An Expert Guide on How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

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Cleaning has never been something I enjoy doing. I’m pretty sure that many of you share the same sentiment. Washing dishes is probably the most hated chore in the world, but what can we do? We can’t live without clean dishes or pans. With so many unrelenting stains to get rid off, I’ve compiled a list on how to clean stainless pans with different types of stains in order to make it easier for everyone.

Cleaning 101: How to Wash Stainless Steel Pans with Different Types of Stains

Washing a stainless steel pan with just soap and water may work oftentimes but there are tougher gunk and stains that require more attention. There are also instances where typical washing just isn’t enough to clean the pan. Here are some ways to remove the toughest stains we are all familiarly annoyed with.

Bothersome Oil Gunk

Oil gunk is really bothersome because they stick to the sides of the pan like glue. Most people would often resort to using a steel wool to remove the gunk off. The problem here is that when you use a steel wool, you are scratching off the surface of the pan thus destroying the pan overall.

Here is a simple way to degunk the oil stain off your pan without destroying it:

What you need:

  • Dishwashing Soap
  • Scrubbing Pad
  • Pan lid or cover

How to do it:

  1. Put some water in the pan. Three ounces of tap water will do to cover the bottom of the pan with water.
  2. Put three to four drops of dishwashing liquid in the pan and mix it with the water.
  3. Put the lid on the pan. If the pan doesn’t have a lid, find a plate or a cover that will seal the pan.
  4. Put the pan on the stove and cover the pan.
  5. Heat the water until the pan comes to a boil.
  6. Turn off the stove and leave the pan until it warm enough to handle.
  7. Gently rub off the oil stains using the scrubbing pad.
  8. Throw the soapy water and rinse the pan with warm water.

Disgusting Sticky Goo

disgusting sticky goo

I always get this when I caramelize sugar or glaze some fruits or onions. Sugar can be a nasty sticky goo that doesn’t just stay sticky but hardens to the point that it is completely stuck onto the pan. This is also true for other recipes involving a lot of confections especially those with tons of sweets (chocolates, cookies, cupcakes, etc.).

Don’t be in despair though. It’s pretty simple to get the goo out of your stainless steel pan. Here are different ways of removing the goo out of your stainless steel pan:

Gooey Sugar

This is when the sugar hasn’t hardened yet. This may be when the pan is still hot or warm keeping the sugar in its caramelized state. This is the perfect time to wash the pan since it is the easiest way to clean the pan without the use of strong abrasives and destroying the surface of your stainless steel pan in the long run.

What you need:

  • Tap Water
  • Spoon or anything for mixing

How to do it:

  1. While the pan is still warm, put it back on the stove.
  2. Pour water until it reaches all the sides that have the sugar in it let it boil until the sugar has completely melted.
  3. Grab a spoon and stir the water to let the sugar get dissolved.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove the water and wash the pan as you normally would by hand.

Hardened Sugar

When your pan has completely cooled off and there’s hardened sugar stuck onto its surface, it can be tricky to remove. Don’t worry, just follow the steps below and you’re good to go. So, don’t freak out.

What you need:

  • 2-3 Lemons
  • Spoon for scraping

How to do it:

  1. Fill the pan with water until it reaches all the sides that has hardened sugar.
  2. Cut the lemon in half or quarters and toss the lemons inside the pan.
  3. Put the pan on the stove and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove the lemons.
  5. With the water still in the pan, mix the solution (some of the hardened sugar would have melted and dissolved in the water).
  6. Drain the water and for the remaining hardened sugar residue, use a spoon to scrape them off.
  7. Once the all the hardened sugar is removed, hand wash the pan as usual.

