Cooking with Stainless Steel: The Full Story
Cooking can be a joy, but when you use the wrong pots and pans, it can be a nightmare!
What tools you use in the kitchen can be the difference between a delicious feast and something no one wants to eat.
Choosing the right cookware for your kitchen can be a hassle. If you are looking to make the change to stainless steel but aren’t sure what that means for your cooking experience, you’ve come to the right place.
While no single metal is perfect for all foods, stainless steel is a must-have in any kitchen.
You can mix and match your cookware set too, using different materials to make sure you are getting the most out of your equipment.
Rather than have you do the research; we have put together this guide to answer any queries you might have.
Learn the best ways to use stainless steel, its benefits, how to cook with it, and maintenance.
Types of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel often has other metals such as nickel and copper mixed in with it to increase its strength. Two features make up your stainless steel cookware.
Every piece of stainless steel has a grade. This defines how corrosive the cookware is, the durability, temperature, resistance, and quality of the metal.
The 200 series is typically cheaper because the nickel is replaced by manganese. The higher the nickel component, the higher the corrosion resistance.
Meanwhile, the 300 series is more common for avid cookers and the 400 series are even magnetic.
If you’ve ever looked at stainless steel cookware, you would have noticed that they have numbers on the bottom.
These numbers refer to the amount of chromium and nickel blended into the steel.
An example of a number you could see is 18/8. The first number means the steel is comprised of 18% chromium and the second is 8% nickel.
How to Cook with Stainless Steel
You might be wondering why we have this section in our guide. Not all cookware is the same, and depending on the material, the way you cook with it can alter.
Stainless steel is safe for the stove, oven, and even for broiling.
The material is ideal for searing, sautéing, braising, and making delicious sauces. Stainless steel cookware is a kitchen must-have.
Preheating Is Key
Because stainless steel is a poor heat conductor, waiting until the pan is hot before adding any oil or food is crucial.
Why is this so important?
It avoids your food from sticking to the pan and allows your food to cook evenly.
The Water Droplet Trick
Since stainless steel cookware requires preheating before adding the oil, it can be tricky to know when you can start cooking.
An easy way to know if your stainless steel frying pan is hot enough to add your oil is by putting a few water droplets on the pan.
If the water stays intact and gently glides around the pan, you’ve hit the right temperature.
Watch out for the pan overheating, where the water droplet will split into lots of smaller drops.
Keep in mind that if the oil starts to smoke once you’ve added it, it also means that the pan is too hot!
Cook On a Low-medium Temperature
As stainless steel is a poor heat conductor, stay away from putting your cookware on high heat.
That way you avoid burning your food and the bottom of your pans.
Another pro tip is to try and make sure your refrigerated foods are at room temperature before adding them to the pan to ensure even cooking without sticking.
Unlike other cookware, when cooking things like pasta, you need to add the salt once the water has boiled.
Adding it before can create a chemical reaction with the metal and form rust over time.
Avoid Scratching the Pan
Generally, stainless steel is scratch resistant. But, even if you have bought the best stainless steel cookware, using knives on them can cause a lot of damage.
Stainless Steel in the Oven
One of the beauties of cooking with stainless steel is being able to use your cookware in the oven.
Transferring your pans from the stovetop to the oven on say your gas range has never been easier.
Benefits of Cooking with Stainless Steel
Now that you know how to use stainless steel appliances in your kitchen and the different types available, we want to list some of its benefits.
Depending on the material of your cookware, they could have different interactions with your food.
Pans made of aluminum or cast iron are reactive materials and can alter the color and taste of acidic foods.
However, since stainless steel cookware is made from non-reactive materials, you are able to cook all kinds of food while preserving the flavors you are after.
To put it simply, these pans won’t rust or corrode. This is ideal for anyone who loves cooking and is looking for materials with endurance.
When taken care of properly, stainless steel cookware maintains its shape and shine for years.
Due to its resistance to corrosion and easy maintenance, your pans could last you for years to come. It is all about maintenance.
Some stainless steel users have had their cookware for up to 50 years!
The fact that you can easily transfer your cookware from the stovetop to the oven is handy and means less clean up after your meal!
When it comes to clean up duty, you want to make sure you have to put in as little effort as possible.
With its smooth and easy to clean material, stainless steel will be shining in your kitchen without any trouble.
Read on to find out the best ways to take care of your pots and pans.
Shortcomings When Cooking with this Cookware Type
Chances are that if you are looking to make the transition into stainless steel cookware, you had some trouble with your last set.
In the name of full transparency, we have listed a few of the drawbacks when using stainless steel kitchenware.
Warping can happen when a pan goes through rapid changes in temperature, meaning your pot is no longer flat.
To put it into perspective; a warped pan means you will be cooking on a wobbly surface which is annoying, unsafe, and it can lead to uneven cooking.
But to make your life easier, we have listed ways to avoid warping from happening in your kitchen:
- Let the pan cool down before washing it
- If you need to soak your pan, do so with hot water.
- Don’t wash it with cold water and then place it directly over the stovetop.
Poor Heat Conductivity
One issue with stainless steel is that it is a poor conductor of heat.
This means that your pan can take a while to heat up or cause your food to cook unevenly.
Make sure you take notes of previous sections for instructions on how to get the most out of your stainless steel cookware to avoid such problems.
Things to Look Out For
Cooking up a storm is best done with the right equipment and with all the options available, it can be hard to know what to keep in mind while shopping for your next cookware set.
We have a few pointers for you:
- The composition of other metals. The higher the nickel, the more resistant the pan
- The weight. The heavier the pan, the more even the cooking will be
- The type of food you are looking to cook
- The cheaper the cookware, the less likely it is to last
Keeping it Clean
How you clean your stainless steel cookware makes a huge difference to the maintenance and longevity of your pots and pans.
You want to make sure that you don’t need to buy a new set for a long time.
The first rule is always to use non-abrasive sponges. Here are some more tips on how to properly clean your cookware:
Use Hot Water
As we mentioned earlier, using hot water is super important for you to avoid warping and for overall maintenance.
While experts are divided on whether to put your stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher, we recommend hand washing. Stay on the safe side and put some elbow grease into it.
Due to the shiny surface, stains can be more visible on these pans. The good news is, they are easily removed with products you should already have in your kitchen.
Using water with high calcium content can cause a white chalky residue on your cookware.
Another common stain to find on stainless steel pans is a rainbow hue on the inside from cooking with high heat.
These stains are easily removed by boiling water and vinegar together in the pan.
Once the water has boiled, empty the pan, rinse with hot water and dry it off with a kitchen towel.
Check out this video to learn more:
Because of its material makeup, and resistance to corrosion, you don’t need to worry about it being bad for your health because there are no chemicals that can be transferred from the material to your food.
With all of these points in mind, we hope you now feel more confident in buying your next kitchen set along with cooking with stainless steel cookware.
Buying quality stainless steel cookware sets can come at a price, but due to its durability, they tend to be an excellent investment providing you a lifetime of wonderful cooking experiences.