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Stainless Steel Sauté Pan - Sticking/Cleaning?

I purchased a 5qt. stainless steel sauté pan on Friday to use for searing some beef tenderloin steaks. I warmed up the empty pan, added vegetable oil, turned the heat up to medium-high, patted dry the room temperature steaks on paper towel and placed them into the hot pan. I let them do their thing without disturbing them for about a minute or two, and was surprised when I went to flip them that they were slightly sticking (some worse than others). They did have a nice brown sear on them. After another minute or two of searing the second side, I wanted to loosen them from the bottom of the pan before placing them into the oven to finish cooking - but found they were slightly stuck again. With a little persuasion I was able to fee them, but I'm left wondering what I did wrong and why they were sticking? Used enough oil to evenly cover the bottom of the entire pan.

Also, I cleaned the pan after the meal with dish soap and a plastic dish brush and it looked great - but after letting it dry it appears that I can slightly see the outline of where each steak was placed in the pan. The care instructions say that any discoloration or staining can be removed with lemon oil or vinegar, maybe I should try that.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated - thanks.

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  1. Sounds about right for stainless steel to me. Maybe you could get the pan a bit hotter and that might help,.. but realistically... you could :-

    1) Go with it. Remove the steaks to rest after the oven, deglaze the pan, make a lovely pan sauce from the sticky bits! http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/pan_s...

    2) Get into carbon steel for your high-temp dry-searing needs. No sticking, easy cleanup. You could also use a cast iron skillet, but I find they hold a little too much heat and you need to turn the steaks when in the oven for even cooking. Major hassle ;-


    Bonne Chance!

    1. Doogals,

      Sounds normal to me as well. Butter trend to do a slightly better as an oil for keeping the pan nonstick. Yes, you can remove the discoloration or staining using acidic solution. Aside from lemon and vineger, Bar Keeper's Friend is great for removing overheating discoloration. On the other hand, if your stain is due to fat burning onto the pan, then baking soda solution works better.

      1. Why bother? I have a stainless pan with lots of stain on it. It makes the fond better and better with each use. Don't waste your time. If your friends sniff, give them your Very Patient Look and ask "Do you want to look at it or eat out of it?"

        1. Two techniques to try when frying meat in stainless steel:

          1. If possible, leave it be for several minutes before turning. Some meats will stick initially but become unstuck when brown.

          2. For the first minute or two after putting the meat in the hot fat, move it around slightly every few seconds. This prevents the raw meat from sticking until a crust has formed, after which point you can let the meat cook untouched until it's time to turn it.

          Of course, factors like your pan's finish and heat distribution, the type of burner you have, the strength of the heat source, the kind and cut of meat you're cooking and the fat you're cooking in will affect how it goes, so allow for some trial and error.

          That said, for quick searing of meat, nothing beats seasoned cast iron.

          1 Reply
          1. re: carswell

            I was going to say that if there's any sticking/pulling away it may not have been completely seared. Give it more time if you feel resistance. Same's true on the grate of a grill when you BBQ.

            Also, having your pan adequately heated and letting your oil come up to temp before you add the meat is important.

            Then, I agree completely that whatever fond accumulates on the bottom of the pan in successive sears is important for your deglazing/sauce/ragu. By the time you serve, it should be on someone's plate making them happy, happy, happy. ;>

            Also, I find with my SS omlette pans that if they're not immaculately clean -- more clean than an eye can see -- there could be sticking. If that happens a thorough scrub with something like SoftScrub or Barkeepers Friend and a nylon surface scrubby pad. Following up with a wash with soapy water does the trick. After such a thorough scrub, I can scramble eggs with nothing more than a minimal amount of ghee or oil and the tines of a fork and have the same results as a non-stick pan. Plus, a simple hot water rinse will be enough through several cycles until there are signs of minor sticking then I repeat the scrub.

            As for bottoms, that's a different story altogether. They'll stain and discolor. Consider it proof positive that you pans say you're a cook not a poseur.

            SS is wonderful stuff. I gave up on non-stick about a decade and a half ago.

          2. yeah, steel wool and live with the stain, it won't hurt and who wants to live in a kitchen that looks like a walk-in wet bar anyway (damn straight I use this stuff!)

            that stain is a badge of honor.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hill food

              "that stain is a badge of honor." Ha ha ha.

              "The whole battle was a badge of honor. I don't see it as a stain, ..."
              -- Bill Clinton talked about his impeachment regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                heh I never heard of that particular quote

            2. You did nothing wrong, except possibly buying into the SS hype.

              Take. The. Pan. Back. And then buy a $20 bare cast iron skillet for searing.

