how to season a stainless steel pan

How to Season Stainless Steel and Stop Sticking Food

You may not be aware that you can season stainless steel cookware to help stop food from sticking to the surface.

While it is not always necessary, it is a helpful option for those looking to speed up the cleaning process.

Let’s look at how to season a stainless steel pan, and other ways to prevent sticking food.

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Why Should You Season Stainless Steel Cookware?

Pan seasoning is the process of creating a protecting layer of fat or oil on the surface to help prevent corrosion and sticking food.

While stainless steel is already naturally corrosion-resistant it does not have a non-stick surface.

Unlike seasoning cast iron, when you season stainless steel is not meant to keep building layers and last forever.

Rather is it just a way to give you some temporary help in the battle against sticky food.

How to Season Stainless a Steel Pan

STEP 1: Clean The Pan

cleaning pan

Make sure to wash your stainless steel with soap and hot water to remove leftover food residue.

Clean all the stainless steel you see, on the inside and out.

The cleaner your pan the easier it will be for the oil you are using to coat the pan.

Also leaving food residue in the pan can make it harder and harder to clean as time goes on.

Next, allow the pan to air dry to ensure it stays as clean as possible.

STEP 2: Coat The Pan In The Proper Oil

stainless steel pan oiled

Next, simply coat the interior of the pan with a thin layer of oil. You can move the pan to spread the oil or use a paper towel to wipe the oil around and ensure it is fully covered.

Make sure to use an oil with a high smoke point like peanut or grapeseed, as you will be able to heat it for a longer time before it starts to smoke.

This will naturally also make your seasoning last longer as it cannot be cooked off as easily.

STEP 3: Heat Up The The Oiled Pan

You can also season the pan in the oven if the handle is not made of stuff that will melt, but it is easier to just use your stovetop.

Slowly heat the oiled pan on medium heat to ensure the pan heats fully and evenly before the oil starts to smoke.

Heat for 2-3 minutes or until the first sign of smoke.

When you see smoke, immediately remove the pan from the heat source.

COOKING HEALTH TIP: Experts say it’s best to only buy high-quality olive oil, and to not reuse it at really high temperatures. This means you should add fresh oil every time you cook and not continually be cooking it to the oils smoke point. It is believed the reuse of oil at excessive heat can rid it of its healthy properties and cause unhealthy compounds containing carcinogens to be formed in the oil.

STEP 4: Allow The Pan To Cool

The last step is to simply let the pan cool off completely after being removed from the heat source.

Once it is fully cooled you can pour out and then wipe any excess oil from the pan with a paper towel.

To store a seasoned pan you may consider storing it with a lid on, or with paper towels covering the surface.

This can protect the seasoning from getting scratched by other pans you may stack on it, and will also help them stay cleaner.

How to Clean Seasoned Stainless Steel

cleaning a pan

If you do choose the path of stainless steel seasoning you will have to be careful how you clean your pan after.

The whole point of the seasoning is to prevent sticking and make for easier cleaning.

After a stainless steel pan is seasoned you should need no more than hot water and a paper towel to fully clean it.

You should avoid soap and heavy cleaners unless you wish to strip the layer of your seasoning.

After a while, the seasoning layer on your pan will lose effectiveness even with gentle cleaning.

When this happens you can always re-season your pan, or just check out these next steps on how to avoid sticking food without seasoning.

How to Prevent Sticking Food With Stainless Steel

Even after a stainless steel pan is seasoned, you should still be aware of the things that can counteract your seasoning.

A seasoned pan is not immune to sticking, and care is required to still avoid sticking.

If you take the proper steps each time before cooking, you can make the surface of your stainless steel non-stick with or without seasoning.

1. Preheat The Pan on Medium Heat

preheat pan

One of the biggest and most common mistakes made when cooking with stainless steel is adding oil or food to the pan before it is preheated.

Picture the small little pores on the surface of your pan. What happens when you heat the pan is that the slight expansion of the metal closes the itty bitty pores.

Well if your food and oil were on the surface before heating, these pores act as grabby little hands holding your food ever so stickily to the pan.

That is probably why it requires hot water, soap, and the strength of a Viking to remove the food you cook too long without preheating the pan.

Uneven heating with lower quality stainless steel can cause you to burn part of the food you are cooking. Preheating the pan will help solve this problem as well.

2. Apply a Generous Amount of Oil

Even after seasoning, you shouldn't skimp on the oil.

If you are using a healthy oil like extra virgin olive oil, you shouldn't be too worried about the health effects.

To cook something naturally sticky like eggs in stainless steel, you will need to use a decent amount of oil.

A few drops will not do, make sure you at least lightly cover the whole bottom surface area of the pan.

3. Thaw Food Before Cooking

thawing food

We all get in a rush at times and but should always fight the temptation to skip the thawing process of frozen foods.

If you place frozen foods on your pan to cook them, it can negate the whole preheating process.

Even if you preheat the pan, the frozen food sitting on the surface can reopen the tiny pores and allow them to grab the food as the surface warms again.

The colder the food, the more likely it is to stick as cold food will cool the pan for a longer period of time.

Just remember to not leave food out too long, and consider planning ahead by thawing food in the fridge to avoid bacteria and food poisoning.

Once thawed in the fridge, you can pull it out to further bring the meat to room temperature.

Just remember the two-hour rule when it comes to raw food.

Raw foods like meat shouldn't sit at room temperature for more than two hours because the bacteria found on it will have grown to an unsafe amount for consumption.

4. Avoid Cooking on High

When possible, you should avoid cooking your food in your pan on high.

Proteins are literally glue and they can react quickly to stick at high temperatures.

Cooking on a higher heat increases the chance you will not evenly cook the food but rather burn the outside.

Unless you want to spend every second stirring your sauce or flipping your meat, it is better to just take it a little slower on a lower heat.

5. Don't Cook Too Much Food At Once

When you load your pan to capacity while cooking, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Crowded food can be held up or pushed up to the edge of the pan rather than being heated surface.

This creates unevenly heated food, and therefore part of your food will cook faster increasing the chance you burn some.

Consider using multiple pans, or cooking lesser amounts at a time to avoid this.

6. Stir Food Regularly

stirring food

It may seem like common sense, but how often do we still forget.

As previously mentioned you want to avoid letting the gluey proteins come in contact with the surface of the pan.

Oil and water you added, or already in your found in your food helps prevent sticking as it gets between the food and the surface.

If you leave your food unattended without stirring, your food can absorb some oil, and the water can boil out.

The Bottom Line

Seasoning stainless steel cookware is very simple and does help prevent sticking.

However, if you just take caution and avoid making simple mistakes, you can avoid sticking without having to season your pan.

If you do use both a seasoned pan and the knowledge of how to keep foods from sticking, you can avoid the only real drawback of cooking with stainless steel.

Happy Cooking!

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