Those copper and stainless steel pans look amazing when you first buy them. But, over time, they start to show their age. Why did you buy them? They’re all dingy and old-looking now. Well, this is the natural fate of stainless steel if you don’t take care of it. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad metal to cook with. It means you need to clean and maintain your cookware. Yes, you can easily have sparkling stainless steel once again.
Use Barkeeper’s Friend
Barkeeper’s friend is a special non-abrasive cleaner that’s ideal for stainless steel and copper-clad pans. Put some into your pan, add some water, and mix the powder together. Use a sponge to clean the interior and exterior. You’re will need a little elbow grease, but it should come clean within a few minutes.
Use Vinegar, Flour, and Salt
A simple mixture of one part salt, one part flour, and a little vinegar will create a paste that should clean just about any stains in your stainless steel cookware or copper pan. However, be aware that, if you have pitting or scratches, this paste might make the problem worse. Don’t use a scrubber. Only use a soft cloth or sponge.
If your pans and pots are damaged, your best bet is to throw them away and start over. Fortunately, companies like Bed Bath & Beyond sell high-quality pans at pretty reasonable prices.
Always dry your stainless steel immediately. This will prevent something like a roasting pan from getting water spots or other superficial stains. If you do get water stains, salt and a soft cloth will erase them. Just make sure you clean the pan afterwards, since salt can also pit the steel.
Don’t Overheat the Pan
Overheating the pan is the reason you have rainbow-like hues in the metal. It’s not actual damage, but it doesn’t look pretty. Stove stop pans used for frying, roasting pans, and pans that go into the oven are all prone to this kind of discoloration. Salt and water can help remove these stains. Alternatively, you can try wet salt (i.e. sea salt) and a soft cloth.
If you do use salt, again, remember to wash and dry immediately.
Use Soap and Water, but Not Abrasives
Use soap and water to clean the pan and get rid of stuck on bits of food. A little soapy water and heat is enough to get rid of almost any food. Don’t go crazy with abrasives. They’re rarely needed. Heat and soap. That’s the “magic.” It will also save your pans from swirl marks and deeper scratches.
Clean Chalky White Spots with Water
Chalky white spots are usually calcium from hard water. Boil one part vinegar and three parts water. Let it cool completely BAM! Gone.
Creating a Non-Stick Surface
Most people are used to cooking with Teflon, but with stainless steel, there’s no protective coating to help you out. And, while oil in the pan helps, adding it when the pan is cold isn’t helpful. Stainless steel expands when it’s heated. When it comes into contact with cold food, it contracts. This is what causes the food to stick to the pan. To prevent this from happening, use oil in the pan when the pan is hot. You’ll have to use high-heat oil with little to no moisture.
Oil with a lot of moisture will crackle and pop. Oil with a low smoke point will burn before you even get your food into the pot. Use peanut oil, coconut oil, lard, or beef tallow. Alternatively, you can use high-heat vegetable oil. Oil poured into the hot pan creates a temporary non-stick surface.
Jean Murphy is a stay at home mom of five active children. She is always looking for ways to make life easier and better for moms, and when she finds them, she likes to share them on the web. Look for her informative articles mainly on family, home and cooking websites.