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Mar 8, 2012 09:29 AM

Seasoning Aluminum and SS?

Following up on an intriguing off-topic idea in an earlier thread (thanks Sanity Removed), I wanted to address this head-on.

We perhaps have *hundreds* of threads and *thousands* of posts about seasoning cast iron and carbon steel pans, but next to nothing on seasoning aluminum and SS. Yet bare unseasoned aluminum and SS are porous like unseasoned CI and can be just as "sticky" (aluminum) if not more so (SS). We see videos of chefs turning out omlettes from aluminum pans with ease, yet home cooks' results can be frustratingly sticky, even with preheating and/or lots of fat in the pan.

According to Vollrath, a major manufacturer and longtime power in commercial cookware, you *do* need to season aluminum and SS pans. Under the heading "Seasoning Non-Coated Aluminum and Stainless Steel Cookware", they advise:

"Season cookware before its first use. Clean and dry cookware. Spray the inside of the pan lightly with vegetable oil or use a small amount of shortening. Place cookware on a burner at medium for 5-10 minutes, until a light smoke or heat waves appear. When the oil/shortening turns a deep amber color, turn the burner off and allow to cool. Pour out liquid oil/shortening and wipe down pan with paper towels until all oil/shortening is removed. Cleaning with a mild soapy solution after each use will not affect the "seasoning" of the pan. OK to repeat this procedure as often as needed without doing damage to the cookware."

So, remembering the oft-repeated opinion expressed here that you *can't* season these two materials, what is the truth? Is the take-home that we should perhaps be more "Magic Kitchen" and treat all our pans to no scouring, non-metallic utensils and the DW, and treat them more like barenaked CI and carbon steel woks?

Interestingly, I tried this method with my only silver-lined copper frypan, and it worked a huge improvement.


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  1. Hi Kaleo,

    The instructions that came with my new Viking (designed in the US made in Belgium) 7 ply sauté pan, said to do exactly the same thing. I did it, I suppose it worked, I don't have a reference point. I hope to get a 3 qt soon and will do the same with it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mikie

      Hi, mikie:

      Are you hand washing? Is there any visible "goodness" built up in the pan?


      1. re: kaleokahu

        I just tried this on an old restaurant aluminum pan. By the time I wiped the oil out, it was an amber goo, and left an sticky bathtub ring. The bottom of the pan felt a little slicker, but didn't look different. I haven't tried cooking with it.

        1. re: kaleokahu

          Hi Kaleo,

          I do hand wash, but I haven't really seen a build up of anything in the pan, but I'm a fairly heavy handed washer. I couldn't tell from the instructions if there should be a build up like CI or not. I wouldn't expect to see one since the temp isn't that high.

      2. "Interestingly, I tried this method with my only silver-lined copper frypan, and it worked a huge improvement. "

        What improved? Nonstick ability?

        1 Reply
        1. I read somewhere online many years ago of a person doing a side by side comparison of a few different pans, and using 1 (also new) pan as a control for the test. An interesting side note that she mentioned in the test was that the more she used the stainless control pan (washing between raid-fire cooking test sessions) the easier it released foods.

          Where i do have real experience is raw aluminum. I have a hand full of update and vollrath raw aluminum pans and i season them with flax oil using the same method i use for carbon steel and cast iron.
          I find that cooking in the un-seasoned aluminum really angers the food-sticking gods.

          I don't get much of a buildup though like i would in carbon steel or cast iron, but i definitely get a brownish-amber hue on the bottom of the pan and it feels quite slick when drying it compared to the unseasoned aluminum.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cannibal

            I'm glad someone else brought this up instead of me. I do scrambled eggs in my AC D5 SS skillet. You need a good skillet for eggs otherwise you'll have to use a lot of butter. I melt a little bit of butter before putting in the eggs. The more I use it the more stick resistant the SS lining gets. Sometimes I can get the egg to slide around like a nonstick. The interior is perfectly clean. However, the seasoning isn't visible like CI and CS. Using BKF or Bon Ami will strip the seasoning. So the eggs will stick the next time I use the skillet.

            1. re: unprofessional_chef

              We were advised years ago to condition any of our kitchen stainless steel pans and pots using a few drops of olive oil. Stainless steel, even highly polished 18/10, with an aluminum core, remains highly porous material. This has become a daily part of cleaning and drying of our collection. Similar to intial treatment for old ironware.

              After using and then washing any of our pans or pots, we add a few spray drops of oilve oil from a small pump sprayer to the inside of the pan, lid, and aany steaming or pasta inserts with the collection. We then rub the oil into the surface, and put them away.

              The result is that the pan or pot is ready to use immediately, reduces any chance of food burning or sticking, and looks like new, even when being cleaned in a dishwasher.

              The Teknika or alu-core pots and pans we use remain clean this way even if used in the oven. I might add that we do not add any salt directly to a pot or pan, unless water is already boiling inside in order to eliminate scorch-marks. We also heat any pan used on a low setting first, before adding additional olive or grapeseed oil in a recipe. With the heat generated and kept with the alu-core pan, I do not think we have ever had to turn the temperature setting up more than halfway or a notch degree above medium high. I believe we have used the pans in the oven up to 210 C or 425 F, without problems.

              Butter despite being abundant here, is used only for flavouring, and in moderation.

          2. When I first purchased my Vollrath sauce pans I washed them and then used them. Cleaning wasn't a breeze, food stuck.

            A few weeks later I came across the Vollrath seasoning instructions. The first time it took two attempts to not end up with a partially gummy surface.

            The end result after seasoning was a pan that cleaned up very nicely. The difference between clean up of bare and seasoned aluminum was quite noticeable.

            As the sauce pans see a fair amount of whisking I have re-seasoned them with no problems.

            Within the next few months I plan on getting a small stainless steel pan and see what kind of results that provides. I'm sold on the seasoning of aluminum.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SanityRemoved

              Most metal cookware can be seasoned using the oil-heat method. Exceptions include those that are treated something other way (e.g. nonstick coated, anodized, etc.). When seasoning stainless compared to cast iron or carbon steel, the major difference is heat. Here's what I've done that worked for me:

              1) Clean thoroughly with hot water and dishwashing liquid. Use a nonabrasive nylon scrubber.

              2) Wipe clean and heat over medium heat on stove for 5 minutes. You want to get the pan hot, but no so hot that it changes color like CI or CS will.

              3) Wipe with an oil-soaked paper towel (peanut, olive, or high-smoke point oil). Return to burner a low heating for 15 minutes.

              4) Repeat step 3 for total of 3 cycles.

              5) Allow to cool.

              6) Clean using hot water and mild dish detergent. Dry thoroughly before putting away. I hand dry rather than drip dry.

              Never use the dishwasher even though maker says it's ok. Dishwashers don't break down the SS - they ruin the microscopic, pore-sealing seasi\oning you've created.

              CAUTION: stainless might not be showroom shiny after this process. It will look have some color and look like a used pan, but it will have more stick resistance as the upside/tradeoff.