Stainless steel pans aren’t as user-friendly as non-stick pans, but you can’t sear gorgeous chicken breasts for your family with a non-stick pan. In stainless steel, that’s easy. Cleanup doesn’t have to be rough, either -- just let water and time do the work, instead of marring the surface with scratchy pads or doing endless scrubbing.
Cooking with Stainless Steel
Start heating your stainless steel saute pan or skillet before you add oil or other cooking fat. Add the fat, then swirl it around so it coats the entire bottom of the pan. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, the pan is ready for you to add food. If you're uncertain, cautiously flick a very tiny droplet of water from the tip of your finger into the oil; if it sizzles instantly, the pan and the oil are hot enough. Your food may stick to stainless steel if you put it in too early, unlike what happens with a nonstick pan. Foods also absorb less fat when the pan is preheated before you add the food, which makes for a nicely finished outside without a greasy inside. Brown the food on the first side, then flip it over and watch it to make sure it cooks evenly.
Baking with Stainless Steel
Thoroughly grease any stainless steel pan you put in the oven, such as for frittatas or casseroles that start on the stove top. Because of the high temperatures that surround your pan as you bake, food is even more likely to stick to a stainless steel pan in the oven than it will on your stove. If you’re baking on stainless steel, use a sheet of parchment paper instead of greasing the baking sheet or pan to avoid having to use extra fat in your baking.
Some stainless steel pans have rubberized handles that stay cool, even when the pan is very hot. Choose these if possible, especially if you have children who help you cook. If you’ve already got a good set of stainless steel pans, you can buy rubberized safety handles that slip on over the metal handles. Be careful if you use those, since they can slide off easily and create a hot liquid disaster with a saucepan.
Scrape any browned bits off the bottom of your pan with a spatula while the pan is still hot. That’s when they’re easiest to release. Better yet, add a bit of wine or water and boil; the browned bits, or fond, will combine with the liquid to make a delicious, easy sauce. You can also use hot, soapy water to soak your stainless steel pans after cooking. This will help loosen any stubborn cooked-on food in the pan, making it a simple task for you to scrub it away. To keep your stainless steel cookware looking shiny and new, avoid using any harsh scrubbers, such as steel wool. Only place stainless steel pans in the dishwasher if they’re designated as dishwasher safe by the manufacturer.
- "The Professional Chef"; The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images