Cooking with stainless steel products can feel like both a blessing and a curse. Such pans are gorgeous, durable, and seem to make magic happen on the stovetop.
But they also require regular maintenance in the form of seasoning. While it’s not the end of the world to have to give your pots and pans a little love on occasion, it can be an annoyance.
But what’s more annoying is taking the time to season your cookware and having the results disappoint you.
That’s because not all oils are created equal when it comes to this process.
In this article, we will discuss the relative merits of different types of oils and how to season a stainless steel pan the right way.
And of course, we’ll give you our picks for the best oil to season stainless steel pans.
Later, we will explain to you how this process works and why it is vital to do it properly.
Quick Picks for the Best Oil to Season Stainless Steel Pans
|#||Model||Volume||Smoke Point (F)||Price|
|1.||Chosen Foods Avocado Oil||1 Liter||520°F||
|2.||Sky Organics Grapeseed Oil||1 Liter||450°F||
|3.||Baja Precious Sunflower Oil||8 oz||440°F||
|4.||Tophe Rice Bran Oil||1 gallon||440°F||
|5.||Native Harvest Peanut Oil||½ gallon||490°F||
Stainless Steel Pan Oil Types
These days, there are so many different oils on the market that you could have a panic attack in the grocery aisle trying to choose the “right” one.
But, for our purposes, they can be divided into two types: those with low smoke points and high smoke points.
Low Smoke Point Oils
Low smoke point oils are sensitive to heat. Once they hit their temperature limit, they begin to burn and smoke (thus the term “smoke point”).
Each type has a unique smoke point, but they generally fall below 400 degrees.
Aside from creating a bad smell in your kitchen and giving your food a burnt taste, surpassing an oil’s smoke points does two things.
- It starts to break down naturally-present beneficial nutrients.
- Overheating can cause toxic free radicals to form.
This type of oil is perfect for cast iron, but you do not want to put them anywhere near your stainless steel cookware for seasoning. The smoke point is far too low.
Popular low smoke point oils include extra virgin olive oil, coconut, and any unrefined oil. While not technically an oil, butter is usually included in this category, as well.
High Smoke Point Oils
In general, the more refined the oil, the higher its smoke point. Impurities and fatty acids are removed during the refining process. These are the things that cause these oils to smoke.
This type of oil is what you want when seasoning your stainless steel pans.
Popular high smoke point oils include:
- Rice bran
Our Top 5 Picks
1. Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil
More than just a trendy toast topping, avocado oil is perfect for seasoning your stainless steel pans. It has a high smoke point which is what you need to look for in an oil for seasoning.
Avocado in oil form is also a great option for frying, cooking, and baking. It also serves as a healthy, flavorless base when creating dressings and marinades.
Chosen Foods’ avocado oil is proudly made with 100% pure Hass avocados that are hand-harvested in Mexico. We adore this oil.
It has a smooth taste and the highest smoke point on our list. The one negative is that you may find that many physical stores sell the same bottles or larger, at a better price.
- It contains the same healthy monounsaturated fats found in whole avocados
- Expeller-pressed to avoid harmful chemicals
- Approximate smoke point: 520 degrees
- Can be expensive
2. Native Harvest Expeller Pressed Non-GMO Peanut Oil
This product has been specifically refined for high-heat cooking and baking. It provides an allergen-free source of monounsaturated fats and is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
You will be very pleased with this oil if you choose it for stainless steel pan seasoning.
It’s almost as good as the Avocado oil but watch out if you have anyone with allergies to nuts in the family.
Plus, while it is not the cheapest in this list, it is still affordably priced and comes in convenient liter-sized bottles. This is the perfect size to keep you stocked up on oil without losing storage space.
- Trans fat-, preservative-, and additive-free
- Available in single bottles (32 fl oz/1 Lt), multi-packs, and bulk
- Approximate smoke point: 450 degrees
- Highly refined
- Packaging can be damaged in transit
3. Sky Organics Grapeseed Oil
This oil comes from grapes picked in Italy and is 100% guaranteed natural and food-grade quality.
It is also very popular for use on hair and skin. Many customers use it for both cooking and beauty applications.
It is by far the most expensive oil on this list, but it is also the highest-quality one.
While some of you may be okay with using such a fancy oil to season your cookware, others might prefer to reserve this oil for vinaigrettes or body applications.
- High in antioxidants
- Rich in vitamins A, E, B, and D, amino acids, and essential fatty acids
- Good price for the product
- Approximate smoke Point: 420 degrees
- Not organic
- The pump dispenser is poorly-designed
4. Baja Precious Sunflower Oil
Our super-saver choice, you will get a lot of oil for your money with this bottle. This is the best value on the list, and you’ll get enough oil to enable you to season your pans weekly if you so choose.
We love the “easy-pour” retractable pourer” and lightweight design of the bottle. Overall this oil is highly versatile and flavorless for all food-related needs.
Many people are particular fans of putting it on their popcorn to replace butter.
- High oleic content
- All-natural and expeller-pressed
- The bottle is designed with a non-drip retractable pourer
- Produced in Spain and bottled in California
- Approximate smoke point: 440 degrees
- Not USDA-certified organic
- The plastic bottle instead of glass is a dealbreaker for some people
5. Tophe Rice Bran Oil
If you like to buy American, then this is the oil for you. Tophe uses only American rice in their products.
