How to Clean Stainless Steel Pans


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Do you have stubborn stains or burnt particles on your pans? Here is a guide on how to clean stainless steel pans and prevent it from happening again!

A dirty stainless steel pan before being cleaned and polished

Oh dear, this is embarrassing to admit…yes, I did this horrible thing to my pan. My punishment involved scrubbing until my fingers were raw and flaky (use gloves!), but I promise you, the results were life-changing. I want to share with you some of my helpful tips for how to clean stainless steel pans.

Before we start, I want to tell you how my beautiful All-Clad stainless steel pan got this way, so you don’t make the same mistake. I had pan-seared salmon and wanted to keep the skin crispy by roasting it in the oven at high heat (525°F) while it was still in the pan.

Tip: Do NOT put your pans in the oven at temperatures above 500°F / 260°C!

I made the rookie mistake of not reading the pans use instructions first (doh!). The result was the fat and proteins burned and stuck to the walls of the pan, and it was horrific. This is what to do to clean those stubborn stains, residue, or burnt particles on the pan… because we’re only human, and it happens to all of us.

The tools you need:

Cookware Cleanser & Polish

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Non-Scratch Scouring Pads

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Heavy Duty Dish Soap

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Durable Dishwashing Gloves

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To get rid of stuck-on food, discoloration, and stains from using too high a heat

  • First, immerse the pan in warm water.
  • Use Bar Keeper’s Friend with water to form a paste. Apply paste using a soft cloth.
  • Rub in a circular motion from the center outward. Do not let the paste sit longer than 1 minute in the pan.
  • Wash in hot, soapy water, dry immediately.

Cleaning SUPER stubborn burnt residue

If food is burnt to the pan and soaking doesn’t loosen it try:

  • Add water to a depth of one inch in the pan.
  • Add a tablespoon of dishwashing soap, bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Let the liquid cool in the pan, then drain and rinse.
  • Loosen the residue with a nylon sponge or plastic spatula, repeat if necessary.
  • You can use the Bar Keeper’s Friend as described above to clean further and shine the pan.
A clean stainless steel pan after using Bar Keepers Friend

Daily cleaning and maintenance

  • Immediately after each use, fill the pan with hot water and liquid dish detergent and let stand until lukewarm. Use a sponge or soft cloth to remove the remaining food particles. Rinse thoroughly and dry right away to prevent water spots.
  • You can wash your pans in the dishwasher as long as it does not have burnt particles or stubborn residue on them.
  • To keep pans from becoming scratched do NOT use steel wool or steel scouring pads. Nylon scrubbing pads are safe to use.

How to prevent sticking, burning, and discoloration

A preheated pan and lower flames are the keys to stick-free stainless steel cooking! Stainless steel pans are highly conductive and are designed to be efficient, so they do not need high heats to cook food.

  • Start by pre-heating your pan on low heat for one or two minutes before adding foods. Tap the upper edge of your pan to test the heat. If it’s too hot, remove from the burner for a couple of minutes.
  • Pour 2-3 teaspoons of cold oil in your preheated pan-or enough to cover the bottom of the cooking surface. Add food, making sure that there’s an even sizzling sound when your food touches the pan. This indicates that your food is cooking on contact and creating a natural barrier to prevent sticking.
  • Allow food to cook without disturbing until the correct doneness is achieved. The natural sugars in your food caramelize on the prepared surface, developing great flavors and lifting your food off of the cooking surface naturally.
  • If the sound that food makes on initial contact with the pan is more of a crackle than a sizzle, your heat is too high, and sticking may occur.
  • Use low to medium heat for frying, braising, sautéeing and simmering.

Discoloration of pans may be caused by

  • Overheating the pans resulting in brown or blue stains
  • Food films that are not removed and reheated
  • Large amounts of iron content in your water may cause your pot to look rusty.

I hope these tips help you with your stainless steel cooking journey!

More Resources:

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

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29 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. James M Altes says

    right… there are thousands of articles that run to bar keeper’s friend, and here we have yet another one… what if it doesn’t work? I’m just doomed then?


    I broiled my 12″ d3 skillet at 525 degrees in the oven to roast some chicken and there is a ton of residue burned to the underside of my pan… it looks awful and nothing seems to work.

  2. Tom Chekouras says

    I discovered Bar Keepers Friend Superior Cookware Cleaner and Polish. It’s a product that actually works — does a great job. The grit is finer than regular BKF, so it doesn’t scratch at all – even the exterior mirror finish sides of my All-Clad pans. I use it after I wash out the pans (or soak them for an hour if they are really gunked up from searing). The results are as close to ‘like new’ as you can get.

  3. Elizabeth says

    You advise that pans be placed in hot water directly after use, but I just wanted to note that cooling pans too quickly can lead to warping and you’ll end up with pans that are not flat on the bottom. This is irreversible and can really ruin the pan. It’s best to let pans completely cool before placing them in water. Even what we think of as very hot water directly after cooking is probably too cool.

  4. Keith says

    I have been cleaning my stainless pans, roasting pans etc with Bar Keepers Friend for years and it keeps them in great shape, like new.

    One trick I have discovered recently is to use a nylon dish brush (I use the OXO dish brushes that dispense dish soap, but I just use them soapless for my Bar Keepers Friend pan cleaning). It takes far less effort and time and is easier on your hands than using paper towel which I did previously.

    I have also found Bar Keepers friend to be the best way to clean a ceramic (glass) cooktop, again with a dish brush.

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