The Five Secrets to Cooking with Stainless Steel

For the longest time I resisted the idea of cooking with stainless steel.  It’s ‘stick cookware’, right? And who wants to spend their time scouring pots and pans?  Let’s face it, once you’ve gotten used to non-stick pans, you get used to the idea of food not sticking to the pot and effortless clean up of the pans.

Cuisinart Stainless 14" Skillet

But there is something about stainless steel cookware.  Apart from the nice and shiny appearance, of course.

For one, you just can’t get the same sear on meats with non-stick as you can with stainless steel cookware.    And don’t ask me why but food does taste better when cooked in stainless.    And seriously, it’s pretty low maintenance… you can scratch it, stack it, use metal utensils, bang it together (those with kids will understand!) it’s still intact and still performs.

So it was time to look at cooking with stainless steel cookware as an option.  And that’s when I discovered:

The Five Secrets to Cooking with Stainless Steel!

1. Non-Stick:  The trick to making a stainless steel non-stick can be summarized as ‘hot pan, cold oil’.  Heat the empty pan on medium high till you can place a hand above the pan and feel the heat rising.  Add a bit of oil at room temperature, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.   Wait for the oil to become hot.  You will notice a tiny bit of smoke coming out.  This tells you the pan is ready.  Voila, you just turned your stainless steel pan into a non-stick cooking pot.

 2. Searing: When searing meat, don’t force the food to flip. Meat will stick to the pan but will release when ready.

 3. Heat: Another secret to cooking with stainless steel is to cook on medium heat.  Cooking at too high a heat can also cause foods to stick.

 4. Cool off:  After you are done cooking, I know you are in a hurry to soak the pan so that nothing stays stuck (guilty!).  But wait!  Let the pan cool to room temperature before adding water.  Otherwise you could end up with warped pans.

5. Soak: Once the pan is cooled off after cooking, soak it in soapy warm water for a while.  Then when you are ready to clean, the food easily wipes off.

Related Articles:

Buying Stainless Steel Cookware? Read This First
6 Stains on Stainless Steel – And How to Remove Them

Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

6 thoughts on “The Five Secrets to Cooking with Stainless Steel”

  1. I always tell people to season their SS frying pan’s cooking surface just like you do with Cast Iron and Carbon Steel frying pans. Never scrub the surface to clean after use, simply wipe clean. It’s really is that simple. I use avocado oil to season my SS frying pans. Apply a thin coat of avocado oil to the inside and bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 60 minutes. Let cool to room temp. Do this 3 to 4 times. As the oil is heated, it bonds to the metal and to itself in a process called polymerization, as the oil converts into a form of plastic. After enough layers of seasoning have been applied, what you end up with is not a greasy coating but a hard, brown skin that covers the metal cooking surface providing the nonstick properties that make even the most stick-prone foods (eggs) a pleasure when using a seasoned frying pan. When cooking, just add a few drops of vegetable oil or butter fat to the surface and cook your eggs the way you like them. If you ever want to remove the seasoned coating and start a new seasoning, use a heavy-duty commercial alkali carbon degreaser, like Easy Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner (follow the directions), and easily remove the seasoned layer the with a Nylon Tuffy scouring pad.

    • Hi Jackie, depends on what kind of tray (is it Stainless Steel, or Aluminum or Nonstick?).
      If its stainless steel, I would put a liner like parchment paper, can’t imagine food coming off easily from a SS tray.

  2. What type of oil do you recommend? I am a newbie with calphalon stainless steel pans and I mistakenly cooked with avocado oil and boy was that a mistake! It was stuck like glue!!

    • Hi Jennie, its not really the type of oil that matters so much as the method. Ideally you have to let the pan get heated up before you add the oil. Also, in the case of meat, wait for it to release, which it will once its done. Stainless steel will never mimic a non-stick pan but with these techniques you can get some pretty good results from it.

  3. I have a set of Heritage Steel cookware with 316Ti cooking (food contact) surfaces. It is Made in USA cookware at a reasonable price. I prefer to the Fissler cookware (Made in Germany) that I have.

    It takes some time to adjust to cooking with stainless. If you are new to it, read the advice articles that are easily found on the net. Preheat the pans before adding oil, do not cook at high temperatures, clean them with a gentle soak in soapy water. You can use a gentle scrub with Barkeeper’s Friend in the case of a stain.

    You will be rewarded with great tasting food and beautiful cookware that will last a lifetime.


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