Plus, rice bran oil is renowned for its health benefits. In fact, the Japanese refer to it as “heart oil” for its heart-healthy properties.
We appreciated that it comes in a large size container and say that it works wonders when seasoning you pans and cooking too.
Some may find the haziness disconcerting, although this is natural for rice oils that have not been winterized.
This is also another great price/per volume option if you are someone who needs to season your pans frequently.
- High in oryzanol, an antioxidant that has been said to lower cholesterol
- Contains a balanced amount of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats
- Made in the USA
- Approximate smoke point: 490 degrees
- Some customers may feel the volume is too large for their needs
Factors to Consider
What Will You Use Your Oil for?
Do you plan to use this oil for purposes other than seasoning your stainless steel pans? If so, then quantity should factor into your considerations.
Seasoning only requires a small amount of oil every once in a while, while deep frying will require large quantities.
Refined vs. Unrefined
Unrefined oils are considered purer than refined oils and retain more of their nutrients. Refined oils are more processed, but they also have a higher smoke point which is best for seasoning.
Each person has to decide what is the right balance between the healthiest oil and the most effective at seasoning.
Which Health Benefits Are Most Important to You?
Each type of oil boasts its own health benefits. What is most important to you – heart health, skin vitality, etc. – should help inform your choice.
Some oils are much more expensive per ounce than others.
Again, depending on how often you plan to use your oil and what other health benefits you want out of it, you will have to decide how much you want to pay.
Place of Origin
Buying American products is ideal for several reasons. Aside from supporting American business, you can be assured that your oil has not been adulterated.
When purchasing food items produced overseas, there is always a chance of contamination or false advertising.
Seasoning Oil Features
All of the products in this list offer a mild taste that won’t leave your pots and pans smelling like peanuts or all of your food tasting like avocados.
This is what you want when you are seasoning, the more neutral, the better!
High Smoke Points
Each oil discussed has a smoke point of at least 420 degrees.
This ensures that you can heat your pans to a high enough temperature to ensure a good seasoning without setting off your smoke detectors.
All of the oils we reviewed, except the grapeseed version, are GMO-free. Avoiding GMOs ensures that you are getting the most natural products possible.
Many people have concerns about the potential adverse health effects of “traditional oils,” such as canola.
The oils listed above are generally considered to be healthier alternatives to traditional cooking oil.
How-To Season Stainless Steel Pans
Seasoning is the process of using oil to prepare your pans to receive the food that they will cook.
Seasoning creates a thin film that acts as a protective barrier between your food and the metal of the pans.
This barrier prevents oxygen from coming into contact with the metal, which causes oxidation and thus pitting.
But it disappears with time, which is why re-seasoning is critical. Although often thought of as a difficult process, it is not actually that hard.
If you devote a small amount of time to adequately seasoning your pan, you will have so much easier of a time when cooking.
And don’t forget; seasoning is not a one-time-only activity!
For best results, re-season your pans regularly. A good rule of thumb is to re-season whenever food starts to stick again to bring back the true nature of stainless steel pans being non-stick.
How to Season Those Stainless Steel Pans
- Make sure each pan is clean and dry. (Even small bits of food that are stuck to the surface can interfere with the seasoning process and result in additional stuck-on food the next time you cook.)
- Heat your pan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
- Choose your preferred oil with a high smoke point and coat the entire bottom part of the pan.
- Heat the oil until you start to see wisps of smoke appear.
- Turn off the stove and remove the pan.
- Allow it to cool completely.
- Remove the remaining oil and wipe down the pan.
And FYI for you adventure seekers out there, it is both possible and necessary to season the stainless steel cookware that you use on your boats and camping trips.
Best Oil Brands
The two best-known and most-respected brands on this list are Chosen Foods and Sky Organics.
Chosen Foods was founded by a naturopathic doctor who believed that food should nourish and sustain our bodies, our lives, and our communities.
To this day, Chosen Foods continues to support true nourishment through the rediscovery and accessibility of real food.
They offer a variety of products, including cooking oils and sprays, mayos, and dressings to liven up your meals and help you to season your pans.
Sky Organics uses only organic, natural botanicals to nourish your body with vital nutrients, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids.
The company strives to support small family farms and never tests its products on animals.
They offer several lines of face, body, and household products, in addition to their popular cooking items.
Q: How can I tell if the oil I have has a high enough smoke point for seasoning?
A: A simple way to tell if your oil is suitable is to look at the color – the lighter hue – the higher the smoke point.
Q: What do I do with my oil after I’ve seasoned my pans?
A: Depending on which oil you used and what you used it for, you can either reuse or discard it.
Q: How long can oil be stored?
A: Ideally, you should use it within 3-6 months after purchase. Cooking oils should be stored in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator.
Cooking with stainless steel is a true pleasure when done correctly.
How to season a stainless steel pan and with which type of oil is a subject of some controversy among cooking aficionados.
Luckily, the five best oil to season stainless steel pans listed above are all superb options that are sure to give you a lovely seal on your pans and also impart important health benefits.