Burnt Sugar

burnt sugar

When cooking sugar, it can be a smooth creamy caramel to a burnt mess in just a matter of seconds. And when we aren’t careful, we end up with a major headache when it comes to cleaning the pan. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be annoyed since you burnt whatever it was you are cooking. Don’t worry, you can remove the burnt sugar off your pan without a problem. Here’s how:

What you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Spoon
  • Scrubbing Pad

How to do it:

  1. You need to soften the gunk off the pan first, so fill the pan halfway with water and add in 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 heaped spoonful of baking soda.
  2. Put the pan on the stove and bring it a boil. Thin burnt sugar will easily come off but for a thicker layer of scorched syrup, you need to let the vinegar simmer for about half an hour. Let the solution bubble.
  3. Turn off the heat and use a spoon to test if the burnt layer can be scraped off.
  4. Once the scorched sugar is soft enough to remove, drain the solution and scrub the remaining layer of syrup with a scrubbing pad.
  5. Finally, rinse the pan under running water.

Infuriating Burnt Stains

infuriating burnt stains

Like burnt sugar, this is unrelenting. Burnt food is not only a nuisance but also one of the toughest stains to remove. Not only are you left with a horrible meal but a blackened pan bottom waiting for your attention. Don’t be disheartened just yet. I have numerous easy and effective methods that will make cleaning up a breeze.

Coca-cola method

This is highly effective on tough thin layers of scorched stains. It is also a good solution to soften up the toughest stains especially thick layers of hardened burnt food. This is also by far, the easiest way to clean scorched food right off the pan.

What you need:

  • Coke

How to do it:

  1. It mostly depends on how thick the layer of burnt food is.
  2. Fill the pan with coke until the coke covers all the area with burnt food in it.
  3. Leave the coke to work its magic for at least two hours. Let the coke sit overnight if the stain is very thick or the scorched food has completely hardened and dried off on the pan.
  4. Drain the coke and the pan should be spotless. Wash it afterwards as you normally would.

Citrus Method

This is effective only on thin layers of scorched food.

What you need:

  • Lemon
  • Baking soda

How to do it:

  1. Slice the lemon in half and rub each half on the pan and squeeze them while you do it.
  2. Once the scorched area is completely covered with lemon, sprinkle some baking soda until it covers the entire pot and waits until the bubbles form and dissipate.
  3. If there is too much baking soda on the pan, squeeze more lemon juice onto it until all of the baking soda reacts with the lemon juice.
  4. Leave the solution for at least 25 minutes and rinse the pan after.
  5. Clean the pan with dishwashing liquid soap and water for a final rinse.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

baking soda and vinegar method

This is a very popular method of cleaning stainless steel pans. It is effective when it comes to really tough and thick layers of burnt food.

What you need:

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar (preferably white)

How to do it:

  1. Pour one cup of vinegar in the pan and 1 heaped tablespoon of baking soda.
  2. Add water to fill the pan and mix the solution well.
  3. Leave the pan to soak for at least 1 hour. The tougher or thicker the stain, the longer you should let the solution sit.
  4. For a quicker way, put the pan on a stove and bring it to a boil.  Let the solution simmer for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Turn off the heat and scrape the bottom of the pan using a spoon.
  6. Drain the solution and wash the pan.
  7. If there is still some residue left on the pan, simply scrub it off using a scouring pad.

Hydrogen Peroxide Method

This is a solution that is very similar to baking soda and vinegar. This is an abrasive solution which really strips the gunk off your pan and is meant for really tough stains.

What you need:

  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Hydrogen peroxide

How to do it:

  1. Pour 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide on the pan.
  2. Add water to fill the pan completely.
  3. Pour 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid and mix well.
  4. Let the pan sit for at least 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the stain. For heavier stains, leave the pan to soak overnight.
  5. Drain the solution and wash the pan with soap and water.

Plain Baking Soda Method

When other methods fail to remove the caked-on mess and still leave behind tough residues, this is the quickest way to remove the stains.

