How to Clean Discolored Stainless Steel Cookware

It might take a bit of elbow grease to clean your stainless steel cookware.
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Most cooks who appreciate their kitchen tools relish the shine of stainless steel pots and pans. Not only are they lovely to behold but they conduct heat efficiently on the stovetop and can be transferred to the oven for a juicy finish without damaging the pan.

Cleaning stainless steel pans after a rigorous workout, especially if you've ignored them after several meal preparations, takes a bit of elbow grease depending on how much damage they've suffered. Several cleaning methods are recommended to return your stainless steel pans back to their original shine.

Make Your Own Cleaning Solution

Manufacturers of high-end stainless steel pots and pans recommend using their cleaning powder to rid the pans of cooked-on grease and grime. However, you can make your own for a lot less money.

If cleaning stainless steel pans with soap and water doesn't do a thorough job, make a paste or slurry of baking soda and water. Rub it thoroughly over the pan and let it sit for a few minutes. Take a damp, abrasive sponge and gently clean the pan in a circular motion. It may leave a few scratches, but that won't affect the heat conductivity of the pan.

Cleaning Stainless Steel Pans

It's a matter of timing when you need to clean a pan during the cooking process, but cooking and then cleaning is the easiest way to maintain a stainless steel pan. If you cannot spare the time between cooking and serving, pour water into the pan and let it sit until it's cleanup time. The water helps loosen the leftover bits and makes the cleaning easier.

Pour off the water until you have about 1/4 cup left. Warm the pan and water and add a huge mound of baking soda in the center. Whisk it around, heat it to a boil and watch as the soda water fizzes up the sides of the pan. Turn down the heat to medium and reduce the soda mixture until it evaporates.

Don't let the built-up soda scum scare you. It comes off easily with an abrasive sponge.

Degunking Years of Grime

If your stainless steel pans are embarrassing to behold with their caked-on grime, it's time to do a heavy cleaning job on them. You'll need the following:

  • A large stock pot that is big enough to submerge the pan
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Rubber gloves
  • Pot holders
  • Scrubbing sponge with an abrasive side
  • Bamboo stick or toothpick
  • Drying towel
  1. Fill the pot with water, leaving enough room for the pan to be submerged without the water running over the rim.

  2. Bring the water to a boil.

  3. Add about 1/2 cup of baking soda to the hot water, stir and slowly drop the pan into the solution.

  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the pan sit for about 30 minutes. Flakes of oil and grime will start coming off. You can let it sit for several hours if the grime buildup is extensive.

  5. Use rubber gloves and pot holders to protect your hands and remove the pan from the hot water.

  6. Use the scrubbing sponge to remove excess residue. If the pan needs more work, take a little of the hot water and add more baking soda to make a slurry. Use that to finish the job.

  7. A bamboo stick or toothpick is ideal to get into the crevices and around the rivets.

  8. Dry completely and let the pan fully air dry.

Cautions and Warnings

While cleaning stainless steel pans is easy when you put them in the dishwasher, they may emerge with blue streaks from the cleaning chemicals so that your pan now has rainbow-like streaks on its surface. Take some vinegar and dab it onto a microfiber cloth. Gently wipe over the blue stain on the stainless steel pot.

If it remains, try baking soda paste. Either solution should remove the streak and alert you that the dishwasher is not an efficient way to clean stainless steel pans.

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