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Sep 21, 2010 08:33 AM

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!

    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