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Sep 2, 2013 08:22 PM

Problems with cleaning a SS pan set

I purchased a set of SS pans, and I followed the directions outlined in this video to season them:

The technique worked well, and during cooking I had nary a problem. BUT, the bottoms of my pans stained a brownish color, I assume, from high heat (see the pic).

I am currently soaking the pans in Palmolive to try to remove the discoloration and re-season the pans as necessary.

Is this discoloration due to using too high of a heat? I was at setting 2 out of ten on my range! At setting 3, the coconut oil I used was smoking!

Will any oil do in terms of seasoning a SS pan? I initially did it with extra virgin olive oil, but may try it with the coconut oil once the stains are gone.

Normally, stains wouldn't bug me, But I live in an apartment with little storage space, so the pans reside on an open shelf that guests walk by often.


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  1. You don't need to season stainless steel. I use stainless all the time, and I've never seasoned it. Why would you?

    If you want a non stick surface for a frypan or skillet, purchase a non stick or carbon steel pan. You would season carbon steel or cast iron. But stainless?

    A stainless frypan is not going to give you a slick surface when heated, but it is usable for frying or sauteeing. You have to learn to manipulate the heat.

    What brand/line of pans did you buy?

    1. I have found the stainless steel curly scrubber does an amazing job on the inside and outside of SS pans--a lifesaver since I found them.

      12 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        would this mess up the pans? I'm so paranoid about messing up my all clads :$

        1. re: darrentran87

          That is much coarser than I would use on my AC.

          Also, many of those plastic pads are actually MORE abrasive than fine steel wool. If I have a hard to clean spot in one of my SS pans, I use a Brillo/SOS which is very wet and I add dish detergent as a further lubricant. Light touch to start so you can figure out how much your SS can take.

          1. re: hambone

            Soak in hot water and baking soda, then use Barkeeper's Friend. Finish with Brillo as a last resort, it has a finer grade of steel wool than SOS. I think the brown & yellow stains will come out, but the darkening of the SS is probably due to high heat. I notice that my stockpot has a blueish cast on the bottom inch or two from turning the burner on high for boiling water.

          2. re: darrentran87

            Using a stainless steel scrubber like the one in the picture will definitely scratch your pan. I'm not sure if surface scratches count as "messing up."

            1. re: taos

              I don't find that it scratches them in any way that is noticeable. Just get them nice and clean with little effort.

              1. re: escondido123

                My experience is that this depends on the original cookware finish. If the original cookware has a rough or semi rough finish, then you don't notice anything. However, if the original cookware has a polished mirror finish, then you will notice the scratches.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Also, if your cookware is about 12 years old, it won't matter because all the scratches from those years of use blend together nicely, giving the pan a weirdly brushed appearance.

                  Who am I kidding? I've used SOS on my pans when the occasion called for something industrial.

                  1. re: DuffyH

                    Kinda like I read about the French attitude towards stains on marble - it's just a memory :)

                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Mine is not old. If I had burned oil to the point of brown on the metal I would be able to get if off with the scrubby in seconds. The idea that soaking it in Palmolive will do the trick--hope you have years to wait.

            2. re: escondido123

              Barkeep's Friend. This is what Williams Sonoma uses on their All-Clad that they use for demonstrations. That plus the kind of stainless steel curly scrubber shown by secondido123. I have bought used and abused all-Clad at the flea market and completely restored them using these two products.

              I would caution against using steel wool. Brillo or SOS. Of course these products should only be used with rubber gloves, but they are not allowed in our kitchen because of the danger they present in terms of tiny, broken pieces of metal that can become imbedded in your hands. (signed, ex-hand surgery survivor).

              1. re: mangeur

                I use Barkeep's Friend on my All-Clad, too. Works wonders, and is not too abrasive on the surface. Quick soak in the sink, sprinkle of BF, and quick scrub is all that is needed.

                1. re: jeanmarieok

                  Thanks to all who recommended Bar Keeper's Friend. I bought some after work and it decimated the stains in seconds!

            3. Barkeeps Friend is another cleaning product that works well on SS to remove oil residue. As does an SOS pad for the SS portion only (not for copper-clad portions).

              I've cooked with stainless steel for many years and never "seasoned" them.

              5 Replies
                1. re: MidwesternerTT

                  In addition to Bar Keeper's Friend, I have Bon Ami on my counter. Bar Keeper's Friend works by chemical reaction with anything on the steel; Bon Ami is a (very mild) abrasive. The combination of the two, along with OxyClean (another chemical reactor) I've been able to solve any cleaning problems that have come up, including discoloration on the bottoms.

                  1. re: nokitchen

                    For my money a bit of Oxyclean powder and hot water soaking is better than both. I would never use the coiled scrubber on the outside of my shiny SS pans.

                  2. re: MidwesternerTT

                    Another person I know recommended Barkeeper's Friend. I'll check into that. Thanks!

                    1. re: J_Tay81

                      Bar Keeper's Friend is acidic. It may not work. If not, then use something basic to remove the oil residue -- like ammonia.

                  3. Yes, never try to season stainless steel--it doesn't work.

                    I agree with the other poster--Bar Keepers and steel wool to remove that mess.

                    1. I will answer in two different angles, but both are informative.

                      1) As others have noticed, it is not worthwhile to season a stainless steel. The main reason is that the seasoning layer does not attach well to stainless steel surface

                      2) The seasoning layer is the brown/black color. Therefore, it is counter-productive to "season the cookware, then remove the seasoning layer".

                      20 Replies
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Thanks for your reply. It's frustrating that there are two opposing view points on seasoning SS. I knew people did this to cast iron but SS was news to me so I thought I would try it.