What you need:

  • Baking soda

How to do it:

  1. Make a paste of 1 part baking soda and 1 part water (i.e. mixing 1 tbsp of baking soda with 1oz water)
  2. Apply the paste on the tough stain or residue.
  3. Leave the paste for at least 20 minutes and rinse off.
  4. Scrub the remaining residue with a scouring pad.
  5. Give the pan a final wash with soap and water

Annoying Charred Bottom

annoying charred bottom

The inside of the pan isn’t the only problem we have in cooking, we also have to deal with the exterior of a stainless steel pan. One reason why I love cooking with a stainless steel pan is that I can cook with it in open fire or even over charcoal.

The problem here is that the bottom of the pan is covered in black coal ash that’s incredibly annoying to remove. The ash sticks to practically everything and somehow, it even has this water-resistant feature that makes cleaning a complete nightmare. Don’t worry though, if we can handle messy caked-on burnt food, we can handle a thin layer of ask at the exterior of a stainless steel pan.

What you need:

  • Paper towel
  • Fabric conditioner sheet or liquid fabric conditioner

How to do it:

  1. Wipe off as much ash off the pan as you can.
  2. Get a wet fabric conditioner sheet and put it on the ashy surface. If you don’t have a fabric conditioner sheet, soak a paper towel in fabric conditioner and put it on the surface of the pan.
  3. Leave the sheet to soften up the bottom of the pan for about 30 minutes.
  4. With the paper towel or fabric conditioner sheet, wipe the bottom of the pan.
  5. Wash the pan normally with soap, sponge, and water.

Sticky Oily Residue

The grim reaper has literally covered your pan in nasty grim residue that’s hard to remove. In most cases, people would resort to our ever-friendly cleaner, the baking soda. It’s true that it’s very effective but when mixed with vinegar, it’s abrasive. Frequent use of abrasive cleaners will harm your stainless steel pan in the process. This is how to clean stainless steel pans with a sticky residue minus the baking soda.

What you need:

  • Salt
  • Oil
  • Paper towel

How to do it:

  1. Mix two parts salt and one part oil (i.e. mixing 2 teaspoons of salt for 1 teaspoon of oil) depending on the size of your pan. For 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of oil, you can use it for a pan that is 12 inches in diameter.
  2. Heat the pan hot enough that when you drop water in it, it curdles and evaporates in an instant.
    Dip the paper towel in the salt and oil mixture.
  3. Rub the mixture or paste on the pan. This will serve as an exfoliating mix for your pan.
  4. Once the residue comes off, rinse the pan in warm or hot water.

Caring 101: How to Properly Care for Stainless Steel Pans

how to properly maintain stainless steel cookware

Cleaning a stainless pan doesn’t have to be hard if we know exactly just how to take care of it. With so many cookware out there, stainless steel pans are among the most used type of cooking pots and pans out there. And a set of stainless steel cookware will really last your kitchen more than a good couple of years with proper care.

I’m very meticulous about having my stuff last for a long time especially things I have in my kitchen. And my stainless steel cooking pans and pots are my prized possessions. I am sharing with you secrets on how to handle and care for your stainless steel cookware.

How to Properly Cook With A Stainless Steel Pan

One of the most important things to remember in caring for your stainless steel cookware is the heat. You must remember that stainless steel cookware works best in medium to high heat. This especially true when frying. Here’s how you should fry on a non-stick stainless steel pan.

  1. Put the pan on the stove and turn the heat on high until the pan gets hot.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium and put in the oil.
  3. Let the oil swim around the bottom of the pan and almost hit its smoke point.
  4. When the oil is about to hit its smoke point, you will see the clear oil is swirling in the heat, drop the food in.
  5. Slightly wiggle on the food to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will know that you did it right if you drop your food in and it bubbles like crazy in the pan.

You see, when cooking with a stainless steel pan, it needs to be heated up to open up its pores. Steel opens up and expands and as it does, its pores widen. When this happens, it bonds with the oil creating a wonderful cooking environment. But once it cools down and you wash the pan, the pores close up once again.

