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When is Stainless Steel "Clean"?

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I've got a stainless-steel pot that I use to sear things in and finish in the oven (not ideal, I know, but it's all I've got for the time being and it is oven-safe). I've done this in the past and while it takes some effort have always been able to get the bottom of the pan shiny and clean.

This time, however, there is a very persistent brownish-black ring at the bottom that I can't seem to remove (short of scratching it with the tines of a metal fork, which I did to get the worst off). I don't think it's really crusted food, since it barely registers when I run my finger over it, but rather some sort of..."burnt". Like an oily residue.

Point being, I've seen some people say that a soaped and rinsed and dried pot that still has this is actually "clean", but I just want to make sure that I don't have tiny bits of meat hanging out there.

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  1. Try a good scrub with geen scrubber sponge and Barkeeper's Friend. Sounds like residual oil, the kind of thing that makes those weird little brown spots on the outside of pans.

    Stainless steel is tough enough to even use oven cleaner on if you are really determined, so if the above doesn't work, and if the inside is not a mirror-type finish, move up a notch to Brillo and Comet. It will come out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: RGC1982

      OK. But is all that really necessary - i.e., is there anything *wrong* with leaving it as-is besides the aesthetics? Because in order to get any of that stuff I've got to commit a solid hour or two to bus-riding, etc. I'm in college, and my schedule is unkind for the next few days.

      But if I'm unwittingly being unhygienic, well, I'll have to go I guess.

      1. re: zooxanthellae

        No, it's not necessary. Look in any professional kitchen (live or on tv) and you'll see their pans are quite discolored. No problem.

        1. re: zooxanthellae

          Using BKF is hardly "all that" and, hey, you're the one who asked.

          That said, there's nothing wrong with leaving your as is if it's just discoloration, and not something that's baked on. Baked on crud should be cleaned off.

          1. re: Jay F

            Oh, it's not that I thought cleaning it would be a huge hassle or anything. It's that I don't have time right now to get any cleaning supplies, so I was wondering if I could wait a week or so until I can actually get to the store.

      2. if it really bugs you, just use a stainless steel scrubber-- not a brillo pad, etc, but a restaurant supply scrubber made of steel-- google "stainless steel scrubber." you can also pick them up at asian grocery stores and some supermarkets. most chowhounds won't countenance them because they tend to wreak havoc on one's fancy manicure. however, for those of us without a fancy manicure. . . btw don't use this scrubber on anything nonstick, it will tear it up. but it will clean the crap out of plain ss and aluminum cookware. in like 3 seconds.

        1. There has been a time where my stainless steel skillet just would not come clean, no matter how much scrubbing or time in the dishwasher it went through. IIRC, it happened because some food got stuck to it and kind of "cooked" on. I finally used oven cleaner on it (Easy Off Heavy Duty, to be exact). That certainly cleaned it up. It's very strong though; I did it outside on a nice day.

          1. If it registers when you run your finger over it, then it isn't just discoloration, it's leftover food. It isn't unhygenic - high-heat cooking will have killed any possible pathogens - but you probably want to get it off to keep it from continuing to build up.

            The suggestions above are good ones. Oven cleaner is certainly the easiest way to get rid of cooked-on grime. A similar approach would be to use a self-cleaning oven; just pop the pan in when you run the oven through the cleaning cycle and any residue should turn to ash.