6 Easy Steps to Season Stainless Steel Pans

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season stainless steel pan

One of the largest pet peeves of home cooks are foods sticking on the pan when cooking. We can’t help but feel like a failure whenever we mess up in making food look great. That is often the case when we cook or fry food on stainless steel pans. We just hate it when we sear some salmon and the skin sticks to the surface or when we try to fry a sunny side up and end up scraping it off the pan. It’s a huge mess that we just hate to make. On top of all that, cleaning is an entirely different story. For all of those reasons, we will teach you how to season stainless steel pans so they would have a nonstick feel.

What Does “To Season” a Stainless Steel Pan Mean?

Simply put, it means that we turn an ordinary stainless steel pan into a non-stick fry pan. A non-stick fry pan is a home cook’s best friend because you can practically do anything with it. From making a simple saute to quick sears, a non-stick fry pan will always deliver a beautifully cooked meal. And seasoning a frying pan is a quick process to make a great fry pan for any cook.

Why Do We Need to Season Our Frying Pans?

Buying a new set of stainless steel frying pans can cause a major havoc since they aren’t made to be non-stick. In fact, using them immediately after purchase will just give you a headache since it will really ruin the food you’re cooking. Every new set of stainless steel frying pans need to be seasoned for the following reasons:

  • It creates a better non-stick surface
  • It is safer and easier to use than Teflon pans
  • It just takes a snap to clean up
  • It’s easy to season a frying pan
  • It lasts for a long time

Pre-Seasoning Cleaning Procedure

Some would often just wash their new stainless steel pan and use it as is without seasoning it. Little do they know, there is a proper way of cleaning the pan before using it for the first time. Consider the following procedures:

  1. Preheat water until it’s warm. There’s no specific temperature needed so preheat it like you would when you cook eggs.
  2. Turn the heat off and fill the pan with the warm water.

NOTE: Don’t pour cold water in a heated pan since contrasting temperatures will shock the steel making it prone to being disfigured or misshapen.

  1. Add a drop or two of gentle dishwashing liquid and leave the pan to soak in soapy warm water for 3 to 4 minutes.

NOTE: Don’t use strong abrasive soap and bleach. Strong soaps will make the steel prone to scratching.

  1. Wash the pan with a washcloth or a soft sponge.

Remember: Don’t use a steel wool or scouring pads, they will bruise your brand new pan.

  1. Rinse the pan with running water.
  2. Once you’re done rinsing, flip the pan over to let the excess water drip then wipe the pan with a clean cloth.

For more information, read this expert guide on how to clean stainless steel pans

How to Properly Season a Stainless Steel Pan

There is more than one way to season a pan properly. Here are the two most common ways of properly turning a new stainless steel pan into a non-stick frying pan.

  • Heating on the Stove

The most common and easiest way to season a pan is by seasoning it on the stove. Here’s how we do it:

heating on the stove

Step 1: Prepare one or two tablespoons of oil with a high smoke factor.

Step 2: Coat the inside of the pan with oil. You can use your fingers to spread the oil from the bottom of the pan to the inner rim. Make sure that the entire interior of the pan is coated with oil.

NOTE: If you started with the pan on the stove first, use a paper towel to smear the oil over the surface of the pan.

using paper towel

Step 3: Put the pan on the stove and heat the pan.

Step 4: Turn on the stove and put it on medium heat.

Step 5: Swirl the pan occasionally to make sure the oil is nicely coating the entire pan.

Step 6: Let the pan heat up until the oil begins to smoke.

Step 7: Turn off the stove and let the pan sit until it cools down.

Step 8: Once the oil has cooled down, let the excess oil drip off and wipe it clean with a  paper towel.

Step 9: Repeat steps 1-8 for a second coating.

  • Heating in an Oven

Although it is harder to season a pan in the oven, it lasts longer as compared to seasoning on the stove. Here’s how to use your oven for seasoning your pan:

heating in an oven
  1. Preheat the oven at 300 to 350℉
  2. Toss in the pan for a minute to make the pan warm.
  3. Take the pan out and spread one to two tablespoons of oil.
  4. Liberally coat the entire pan with the oil.
  5. Place an aluminum foil on the oven shelf. It is needed to catch any dripping oil to prevent it from flaring up.
  6. Pop the pan inside the oven upside down and let it bake for an hour.
  7. After an hour, turn off the oven and leave the pan inside for about 30 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle.
  8. Take off the pan and wipe it clean with a paper towel.

NOTE: This is also how you season a cast iron pan.

FAQs in Seasoning Stainless Steel Frying Pans

To help you further when it comes to seasoning your frying pans, we have introduced a series of the most frequently asked questions and hope that you would be able to consider the following information.

What Is the Best Oil to Use to Season Stainless Steel Cookware?

Oils with a high smoke or burn factor are best used to season a pan. Examples of high smoke point oils would be sunflower oil, peanut oil, and corn oil. In seasoning a pan, we can also use rice bran oil, avocado oil, and canola oil.