Regulating the Heat

regulating the heat

One of biggest mistakes we commit in cooking or using our stainless steel pan is cleaning it. After using the pan, we have this habit of putting it right on the sink and opening the tap to make sure that residue won’t stick on the pan. This is WRONG!

Introducing opposite temperatures to the pan will cause it to warp. Stainless steel pans react to hot and cold temperatures. When it’s hot, it expands, and when it’s cold, it contracts. A sudden change in temperature will shock the pan causing it to be misshapen or even have brittle points that will, later on, destroy the pan overall.

NOTE: If you want to soak the pan in water for an easier cleanup, wait for the pan to cool first. If not, pour hot water in the pan when you’re done using it and leave it to soak.

Season your Stainless Steel Pan

This is a quick and easy way to make your pan non-sticky. It’s very simple to do and it will make cleaning a breeze too.

  1. Get a high-smoke-point oil.
  2. Coat the entire interior of the pan with oil.
  3. Put the pan on the stove and turn on the heat.
  4. Let the pan heat up until the oil starts to smoke.
  5. Turn the stove off and let the pan cool down.
  6. Drain the excess oil and wipe the pan with a paper towel.

Doing this will make cooking and cleaning easier. This way, you won’t have to keep washing the pan with a strong liquid dishwasher all the time.

Read more about the 6 steps required to season stainless steel pans

Clean With a Washcloth or a Sponge

As much as possible, do not resort to using steel wool on the interior of the stainless steel pan. Steel wool will scratch the pan scraping off the outer layer of the pan. A stainless steel pan is made up of three basic layers:

  • Polished interior
  • Aluminum core
  • Steel base

The polished interior makes the pan hygienic and durable. It is the layer that is best to cook food in since it will not have any chemical reaction to any type of food. Scraping it off would reveal the aluminum layer making your pan very delicate.

Cleaning With a Washcloth or a Sponge

Best Cooking Practices

When you are cooking, there are good habits that will help you keep your stainless steel pan in pristine condition.

  • Wipe your pan after washing. This will prevent water spots from forming on your pan. When they get hard, the chalky bits will be hard to remove and would require you to use a steel wool.
  • Be patient when heating your pan. You have to learn how to wait, being impatient and putting immediately on the pan will ruin both your food and the pan.
  • Add salt only when the water is boiling. Oftentimes, when we boil or blanch food, we already add the salt in the water. The salt will make the steel prone to corrosion causing those pitted marks to appear. These would be permanent. So, if you are cooking pasta, remember to drop the salt only when the water is boiling.
  • Chill frozen food first before cooking. Frying frozen food is a disaster! The moisture will make the oil splatter and the cold temperature will change the temperature of the oil in the pan. Instead of the oil heating up properly, the cold temperature of the frozen food will cool the oil again making your food stick on the pan.

Other Best Cleaning Practices for Your Stainless Steel Pan

Here are some basic cleaning tips that you might find very handy.

Use a lemon to polish your pan


Cut a lemon in half and rub it on your pan. This will give your pan a smooth polished look especially after being washed in abrasive chemicals.

Limit the baking soda and vinegar mixture

This is a chemical reaction that breaks down organic material. Your stainless steel metal is not prone to the effects of this chemical reaction. Frequent use of the baking soda and vinegar makes this cleaning solution very aggressive and will make your pan fragile. It will also strip off the polished layer little by little.

Wash off the seasoning and re-apply

When some parts of your seasoning have been stripped off, wash the pan immediately to remove the seasoning. After that, apply it again. Reapplying the seasoning without washing it off will cause dire consequences. In fact, it can even cause the oil to feel like goo instead of a non-stick layer.

Scrape with a wooden spoon

When washing your pan, scrape the excess food bits with a wooden spoon. Metal spoons can also scratch the surface of the pan.

Bottom Line

I hope that these helpful tips on how to clean stainless steel pots and pans served their purpose of guiding you. These tips and habits have helped me keep my pans in superb condition and even made them stay in my kitchen for years. I’m sure they will help you just as much too.

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