless steel as a cooking material sometimes gets a bad rap. This is because food sticking to the pan is a possibility.

However, it’s actually very easy to avoid food sticking to the bottom of the pan! There’s a reason professional chefs around the world swear by this shiny and powerful cookware material. All it takes to get the most out of stainless steel is knowing the right techniques.

In this guide, we’ll run you through all things related to cooking with stainless steel. You’ll learn how to choose the right cookware, whether or not you need to season your pans, proper preheating and cooking techniques, cleaning methods, and storage tips.

man cooking with stainless steel

Choosing the right stainless steel cookware

There are plenty of brands to choose from when it comes to stainless steel cookware. Whichever company you choose to go with, you should always be on the lookout for some key characteristics.

Make sure you only buy stainless steel pots & pans from companies that are transparent about the composition of their cookware. You’re looking for stainless steel cookware that’s been cladded. This means it consists of multiple layers of different metals (stainless steel and aluminum variations) in order to harness the best characteristics of each metal.

As far as layering goes, while browsing cookware you’ll typically find 3 layer and 5 layer cladded stainless steel products. These products will usually have an aluminum core and two stainless steel exteriors, with the 5 layer variety containing additional internal aluminum layers for increased heat conductivity.

If you want peak performance, 5 layer is the way to go. Some other features of high quality cookware to be on the lookout for are induction compatibility and riveted stay cool handles. If you’re looking for an example, Made In’s 5 layer stainless steel cookware contains both of these features and more.

Do I need to season my stainless steel pans? 

This is a frequently asked question. The answer: it’s up to you!

Many chefs swear by seasoning their stainless steel along with their carbon steel and cast iron because they think it provides additional non stick properties. On the flip side, many chefs think all that matters is how you treat the pan while cooking with it.

Interested in testing it out for yourself? Check out our handy guide to seasoning stainless steel.

How to preheat a stainless steel pan 

Preheating is arguably the most important step in the entire process of cooking with stainless steel. This is because improper preheating is the number one cause of sticking in stainless steel.

If you add oil to a stainless steel pan that’s not hot enough, the oil itself won’t get hot enough to quickly release water vapor from your food upon contact. This rapid release of steam is what prevents food from sticking to your fry pan.

On the other hand, if you add oil to the pan after it’s been preheated too much, your oil will burn and stick to the pan.

There are many ways to make sure your preheating is on the right track. A common technique involves placing your empty stainless steel pan over medium high heat and then immediately dropping a small amount of water inside (around 1/8 tsp).

As the pan heats up, that water will slowly evaporate. Once it’s all gone, add more. At first, the water will sizzle or float around the pan as many small beads. Repeat the process until the water floats around the pan’s surface as one or two larger beads.

Once you reach this point, quickly dry your pan of excess water (if any) and add your oil to the pan — you’re preheated!

woman cooking in a stainless steel frying pan

How to cook with stainless steel 

After your pan’s been preheated to perfection, you can place your ingredients inside without having to worry about them sticking.

It’s recommended that your ingredients all be room temperature by the time they are ready to go into the frying pan. Placing cold food in a stainless steel pan can cause the pan’s temperature to drop low enough to where it’s no longer hot enough to prevent sticking.

In addition, it’s also recommended that your food be dried with a paper towel before it’s placed into a pan (stainless steel or otherwise). This is to promote the Maillard reaction, which is the chemical process through which food gets deliciously browned. More surface moisture means more steam, which means less browning.

How to clean stainless steel pots and pans

One reason people love stainless steel is that it can stay looking brand new forever. The best way to clean stainless steel cookware is with a powdered stainless steel cleaner like our Make It Like New Cleaner or Bar Keepers Friend.

We recommend using a powdered stainless steel cleaner and/or soapy water to clean your stainless steel. We also advise against using cooking sprays if you’re trying to keep your stainless steel looking its best. These sprays can get caked on and require a deep cleaning to remove.

While most stainless steel cookware is technically dishwasher safe, handwashing is always recommended. This is because dishwashers can lead to dented cookware and oftentimes leave unsightly rainbow stains on stainless steel.

How to store your stainless steel cookware 

If you have the room for it, a pegboard or hook setup is the best way to ensure your cookware doesn’t get damaged while in storage.

If you can avoid it, do not stack your cookware. Stacking can lead to dents, nicks, and misshapen pots & pans. If you do opt to stack your cookware, make sure you have a towel or cloth between each item to prevent them from touching. Also, make sure you don't place larger items atop smaller ones.

Now that you know the basics of cooking with stainless steel, you’re ready to get cooking! If you’re in the market for some stainless steel pots and pans, check out Made In’s award winning stainless steel cookware collection.

stainless steel cookware on white background

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1 comment

  • Shannon Aten

    I love and use stainless steel. I have found the best way to keep food from sticking is to heat pan with small amount of oil and watch for the telltale waift of heat rising from pan before placing food in pan
    works every time

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