                        1. re: J_Tay81

                          Hi, J:

                          Yes, there *are* two opposing views on seasoning SS (Vollrath is in my camp). I for one think it helps, but it's different from seasoning carbon steel or cast iron, and *definitely* doesn't look like what's shown in your photo.

                          I think your mistake was taking your oil past the smoke point. And maybe another was using EVOO. You now need to scour out the pan completely to start.

                          Try this using any high smoke-point oil: Preheat the pan to the point you can't hold your hand on it any longer. Then pour in enough oil so that the pan is 1/8 to 1/4" deep, and swirl the pan (or use a paper towel) to make sure the walls are all coated well. Keep it on the heat until just BELOW the smoke point of the oil. At this point I may put in enough kosher salt to make an oil/salt slurry and scrub that around in the pan and up on the walls. Then you turn the heat off and let the mess in the pan cool completely (like overnight). When you come back to it, you can warm the pan slightly if you want (but it's not necessary). Then just wipe the oil and salt out completely, and you're done. It won't *look* like anything other than a slightly oily pan, but don't worry.

                          Others are correct that SS doesn't *hold* this treatment for long (it doesn't hold it AT ALL of you scour the pan or scrub it in strong detergent). Better just to deglaze with hot or boiling water, or clean with another oil/salt scrub over heat.

                          If you try this, please post your results.

                          EDIT: Another poster, who advises you not to clean your pan back to bare before re-seasoning, is fundamentally wrong on that point. Re-seasoning on top of your mistake is doomed to fail.

                          That poster is also flat out wrong in asserting all seasoning discolors the pan. It does not, as a well-seasoned SS or aluminum omelet pan demonstrates. Anyone who honestly says this must be confusing seasoning SS and aluminum with high-heat polymerization-type seasoning on cast iron or carbon steel.


                          1. re: J_Tay81

                            I think you have to chose your path forward. If you do decide to season your stainless steel cookware, then you should not try to clean off the discoloration. It will get discolored. All seasoned cookware are discolored. For example, a brand new carbon steel pan is shiny sliver, just like a typical stainless steel cookware.


                            After it is first seasoned, it will be lightly brown.


                            After many cooking, it will be black.


                            On the other hand, if you want to keep your cookware shiny, then don't attempt to season the cookware.

                            Finally, if you do want to clean it, then use a scrubber to clean it or use something like oven cleaner to dissolve the oil.

                            In my opinion, I agree with majority of the responders. I think it is better NOT to season the stainless steel cookware. You will put in a lot of time and with little gain. If you really want to season a cookware, then buy a carbon steel or cast iron cookware, even a bare aluminum cookware is better for that.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Is it off-topic to ask, if restaurant's cookware isn't shiny and new looking, why would we want that in our homes? This has probably been asked and answered many times here but searching has proved problematic.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I think there are two reasons. People want to have beautiful cookware to present to guests. Shiny cookware can represent two things to guests. First, shiny cookware means that these are expensive cookware. We know 18/10 stainless steel is more shiny than 18/0 cookware and that is more shiny than aluminum cookware. The price also go in that direction. Second, shiny cookware also imply the host being attentive. This is certainly true in old time when people hire servants to polish their copper cookware. A shiny copper cookware actually does not cook better than dull copper cookware. Nevertheless, dull copper cookware implies the host is not attentive or he/she does not have money to hire enough hands to shine the cookware.

                                Another reason is that people simply like new-looking cookware. It makes them sad to see their cookware grow old.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  CK, that is one of the most cogent thing I've read on CH ever. Thanks.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I prefer being "attentive" to other things and people :)

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Some of us like those things *and* clean, shiny pans. :-)

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        I'm lucky that I have plenty of storage space so not forced to decorate with cookware :) The only times mine are out is when I'm cooking with them.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Mine are all inside cabinets, too. But I like them clean, shiny and unsticky at all times. Just mah thang. :-)

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I like 'em clean and unsticky :)

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  So I guess it is: clean and unsticky -- shiny optional. :)

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I get this whole zen thing going on when the ceiling lights reflect in wavering patterns on the oil shimmering in a bright, shiny pan. Doesn't work so well with my cast iron and carbon steel. But it's real pretty in stainless steel.

                                          2. re: c oliver

                                            Hey! I like shiny stainless steel. Scratched and well-used, for sure, but shiny*.

                                            I've always had a bit of magpie in me. ;)

                                            *Except the pan bottoms. They get a quick pass when I'm using BKF, otherwise I wait until they're really gunked up, then hit 'em with oven cleaner once a year or so.

                                    2. re: J_Tay81


                                      I'm squarely with Kaleo on this. I do this to my SS pans frequently. It works very well, but I've never, ever had any of the oil bake on to my pans. I've always used lard, canola or peanut oil.

                                      I use the method outlined in the video you linked. I won't restate the points Kaleo made, just read closely what he wrote about oil and smoke point. And realize this is meant to be temporary, not anything like what you do to cast iron or carbon steel.

                                      1. re: DuffyH

                                        Hi, Duffy:

                                        Bring Rather out of retirement, we agree!

                                        Actually, I haven't met a surface that this "seasoning" method doesn't improve. Even the reviled black enamel coating on LeCreuset benefits. I've even done it to my new silver-lined rondeau. Personally, I think the collective hedonic calculus would show a spike if everyone just considered this to be part of routine maintenance.


                                        1. re: kaleokahu

                                          Hey Kaleo,

                                          <Bring Rather out of retirement, we agree!>

                                          Well, sure, if you call starting your own network retired. LOL, I'm kidding. We agree on a lot of things. Just not so much lately. :)