How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans: Reviews by Wirecutter

Let’s say you’re cooking dinner, preheating your chrome steel skillet to sear some lamb chops with briny anchovies and capers. (The link is to The New York Occasions, Wirecutter’s mum or dad company.) You add oil, wait, and then place the meat in the pan, after which you toss in the rest of your components. Alas, those scrumptious toppings get a bit of burnt because the chops prepare dinner by way of, sticking to the pan and leaving a hardened crust of oil behind. Don’t despair: Even seasoned cooks can scorch a pan, whether or not they’re searing meat at high temperatures or twiddling with a delicate sauce. However cleansing those robust stains isn’t as much of a ache when you have the proper gear and supplies. Based mostly on our years of expertise cooking at residence and in professional kitchens, listed here are the methods we use to hold our cookware gleaming.

Primary cleansing for average messes

Through the years, we’ve cleaned many skillets in our check kitchen. Photograph: Michael Hession

Regardless that chrome steel pans are dishwasher protected, we like to scrub them by hand. That approach we will make certain we’re getting all of the meals off, especially from crevices across the rivets and handle.

To wash a pan, first scrape out excess oil with a spatula or wipe it out with a paper towel, and deglaze the pan by adding some scorching water. You’ll be able to loosen any fond (the browned bits of meals) with a long-handled dish brush—we like the OXO Good Grips Dish Brush, which we’ve utilized in our check kitchen for years. Cleansing a scorching pan is simpler, and including scorching water gained’t injury it, however all the time let your pan calm down earlier than absolutely submerging it in cool water; in any other case, the sudden change in temperature (referred to as thermal shock) may cause a still-hot pan to warp.

A side by side comparison of the heavy duty sponges we recommend for cleaning pans and the softer and less-effective Dobie sponge. A scouring pad like the inexperienced Scotch-Brite will take away gunk quicker than a softer Dobie sponge; you’ll mark up your pans when cooking regardless. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

When you’ve damaged up all the food bits in your dirty pan, seize a green Scotch-Brite scouring pad or sponge, together with some dish cleaning soap, and scrub the within and out of doors of the pan utilizing a continuous circular movement. Rinse and then dry with a clear, absorbent towel. A Scotch-Brite pad will calmly scratch the surface of the pan, but as long as you keep away from harsh pads akin to steel wool, it gained’t affect your cookware’s performance or lifespan. A softer sponge like a Dobie pad gained’t depart scratches but takes more elbow grease, and it gained’t save your cookware from getting marked up by metallic utensils anyway.

Three methods for cleaning robust stains

A person pouring baking soda into a stained skillet resting at the bottom of a sink. Once we need a cleaner that’s harder than cleaning soap, we opt for reasonably priced, calmly abrasive baking soda. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

If your pan is scorching enough, you shouldn’t need to use much muscle to clean off common messes. But when stuff isn’t coming off, otherwise you’re dealing with a firmly baked-on layer of oil, listed here are three approaches for cleaning scorched pans, depending on how significantly burnt they’re.

For all of those methods, you need more than just cleaning soap. Abrasive cleaners reminiscent of Bon Ami, Bar Keepers Good friend, or plain baking soda may also help remove caked-on meals, blackened stains, or baked-on oil. We favor baking soda because it’s low cost and straightforward to find. Just avoid harsh chemical compounds like oven cleaner, which may be a tempting fast fix but may cause permanent injury. Jolie Kerr, a cleansing professional and host of the podcast Ask a Clean Individual, advised us, “The idea behind using oven cleaner on pans is basically that it’s very good at removing burnt-on food (in the way that it’s good at cleaning the grates in your oven) but the problem is that it can remove coatings, especially on non-stick pans.” Though mild scratches from a scouring pad gained’t change your pan’s efficiency, strongly primary cleaners reminiscent of oven cleaner or bleach can etch pans more deeply, according to Scott Misture, professor of materials science and engineering at Alfred College. Not only will this completely injury your cookware, but meals can get additionally stuck in the ensuing pits or crevices, making pans even more durable to clean in the future.

And it doesn’t matter what abrasive cleaner you select, all the time wash with cleaning soap and water after scrubbing down your pans. Cleaners can streak, so make certain to rinse pans nicely and dry them with a clean towel.

The only technique: Baking soda and elbow grease

A person in yellow kitchen gloves scrubbing a stained skillet with a heavy duty sponge. To create a slurry, add some water to a generous pour of baking soda. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

It’s all the time easier to clear a scorched pan as soon as potential after cooking. To take away cooked-on oil or burnt food when dish cleaning soap and scrubbing aren’t chopping it, create a slurry of water and baking soda or another powdered cleaner in the backside of the pan. Don’t be afraid to be beneficiant with the baking soda. Let the combination sit for a few minutes, after which scrub it off with a scouring pad (preferably a brand new one with a recent, unworn scrubby aspect). If the stains gained’t come off, you possibly can repeat these steps and let the paste sit for longer, even in a single day.

A stained skillet with a coating of baking soda paste resting on a gas burner. Longtime Martha Stewart check kitchen manager Geri Porter recommends boiling baking soda and water till the combination evaporates, and then scrubbing the film off. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

For greater, harder stains that climb up the edges of a saucepan or skillet, Geri Porter, the longtime kitchen supervisor for Martha Stewart, instructed the next technique: Add a small mound of baking soda to the center of a pan, cowl with about ¼ cup water (you may need extra for a much bigger pan), and convey to a boil. Because the water boils and evaporates, it can depart a movie of baking soda across the walls of the pan that you could then scrub off. When a lot of the water has boiled off, turn off the heat and use a long-handled brush or scouring pad to scrub off your mess (again, new pads will work better). It’s greatest to do that while the pan continues to be scorching, so it might assist to use gloves and grip the pan with a towel or oven mitt. We’ve had success with this technique for freshly scorched pans, however it isn’t as effective for boiling off years of grime.

