Mastering the Art of Cooking with Stainless Steel: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Mastering the Art of Cooking with Stainless Steel: Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Renowned for its exceptional durability, heat conductivity, and non-reactive properties, stainless steel cookware has garnered immense popularity among culinary enthusiasts worldwide. In this comprehensive guide, crafted to suit both seasoned chefs and novice cooks alike, we delve into the fundamental principles of stainless steel cooking. Explore the nuances of proper seasoning techniques, temperature control, and recommended maintenance practices. Learn how to perfectly pan-sear proteins and other ingredients so that you can make recipes like these delicious seared scallops or pan-fried lemon thyme chicken. Mastering these tips and tricks will help to unlock the full potential of your stainless steel frypans, ensuring consistent and delectable results every time you cook.

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Benefits of cooking with stainless steel

A high-quality stainless steel frying pan or cooking pan is an investment that will last a lifetime when used and maintained correctly. Cooking with stainless steel offers numerous benefits when compared to other cookware, such as:

  • Versatility: Stainless steel can be used for a variety of cooking tasks, from searing meat to simmering sauces. It is also compatible with all stovetops, including gas, electric, and induction.
  • Durability: Stainless steel is a very durable material that can withstand high heat and frequent use. It is also resistant to rust and corrosion.
  • Heat Retention: Stainless steel pans are great at retaining heat, which means they are ideal for searing, browning, and sautéing.
  • Non-reactive: Stainless steel is a non-reactive material, which means that it does not react with food. This is important for cooking acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Easy to clean: Stainless steel is relatively easy to clean. Most food residue can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
  • Healthy: Stainless steel is a healthy choice for cookware because it does not leach any chemicals into food. It is also a good conductor of heat, which means that food cooks evenly.
  • Stylish: Stainless steel cookware is sleek, modern, and stylish. It is perfect for both home and professional kitchens.

Stainless Steel vs Cast Iron vs Nonstick

When it comes to choosing cookware, everyone has their preferences. The below chart comparing stainless steel, cast iron, and nonstick options allows for an informed decision based on each cookware material's benefits and drawbacks:

Cookware Material



Stainless Steel Cookware

Durable, long-lasting, can withstand high temperatures, non-reactive, easy to clean and maintain

Food can stick to the surface if not seasoned or oiled properly, poor heat distribution can create hot spots

Cast Iron Cookware

Excellent heat retention and distribution, stovetop and oven-safe, improves with age, becomes more non-stick with seasoning

Heavy and difficult to handle, food can stick if not adequately seasoned or oiled, can rust if not properly maintained, not suitable for acidic foods

Non-stick Cookware

Easy to cook with, requires minimal oil or butter, non-stick surface ensures food doesn't stick and simplifies cleaning and maintenance, provides even heat distribution

Non-stick coatings may contain harmful chemicals that can leach into food, are not suitable for high heat or searing, prone to scratches and damage, compromising the coating's effectiveness and safety, Teflon, a common non-stick coating, can release toxic fumes when overheated

Overall, stainless steel is durable, versatile, and non-reactive, but can be difficult to cook with if not seasoned properly. Cast iron has excellent heat retention and distribution, but is heavy and prone to rust. Non-stick cookware is easy to cook with and requires minimal oil, but may contain harmful chemicals and is not suitable for high heat or searing.

Tips for cooking with stainless steel

Learning how to use a stainless steel pan correctly is rewarding but takes practice and patience. Here are some tips to ensure success when cooking with stainless steel:

Season the pan first.

Seasoning a stainless steel pan is the process of creating a thin layer of polymerized oil on the surface of the pan. This layer of polymer acts as a barrier between the pan and the food, making it more non-stick and easier to clean.

Preheat your pan properly.

Stainless steel pans need to be hot before you add food in order to prevent it from sticking. Heat your pan over medium heat until a drop of water dances across the surface and evaporates within a second or two.

Use a non-stick cooking spray or oil.

Add a small amount of spray or oil to the pan and then wipe it around with a paper towel until the surface is lightly coated.

Don't overcrowd the pan.

When cooking food on stainless steel, it's important to not overcrowd the pan. This will prevent the food from cooking evenly and it will be more likely to stick. If you're cooking multiple items, cook them in batches.

Cook over consistent, medium heat.

As mentioned above, stainless steel pans need to be hot before you add food in order to prevent it from sticking. However, you don't want to cook the food over high heat. This will cause it to cook too quickly on the outside and not be cooked through on the inside.

Don't stir the food.

Once you add food to the pan, resist the urge to stir it. Stirring will release water from the food, which will make it more likely to stick. Instead, let the food cook undisturbed for a few minutes until the bottom is set. Then, you can gently lift the edges of the food with a spatula to check for doneness.

How to season a stainless steel pan

Seasoning a stainless steel pan involves using high-heat oil to create a natural non-stick coating on the surface of the pan.

To season your pan, heat the empty pan over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon or two of oil. Using an oil with a high smoke point such as avocado or grapeseed oil is recommended. Swirl the oil around the pan, making sure to coat the sides and bottom. Continue heating until the oil smokes and then remove from the heat and let it cool. Once the pan has cooled down, use a paper towel to remove any excess oil.