              7 Replies
              1. re: kaleokahu

                I think both SS and CS have their places (but go to a thrift store for the cast iron and save even more, will most likely require some elbow grease, but there are threads that go into detail)

                1. re: hill food

                  With respect, SS's place is the recycler's bin, or maybe fenders and spoons. With a minimal level of effort and attention, there is no "elbow grease" that a 5- or 90-year-old couldn't handle with cast iron cookware.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    don't get me wrong K I like CS, but I also like other materials. CS does require a little more concern (re maintaining the 'cure'), but yes, really no more care than scrubbing out SS or being all OCD over utensils with the nonstick stuff.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      Like Hillfood, I also like cast iron cookare better. I personally do find the upkeeping too difficult. However, there are definitely people dislike cast iron cookware due to the seasoning process and additional caring

                  2. re: kaleokahu

                    kaleokahu - I would have to disagree with taking the pan back. I have had some amazing meals that were made using SS hype. Stainless Steel and its slight sticking properties is IMO the best surface for sear->fond->deglaze->sauce.

                    The OP is just using the wrong pan for the purpose. The solution is for the OP to have 2 frying pans. For simple high-heat dry searing, you need Cast Iron or Carbon Steel. It's a close run thing,.. but my vote goes to Carbon Steel.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      I made the mistake of making a chili in my non-enameled cast-iron dutch oven. The acidic tomato stripped the seasoning right off, lesson learned. How do you plan to make a pan sauce (which usually require wine.....which is acidic) with your $20 bare cast iron pan?

                      1. re: Quina Quen

                        I have certainly thinned out the seasoning on my bare cast iron Dutch Oven. I just go on and do a quick stovetop seasoning: 5-10 minutes.

                    2. You're trying to move the meat too soon. It will come off easily when it is ready.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Jay F

                        +1 for what Jay says - Meat will release itself when it's ready.
                        If you shake the pan a little and the meat doesn't move around in the pan, it's not ready to flip..... wait some more and try again. As soon as it moves freely, flip before it burns.
                        Works with SS and cast iron. To me, the only issue with SS is having a pan with a thick enough bottom to keep it from warping under the high temperatures required for searing.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          what happens when it's ready and it's over done by your target temp.

                        2. "I warmed up the empty pan, added vegetable oil, turned the heat up to medium-high..."

                          I actually do it the other way around - preheat the pan at medium-high for 3 mins, add veg oil and let it sit for 10-15s until it shows ripples and light smoke, put the room temp meat in and lower the heat to medium. The rest is the same.

                          I have been using strictly SS or carbon steel pans since just about a month ago and am still experimenting. Last night I was able to pan fry paneer with zero sticking, which was quite an accomplishment since they are as bad, if not worse, than eggs.

                          I don't find myself using more oil in a SS pan than in a carbon steel pan.

                          Good luck!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: cutipie721

                            agreed with your sequence - preheat the pan first then add the oil. Let it sit. You are my hero to fry paneer without sticking. I have no success in it yet. Did you add a lot of oils ? :)

                              1. re: cutipie721

                                cuetie, thanks. you are resourceful as always. the video is a great help :)
                                Actually so far I always did with my lodge because I belieibed it is better than stainless in terms os sticking, but I don't think it might not really be the case.
                                I agree that a litttle bit patience to wait a bit longer solves sticking on SS.
                                Also, preparation, using paper towel to dry is a big help for meat. Also back to the room temparature of ingredience also helps, I guess :)

                                1. re: hobbybaker

                                  You're welcome. I actually really need to thank everybody on this board. I learned so much from CHs here. Without them, I'd still be holding on to my non-stick pan.

                          2. I absolutely hate SS most of the time, but my husband thinks it's great. Even when he's standing there making fried potatoes and half of them are sticking to the pan he still acts like everything is ok. Now my favorite pan is a 30 year old spun aluminum--made by French Chef I think--that has become non-stick over the years. It is great for sauteing and creates a good fond...the only problem is it's not big enough and the handle is loose. If I could find it in a larger size I would be utterly delighted. We also use non-stock and cast iron when appropriate.

                            1. All foods will ultimately "release" from SS, but it may be after you'd like to flip to the other side. In other words, you do lose some control over the process when cooking on SS. Those steaks would have released all by themselves - they probably just needed another 45 seconds to a minute. You might get better perfomance if you lightly polish the pan's interior bottom with 2,000 - 2,500 grit autobody sandpaper.

                              Tin-lined copper (as long as the tin is in good shape) is the gold standard with regard to this issue, and many others really.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: CharlieTheCook

                                Charlie: "Tin-lined copper (as long as the tin is in good shape) is the gold standard with regard to this issue, and many others really."


                              2. Release it with some hot water, the same way as you would release the fond when making a pan sauce (except using hot water and throwing it out).

                                Otherwise, sear it on a griddle/grill