Not all cookware is ready to be cooked with straight out of the box. Some cooking materials are designed to be used after being “seasoned.” The purpose of seasoning is to produce a very thin layer of coating on the surface of the pot or pan, which acts as a small barrier between the cookware and what you put in it.
Most home cooks know that carbon steel and cast iron pots & pans must be seasoned before they can be used. But is the same true for stainless steel cookware?
In this article, we’ll cover whether stainless steel needs to be seasoned, the potential benefits of seasoning stainless steel, how to season stainless steel, and how to cook with a seasoned stainless steel pan.
Seasoning stainless steel pans is not required, and most stainless steel users opt not to season their pans. However, many professional chefs and home cooks alike choose to season their stainless steel frying pans!
The argument in favor of seasoning stainless steel is the claim that seasoning the pan helps fill in pores in the metal with oil. These pores being filled in is said to create a smoother, more non stick surface. Food sticking to stainless steel can sometimes be an issue, so many people season their pans in hopes it will lead to an easier cleanup.
The argument against seasoning stainless steel is the claim that adding oil to the pores beforehand isn’t necessary since the oil will get there during the cooking process anyways. In addition, cleaning a pan with soap and warm water removes oil from pores. This means you would need to season your stainless steel skillet before and after each soap wash, something many claim isn’t worth the effort.
At the very least, there are no known downsides to seasoning stainless steel. So with all these conflicting opinions, the only way to know for sure which side you’re on is to try it out for yourself!
Seasoning stainless steel pans is less work than seasoning carbon steel or cast iron. All you need is your pan, some soap and water, some oil with a high smoke point, and paper towels!
Wash the pan in hot water with soap. Washing it with soap helps ensure the pores are cleaned out and ready to be filled with oil.
Dry your pan and preheat the pan on the stove over medium heat. Heat expands, so this will help open up the pores in the metal.
Once your pan is hot, place a small amount of oil in the pan.
Place a wad of paper towel in the oil and wipe around the inside of the pan until there is a very thin layer of oil across the entire interior. You don’t want to use too much oil here — it's better to start off with too little than too much, as you can add more if necessary. Make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point, like vegetable, avocado, grapeseed oil.
Once the pan begins to lightly smoke, remove it from the burner and let cool.
Once cool, use a different paper towel to wipe the pan and remove any excess oil (there may be none).
Repeat as desired.
You cook with a seasoned stainless steel pan the same way you cook with an unseasoned one! If the seasoning worked, you’ll notice that food glides around more easily and less buildup occurs on the bottom of the pan.
Cooking with stainless steel can be intimidating, and we’re here to help! If you want to learn the ins and outs of this amazing cookware material that professional chefs swear by, check out our
guide to cooking with stainless steel
Looking for a stainless steel pot or pan so you can try your hand at seasoning one? Shop our
Stainless Steel Collection