How to Clean Stainless Steel Pots and Pans

Updated: Aug. 21, 2023

Stainless steel cookware can easily attract burnt-on food bits. Here's how to clean stainless steel pans and make them shine again.

If you want to feel like a professional chef, nothing beats sauteing dinner in a shiny stainless steel pan. Stainless steel is lightweight and durable; and great for getting the perfect sear on your pork chops. However, stainless steel isn’t always so stainless. Because it lacks a nonstick layer, you often have to deal with burnt-on food when it’s time to do the dishes. Here’s how to clean stainless steel pans, including what to do to avoid water spots and our secret weapon for stubborn stuck-on grease.

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Pan

Stainless steel cookware is durable and easy to care for. You can hand-wash your stainless steel pots and pans with soap and warm water, and even better, you can run them through the dishwasher (unlike nonstick pans).

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General Cleaning

For general cleaning of stainless steel pots and pans, here are a few cleaning tips to keep in mind:

  • Although most stainless steel is dishwasher safe, long cycles and high-temperature water can damage the surface of pots and pans and loosen-up the handles over time. So don’t rely too heavily on the dishwasher.
  • Allow stainless steel pans to completely cool before washing them. Exposing hot pans to cold water can cause warping and cracking.
  • Be sure to hand dry stainless steel pots and pans right away. Otherwise, you’ll see unsightly water spots.
  • Don’t use steel wool to wash stainless steel; it will scratch up the finish. Choose a non-abrasive sponge instead.

Tough Stains

Burnt oil and fat remains on the bottom of a stainless steel frying skillet pan close up top view.Octavian Lazar/Getty Images

To remove tougher stains, like burnt-on grease and discoloration, use this boil method.

Add about an inch of water to the stained pan, and place it on a burner. Bring the water to a boil. This will soften the burnt-on food and make it easier to remove. While the water is boiling, scrape the pan with a plastic or silicone spatula, or a wooden spoon. Once the pan is cool to the touch, hand-wash it with soap and water.

How to Make Your Stainless Steel Look New Again

A stainless steel cleaner or baking soda will make your pan shine like new again; but our favorite option is Bar Keepers Friend Superior Cookware Cleanser. Dampen the pan with warm water, then sprinkler your cleaner of choice over the wet surface of the pan. Scrub cleaner into surface with a soft sponge or cloth, then rinse well. Dry with a towel to avoid water spots.