A extra concerned technique for years of grime: Boil the entire pan with baking soda

A person in gloves gingerly lowering a stained skillet into a large stock pot of boiling water. Submerge your pans into your vessel of water very rigorously. We used tongs, a step stool, and silicone oven mitts, however the process was value it for the superb outcomes. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

To really banish all scorch marks—even years of baked-on oil—with the least amount of scrubbing, we flip to Wirecutter kitchen writer Michael Sullivan’s technique. He absolutely submerges his dingiest pans in a pot of boiling water and baking soda to boil the stains off. Although it’s somewhat awkward to wrangle a large metallic object from a pot of steaming water, the results are magical. With minimal scrubbing, our pans have been gleaming—even a formerly blackened 10-year previous All-Clad skillet.

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    Years of cooked-on oil can make pans look dingy and previous—a far cry from their unique shine. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

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    After boiling with baking soda, it’s an extreme pan makeover, and ours appear to be new. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

To start out, you want to select a vessel that may fit your pan. We’ve used a big stock pot for small skillets and a roasting pan for bigger ones. Fill no matter you’re utilizing with enough water to submerge (or principally submerge) your pan, and convey it to a boil. In case you’re utilizing a large roasting pan, you’ll be able to organize it over two burners on the stovetop. Add a hearty pour of baking soda (about ¼ cup or ½ cup) and punctiliously place your pan within the water. Scale back the water to a mild boil, and let the pan prepare dinner for about 15 to 30 minutes, flipping or rotating it if crucial so that each one the edges are boiled. You need to start to see brown residue flaking off.

A person using a toothpick to scrape at burnt on residue around the handle of a skillet. Even after boiling, chances are you’ll need to pry gunk out of a pan’s nooks and crannies. However it ought to come off easily with the help of a toothpick. Photograph: Sarah Kobos

Take away the pans rigorously (we used tongs and silicone oven mitts). Then add more baking soda and water to the pan to create an abrasive slurry to help break down the remainder of the stains, and scrub shortly whereas the pan is scorching. You possibly can hold on to the pan with a towel. To really scrape off each last bit of gunk, go on the rivets with a toothpick or an affordable paring knife.

How to maintain food from sticking and scorching

A stack of shining and clean stainless steel cookware resting on top of a gas burner. Good-quality tri-ply cookware (like this Tramontina set, the top decide in our guide to cookware sets), is much less possible to by chance scorch your meals. Photograph: Michael Hession

Though our methods make cleansing simpler, it’s even better to avoid those stubborn messes within the first place. You possibly can forestall most stains at the outset by using good gear and the proper cooking methods. It’s essential to use absolutely clad tri-ply pans (reminiscent of our favorite skillet, saucepan, or cookware set) that warmth evenly, to keep away from scorching. Tri-ply pans are product of three layers: an aluminum core sandwiched between chrome steel. Steel holds heat higher and is what makes the cookware sturdy, but aluminum conducts heat more evenly and helps forestall scorching spots. Absolutely clad pans, which have the aluminum layer extending all through, are additionally much less probably to scorch on the edges than pans with an encapsulated backside, which have solely an aluminum disk of their base.

Good cooking methods can even forestall stuck-on meals and make cleansing easier afterward. Preheating a pan, after which preheating your cooking fat, are the keys to success. As Critical Eats explains, proteins from uncooked meat will bond to metallic and stick once they hit a pan. However should you get your pan and oil scorching enough, your meat can prepare dinner in that layer of oil earlier than it goes by means of to touch the pan. Harold McGee, writer of a number of books on food and science including On Meals and Cooking, advises heating your pan first and then adding oil. The oil will start to break down the longer it sits in a scorching pan, which may make it sticky. Take a look at the oil to decide its temperature: If it’s shimmering, it’s scorching, and you’re ready to toss in your elements.

Additionally make sure to pat meat or fish dry so that as soon because it goes right into a scorching pan, it begins to sear. Otherwise, you’ll be cooking a layer of moisture before the meat itself. If meals are moist, they will’t warmth past the boiling point of water, in order that they gained’t get scorching enough to cause a maillard response—that crispy, tasty browning you’re going for if you prepare dinner over excessive warmth.

To keep away from scalding dairy, then again, you possibly can add a layer of water. In case you’re heating milk in a saucepan for cocoa or custards, do this trick from Melissa Clark’s selfmade yogurt recipe (subscription required): Rub the pot with an ice cube or rinse it with water before including the milk. This step varieties a layer of water that makes it more durable for the dairy proteins to type bonds with the metallic of the pan.


1. Jolie Kerr, cleansing professional and host of Ask a Clean Individual, e-mail interview, Might 9, 2018

2. Scott Misture, professor of materials science and engineering at Alfred University, e-mail interview, Might 10, 2018

three. Geri Porter, kitchen manager at Martha Stewart, in-person interview, 2015

4. Harold McGee on When to Put Oil in a Pan, The New York Occasions, August 6, 2008

5. J. Kenji López-Alt, Ask the Meals Lab: Do I Want To Preheat My Oil?, Critical Eats, August 10, 2018