How to clean stainless steel cookware

Ensure that you clean your cookware properly after each use

There are different ways to clean a stainless steel pan, depending on the level of dirt and how stubborn the stains are.

  • Hot Water and Soap: This is the easiest and safest way to clean stainless steel. Add a few drops of dish soap to hot water and use a soft cloth to wipe the stainless steel surface gently.
  • White Vinegar: Use white vinegar with a soft microfiber cloth. Dip the cloth into the vinegar, and then rub over the steel. Vinegar removes any spots and tarnishes from stainless steel while leaving it shiny.
  • Baking Soda: Form a paste by mixing water with baking soda until it forms a spreadable consistency. Rub the paste onto the stainless steel surface with a soft microfiber cloth, then rinse the surface with clean water.
  • Stainless Steel Cleaner: Stainless steel cleaners are usually available in spray bottles. Spray the cleaner on the dirty surface, then wipe gently with a soft microfiber cloth.
  • Lemon Juice: A natural cleaning agent that can help to remove stains from stainless steel. Cut a lemon in half, then rub the cut side of the lemon onto the surface. Wipe off any excess with a clean microfiber cloth.

Regardless of which method you choose, it's important to always wipe in the direction of the grain to avoid leaving scratches on the stainless steel surface. Avoid using steel wool or other abrasive scrubbers.

Frequently Asked Questions: Stainless Steel Cookware

How to pan-sear food when cooking with stainless steel?

To get the perfect sear with a stainless steel frypan, start by preheating the pan over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, add a thin layer of oil, and make sure the oil is hot before adding your protein. Let the protein cook undisturbed for a few minutes to create a flavourful crust, and then flip and repeat the process.

How to cook eggs on stainless steel?

Preheat the pan over medium heat until a drop of water dances across the surface and evaporates within a second or two. This prevents the eggs from sticking. Cook the eggs over medium heat until cooked to your preference, without stirring.

How to make a stainless steel pan non-stick?

Properly seasoning your pan, heating to an optimal temperature and using sufficient butter or oil are the most effective methods for creating a non-stick surface on your stainless steel pan.

What causes rainbow stains on stainless steel?

Rainbow stains on stainless steel are caused by an interference pattern of light reflecting off the surface. This can happen when there are oils, grease, or water marks left on the stainless steel that disrupt the smoothness of the surface, causing the light to scatter and create a rainbow effect.

Is stainless steel cookware safe?

Stainless steel cookware is generally considered safe as it is non-reactive and does not leach harmful chemicals or metals into your food. To ensure the safety of your stainless steel cookware, it is crucial to use food-grade and acid-proof stainless steel cookware. Avoid using scratched or damaged pots and pans.

Stainless steel cooking & care: Common mistakes to avoid

There are many misconceptions surrounding the use, care and maintenance of stainless steel that will actually damage the longevity of the cookware. Here are some common mistakes to avoid with your stainless steel pots and pans:

  • Overheating the pan: Stainless steel can withstand high heat, but it is important to avoid overheating the pan. Overheating can warp the pan and make it more difficult to clean.
  • Using harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers: Harsh chemicals or abrasive scrubbers can damage the surface of the pan. Use mild dish soap or natural cleaner and a soft sponge or cloth to clean your stainless steel pans.
  • Dishwasher use: While stainless steel is dishwasher safe, it's best to hand wash them. The high heat and harsh detergents used in dishwashers can damage the surface over time.
  • Not drying the pan properly: Water spots can form on stainless steel if it is not dried properly. Be sure to dry your pans immediately after washing them.
  • Storing the pan wet: Storing a wet stainless steel pan can lead to rust. Make sure to dry your pans thoroughly before storing them.
  • Not seasoning the pan: Seasoning a stainless steel pan can help to make it more non-stick and easier to clean. If your pan is not seasoned, it may be more likely to stick and difficult to clean.
  • Using metal utensils on the pan: Metal utensils can scratch the surface of the pan and make it more difficult to clean. Use wooden or silicone utensils instead.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can help to extend the life of your stainless steel cookware and keep them looking and performing their best.

From Stove To Oven, Master Cooking With Stainless Steel

Learning which cookware is best for you can be a long process involving a lot of trial and error. Cooking with stainless steel pans is all about understanding the fundamentals, practising patience, and experimenting with new recipes and techniques. The durability and versatility of this cookware material make it a worthwhile investment for any home cook or aspiring chef. Always ensure you're purchasing high-end stainless steel pans and cookware sets, from renowned brands for stainless steel cookware, such as Scanpan or Raco. Invest in the best fry pans, saucepans, stockpots, saute pans and other cookware in Australia, with help from Harris Scarfe.

Our Food Hub has more amazing ideas, tips and tricks on how to elevate your cooking skills. Check out our recipe articles such as Guide To Crafting Vegetable And Chicken Stock and 4 Quick & Easy Chocolate Recipes. Find tips and tricks including How To Sharpen Your Kitchen Knives and What Is A Dutch Oven: The Complete Guide to become a pro in the kitchen at home.