Stainless steel cookware is great: it’s safe, cooks food well, and it allows you to easily go from stove to oven.
Whether you’re ditching your cheap nonstick for health reasons or to step up your cooking game, there’s one thing you must absolutely do to your stainless steel cookware that will allow you to have a great experience.
You have to season your pans.
What is Cookware Seasoning?
Seasoning a pan has nothing to do with spices. Seasoning means to use light coats of oil at a very high temperature, to create a polymerized coating that’s glass-hard and smooth, allowing your food to slide off with ease.
Which pans need to be seasoned?
Any iron-based pan that doesn’t have a synthetic coating needs to be seasoned. Cast iron, stainless steel and carbon steel pans all need to be seasoned.
How to Season a Stainless Steel Pan?
Seasoning a stainless steel pan should ideally be done when the pan is brand new. If you’ve used your pan before (or you’ve botched the process), you can simply scrub your pan with the cleaning instructions below and start over again.
Note that some pans, especially carbon steel pans (like Mauvel or De Buyer), come from the factory with a protective coating of beeswax. You have to remove this coating first by washing the pan well.
- Wash your pan.
Use warm water with some dish soap and a scrubbing pad.
- Dry your pan thoroughly.
- Warm your pan on medium heat.
Warming your pan opens up the microscopic pores in the steel, allowing the oil to penetrate it.
- Pour a little bit of flaxseed oil in the pan and rub it with a paper towel.
You have to use organic flaxseed oil that doesn’t have any additives (it’s usually refrigerated and needs shaking before use). Wipe the inside and outside of the pan until you can’t see the oil anymore.
- Heat your pan on a stove on high heat.
Heat the pan up until it changes color, it will get really dark and start smoking. If you can, do this outside, otherwise open your windows and turn your aspirator on high.
- After the oil has stopped smoking, turn off the heat.
It’s important to let the pan cool naturally and slowly now.
- When the pan is cool, repeat the process.
The more times you do this, the more non-stick your stainless steel pan will be.
There are two critical parts for this process to yeld the right results:
You have to get the correct type of oil. 100% pure, organic flaxseed oil ONLY will work well, because the Omega-3 in the oil will polymerize. Other types of oil don’t have as much ALA (alpha-linoleic acid), so they won’t create the dark, glassy surface you’re looking for.
The other critical part, is that you heat the pan beyond its smoke point (450ºF). This can be done in an oven or, more quickly, on a good stove. It won’t work on a glass top stove, as you’ll likely incur into auto-switchoffs.
How to Season Stainless Steel Video
How to Clean Stainless Steel Cookware
If you have tried cooking on an unseasoned stainless steel pan, you’re likely left with a mess of food stuck to the pan. And it usually gets stuck there good.
The best way to clean stainless steel pans is to use a good amount of baking soda and warm water. Let the pan soak for 10-15 minutes, and then you can scrub the food off. It should now come off pretty easily.
If you want something that’s going to work a little bit more quickly, you should get some Barkeeper’s Friend. This product works great with stainless steel cookware, and anyone who uses this type of cookware should have some under their kitchen sink.
Cleaning a Seasoned Pan
If your pan is properly seasoned, you don’t want to remove the polymerized layer you’ve created on its surface. Therefore, you should always let your pan cool slowly after cooking.
When the pan is cool, use a soft sponge and warm water, with just a tiny bit of dish soap. If you want to ensure your coating will be perfect for your next cooking session, you can give it another seasoning pass after cleaning.
I hope that this guide helps you use and enjoy your stainless steel cookware!