How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans (With Less Scrubbing)

We share tips for cleaning stainless steel pans with stuck-on, burnt food. You'll appreciate spending less time scrubbing.

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Learning how to clean stainless steel pans is essential for maintaining their quality and helping them last longer. One of the best things about high-quality stainless steel pans is you can cook with them at very high temperatures. But all that high-heat cooking can result in a burnt-on mess (especially if food isn't carefully watched).

The trick to cleaning a burnt stainless steel pan without much scrubbing is to deglaze the pan while it's still hot. The high temperatures that got you into this mess in the first place can help loosen up stuck-on food. Follow these steps to clean your stainless steel pans so they look shiny and new again.

How Often to Clean Stainless Steel Pans

It's best to clean stainless steel pans after each use. Even if no food burned to the bottom or if they only got a little dirty, clean your pans after cooking to avoid grease buildup. Cleaning your stainless steel pans well helps them stay clean longer between uses, which means less work each time.

Considerations Before You Get Started

Check the manufacturer's instructions for the best way to care for your stainless steel pans. While most stainless steel pans are dishwasher-safe, we suggest hand-washing them to maintain quality and avoid damage.

You should also let the pans cool before washing them. And don't use harsh cleaners, like bleach.

What You Need:

To Clean With Dish Soap

To Clean With Vinegar

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans With Heat and Dish Soap

Step 1: Deglaze Pan

After cooking and removing food from the pan, put it back on the burner and turn on the heat. When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, pour in about one cup of water. (Be careful: This should create some steam and may bubble up.)

Step 2: Scrape Off Food

Using the wooden spoon or spatula, scrape away all the burnt bits of food and sauce. The heat and steam should have loosened it up for easier removal.

Step 3: Scrub Pan

Turn the heat off, remove the pan from the burner, and let it cool down. Add a squirt of dish soap to the pan. Then, use a long-handled brush to remove any remaining food bits and break down the oil.

Step 4: Wash Pan

Move your stainless steel pan to the sink. At this point, most of the grime should simply rinse away. Using a soft sponge and warm, soapy water, wash the entire pan, scrubbing in a circular motion.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the pan thoroughly to remove all soap. Dry it off completely before putting it away.

Step 6: Clean Burn Marks

If there are any stubborn stains on your stainless steel pan, try this trick after following the steps above.

  • In a small bowl, mix baking soda with water to form a paste.
  • Using a soft sponge, apply the paste to the pan and scrub in a circular motion.
  • Rinse the pan and dry it.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans With Vinegar

If you notice water spots or rainbow discoloration on your already-clean stainless steel pans, try these steps.

Step 1: Add Vinegar and Wipe

Add vinegar to your stainless steel pan. Wipe the spots using a soft sponge.

Step 2: Boil Vinegar Solution

Add a mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts water to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn off the heat, and let the pan cool completely. Pour the liquid down the sink.

Step 3: Wash Pan

Clean your pan with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge. Be sure to clean it thoroughly so no vinegar residue is left behind.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the pan with warm water. Dry it completely before storing it.

How to Keep Your Stainless Steel Pans Clean Longer

Follow these tips to help stainless steel pans stay clean longer.

  • Dry your pans right after washing them. This helps prevent water spots from forming.
  • Salt your water after it's boiling. If you salt the water in stainless steel before it boils, it can cause tiny marks on the bottom of the pan.
  • Bring food to room temperature before cooking. Since cold food can easily stick to a hot pan, it's best to let frozen meats and other very-cold food thaw or sit for a bit before cooking them in a stainless steel pan.
  • Be patient when preheating a stainless steel pan. It's best to preheat steel pans on a lower heat setting than high heat. This prevents the pan from overheating, which results in burnt food (and a mess).
  • Always let stainless steel pans cool before washing them. If you soak the pan in cold water when it's still hot, it can cause warping and damage the surface.
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