How To Cook With Stainless Steel

How To Cook With Stainless Steel

Learn the basics of stainless steel and explore a new world of cooking possibilities.

Author: Patty Lee  |  April 18, 2024  |  Time to read: 5 min

how to cook with stainless steel

Stainless steel’s signature shiny finish is mesmerizing. And so is all that a good stainless steel pot or pan promises to do: irresistible browning, rich savory pan sauces, beautifully caramelized vegetables, to name a few. This versatility — plus its durability and sleek aesthetic — has made stainless steel the material of choice for professional kitchens. But its reputation as less forgiving and more finicky tends to make home cooks nervous.

Part of learning to cook, however, is exploring the new. New ingredients, new methods, and, yes, new materials. Just like it took a few tries to perfect your tamale-folding technique or commit the rules of nonstick cooking to memory, learning how to use stainless steel pans doesn’t happen overnight.
You might flip the pork tenderloin too early. The pan may be hot, but not hot enough. Eventually, though, your stainless steel leap will pay off and the benefits will start to outweigh the challenges. You’ll be able to simmer tomato sauces and lemony soups — and stir them with a metal spoon! — without worry thanks to stainless steel’s non-reactive, scratch-resistant nature. Or finally blister shishitos the way that restaurant does. And if you love it well, your stainless cookware will love you back for years to come.

What is Stainless Steel?

In its most basic form, stainless steel is an alloy, or blend of metals. The one used for cookware is primary iron mixed with chromium and nickel. This combination gives stainless steel its signature features: Iron is super hard, chromium provides its polished texture, and nickel protects against corrosion.

To make pots and pans, stainless steel is usually cladded (layered) with an aluminum or copper core, since the two materials are excellent heat conductors. Fully clad means there are multiple layers throughout the entire pan, whereas clad pans are simply layered at the bottom. High-quality stainless steel pans are constructed from multiple layers for added strength and durability (you’ll usually see the number of layers noted alongside the term “ply”).

The Always Pan® Pro is a fully-clad, tri-ply pan with an aluminum core, stainless steel exterior, and titanium interior (Its 3-millimeter construction is even thicker than most traditional 5-ply stainless steel pans.).

A microscopic texture and pressed pattern that mimics the hydrophobic lotus effect forms a naturally nonstick surface on the ultra-hardened titanium layer, making it truly the best of all worlds. Even if you may not be familiar with the term “lotus effect,” you’ve definitely encountered it IRL — it’s a natural, water-repellant phenomenon that causes liquids to hover and slide right off of the leaves.

When To Use Stainless Steel

We know to reach for our trusty ceramic nonstick Always Pan® when frying eggs or flipping pancakes and there are similar moments when stainless steel simply shines. Since they’re great at retaining and distributing heat, stainless steel cookware is perfect for tasks that require high temperatures — think sauteing vegetables, searing a roast, or achieving that perfect golden-brown crust on a steak. They’re nonreactive so you can cook acidic foods without ruining its finish. Plus, they’re oven-safe and many types of stainless steel pans are compatible with induction cooktops (so is the Always Pan), so you can use them no matter what kind of kitchen setup you have.

Caring For Stainless Steel

Cookware is only as good as the care it gets. Traditional stainless steel is already very durable, but we leveled up the material by using ultra-hardened titanium as the interior of the Always Pan® Pro, making it virtually indestructible.

Most stainless steel pans require proper maintenance and care to extend their lifespan. They’re often labeled dishwasher safe, but hand washing helps keep them in pristine condition — and for the most part, will get them gleaming again.

Wait until the pan is cool and gently scrub with a sponge and dish soap. For harder-to-clean stains (because scorching is inevitable with high-heat cooking), boiling water and baking soda (our go-to trick for cleaning nonstick pans!) usually loosens the stuck-on food. You can also make a paste using baking soda and vinegar or reach for a tougher cleaner, like Bar Keepers Friends, for those truly stubborn messes.

There’s no need to be gentle when using and caring for the Always Pan Pro. It’s completely dishwasher safe since the rims are fully sealed and you can also use an abrasive scouring pad or bristle brush when hand washing.

Tips For How To Cook With Stainless Steel

Like testing a recipe for the first time, cooking with traditional stainless steel takes some trial and error. It’s always a bit intimidating to try a new cookware material, but keeping these tips in mind as you sear and saute will help with the adjustment.

If your Always Pan® Pro just arrived and you’re looking to get cooking, we’ve got you covered, too. Since the ultra-durable titanium pan has a naturally nonstick construction, you won’t have to worry about many of the typical stainless steel guidelines.

Avoid Frigid Food
Cooking successfully on stainless steel starts before the pan even touches the fire. Always bring food to room temperature — this not only helps it cook more evenly, but prevents it from clinging to the skillet.

Preheat Properly
Ever wonder how to cook with regular stainless steel without sticking? Get your pan piping hot before adding anything else. It’s ready to go when a drop of water sizzles and beads upon contact.

Oil It Up
Coat the bottom of the pan evenly with enough oil or butter and let it come to a shimmer or bubble. Unlike a nonstick or well-seasoned cast iron pan, stainless steel needs fat to act as a protective barrier.

Practice Patience
We know it’s tempting to take a peek (and we’ve certainly done so), but resist the urge to constantly flip or stir. A sign that the food is ready for turning? It’ll start to release from the edges and move when you give it a gentle nudge.

Embrace Deglazing
Take advantage of the fond — the flavorful browned bits that form on the bottom of the pan during cooking – by deglazing it with wine, broth, or another liquid.

See the Always Pan® Pro In Action

Patty Lee

Patty Lee is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her writing has appeared in The Kitchn, Martha Stewart Living, Food Network, and many other food and lifestyle publications. A native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn's Chinatown, her perfect weekend breakfast is a combination of bagels and dim sum.