An age-old cooking question that many home chefs need to know before they commit to buying stainless-steel pans: do they need to be seasoned?
Many home chefs try to avoid seasoning at all costs because it is a kitchen task that strikes fear into even some of the most seasoned chefs!
So, should you season stainless-steel pans? Well, today, we’re answering this cooking question once and for all!
Should You Season Stainless-Steel Pans?
No. There is no reason to season stainless-steel pans. Most home chefs and in fact, most chefs in general, opt not to season these pans because they work perfectly fine without any seasoning.
The reason that many people think stainless steel pans need to be seasoned is that food can stick to the surface of stainless steel fairly easily. We will cover why stainless steel is so prone to this below and how to stop it without seasoning your pan.
However, while there is no need to season your stainless-steel pans, you can still season them if you want to, and you may have a better cooking experience if you choose to season them.
How to Stop Food Sticking to a Stainless-Steel Pan
So, if you don’t choose to season your stainless steel, you may notice that food is sticking to the pan every time you cook.
This is because while stainless steel looks flat, the surface is full of tiny pores. As the pan heats up, these pores close further and grab the food and hold it in place.
So, one way of stopping food from sticking to stainless steel is to not use the pan at very high heat. In fact, because stainless steel has such brilliant heat retention, you never really need to cook with them above medium heat.
You can try placing the food in the pan before you turn the heat on as well. That way, the surface of the food in contact with the pan will be somewhat sealed when the pan reaches the right temperature.
However, this can also shock the food, so the best thing to do is cook at the perfect temperature for the pan, which is about the middle of the temperature range on most hobs. If you are boiling water in stainless steel, though, you can crank the heat to 11!
If you want to seal a steak, for example, in a stainless-steel pan, you will need to get the pan up to temperature before you pop your meat in there. In this case, a good layer of oil is your best friend.
When the steak hits the pan, it will create water vapour, and this lifts it very slightly off of the cooking surface, meaning it won’t stick to the surface.
If your steak burns, though, these burnt bits will stick to the surface, and your steak will too. So, be careful, turn your steak often, and you’ll have a lovely rump and a pan with no burnt bits on it.
How to Season Stainless Steel (If You Want To)
I know this section of this cooking article has just struck fear into the hearts of many home chefs, but don’t worry.
Seasoning is really easy, and it will make your pans last longer and perform better for you too. Here is a breakdown of how to season stainless steel:
- Wash the pan really well with soap
- Dry the pan and preheat it over a medium heat
- When the pan is hot, add a few drops of oil
- Wipe the oil around the surface with a paper towel until there is a very thin layer of oil over the whole surface
- When the pan starts smoking, remove it from the hob and let it cool
- Once the pan is cool, use a fresh paper towel to remove any excess oil
That’s it; you’ve just seasoned a stainless-steel pan. That seasoning will last a good few months, and each time you cook with oil, you’ll be topping up the seasoning too.
Plus, redoing your seasoning is just as simple as it was to season the pan in the first place.
The only downside to seasoning your stainless-steel pans is that you can only hand wash them with a small amount of soap and a sponge or microfibre cloth.
The good side, though, is that a seasoned stainless-steel pan is much more non-stick than an unseasoned stainless-steel pan!
So, there you go; while you don’t need to season stainless steel pans, you can, and it is really easy to do.
If you really don’t want to season your pans, that’s fine, just don’t use them at high heat, and you should have no trouble with food sticking to them.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of Chef’s Pick for the best stainless-steel cookware available in the UK right now and loads more cooking articles where we answer dreaded cooking questions like this one!
Scott is a writer and a passionate home chef. His passion for cooking began when he was 10 years old. Scott has been writing professionally for over five years now and loves to combine his passion for cooking with his day job.