What Does High Smoke Point Oil Mean?

High Smoke oil or high burn factor refers to oil that requires a high temperature for it to smoke. In other words, it is the temperature where an oil gets hot enough to smoke. A high smoke point is 400℉ and above.

Smoke point is very important in cooking. The higher the smoke point, the better it is for frying food. This is because the smoke point is also the burning point of the oil. When you cook food in an oil with a low smoke point, it will easily burn the food or give the food a burnt or smokey flavor.

Low smoke point oils are best used to salad dressings and contrary to popular belief, they can still be used for cooking. Low smoke point oils are great for sauteeing veggies and oiling up the pan for an omelet. Examples of oils with a low smoke point are butter, vegetable shortening, coconut oil, and most unrefined oils.

Here is how you can tell if an oil is refined or not.

  • Refined oils have a lower smoke point compared to unrefined oils
  • Refined oils have a neutral scent while unrefined oils retain the smell or essence from where it was extracted from. For example, unrefined coconut oil smells a lot like warm coconut milk while refined coconut oil doesn’t have any scent to it at all.
  • Refined oils are lighter in color and much clearer than unrefined oils.
  • Refined oils are less viscous compared to unrefined or virgin oils.
high smoke oil

Why Use Oil with High Smoke Factor or High Burn Factor?

The reason why it’s best to use a high smoke point when you season a skillet or a frying pan is that it is the best type of oil that creates a smooth layer on the surface of the pan that turns it into a non-stick pan. When you heat metal, it opens up the pores of the steel. If you introduce oil, the heated oil will break down and bond with the steel, creating a non-stick layer. Oil only breaks down when it reaches its smoke point. The bonding of the oil and the steel will produce the best result if the oil undergoes a chemical break down.

Take note that refined oils have a higher smoke point compared to virgin oils. This is because refined oils are oils that are heated to remove its impurities. Virgin oils have lower smoke points because they are cold pressed. They are packed with vitamins and minerals making them the perfect oil for dressings. When cooking with virgin oils, the health benefits disappear when they reach their smoke point. They’re also not advisable for seasoning skillets and frying pans because they don’t easily bond with metal pores and they burn up easily leaving a smokey or burnt taste to the pan and the food that you will cook it in.

How to Tell if Your Pan Is Seasoned Properly

seasoned pan 1
seasoned pan 2

You can easily tell if a pan is seasoned well or not based on its appearance. Here’s how:

  • Darker Steel Color

When you buy a brand new skillet or stainless steel pan, it has a light silver chrome shimmer to it. When you season it, it gives you that darker smoother matte sheen. You can tell that a pan is seasoned well if the interior color of the pan has changed.

  • Cooking Efficiency

A well-seasoned pan will let you cook eggs without having them stick to the pan. The pan has a smooth oiled surface that when you heat the pan and put fish, meat or vegetables to sear, they won’t stick to the pan but will slide off if you tilt the pan.

  • Seasoning Longevity

Another thing to look at is how long the seasoning lasts. If it’s poorly seasoned, it will easily come off after a few uses.

poorly seasoned

How to Maintain a Seasoned Stainless Steel Pan?

It is easier to clean a seasoned stainless steel pan because we can simply wipe the pan with a clean paper towel. If we fried meat for a long time and have bits of food stuck on the pan, let it soak with warm water and rinse it off. If washing strips off the seasoning, we can re-season the pan. To maintain a seasoned pan well, we have to:

  • Clean the pan periodically with the use of a clean cloth or paper towel.
  • Store the pan in a cool dry place. Storing the pan directly under sunlight will disfigure the pan.
  • Another way of keeping a pan in pristine condition is by putting paper towels or paper when we stack them up together. The paper prevents the pans from scratching each other.
  • Don’t wash a stainless steel pan in a dishwasher. The strong dishwashing soap will bruise or scratch your pan and completely stip off the non-stick layer.

How Often Should We Season Stainless Steel Cookware?

We only have to re-season a pan once the seasoning starts to come off. It usually comes off when we wash the pan with soap and water. Scrubbing will also strip off the layer, forcing us to re-season the pan.

When we season a pan over the stove, the seasoning has the tendency to come off quickly after washing it with soap and water. On the other hand, the seasoning stays longer when we season the pan in the oven.

how often should we season stainless steel cookware

Do We Need To Season Other Stainless Cookware?

There is no need to season other stainless steel cookware especially if we will use it for cooking stews and soup. Seasoning is only fit for pans that we use for frying and sauteing. Other types of cookware can do without the seasoning since heated water can easily strip the oil off the cookware.

My final thoughts…

To season stainless steel pans is a crucial step in preserving the integrity and quality of our fried food. It is also one of the greatest means of taking care of our stainless steel cookware. Seasoning stainless steel pans can either be done on the stove or in the oven; although it is recommended to have them seasoned in the oven since it is less smokey and is longer-lasting. Of course, it’s up to you to decide which method would be more convenient for you.

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