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Ovens & Ranges

You're using your stainless steel pans wrong

Making stainless steel pans nonstick: A photo diary.

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I hate stainless steel pans. I hate how my food sticks to them, I hate how they spit and hiss when you stir your food, and I. Hate. Scrubbing. Them. Clean. It takes so long! Why would I waste those few precious post-dinner, pre-sleep minutes slaving over burnt bits of chicken?!

Before gunk
Credit: / Jessica Teich

Here’s what it looks like when you cook an egg in a regular ol’ stainless pan. BRB while I soak this for 10 hours.

Oh, because nonstick pans can emit toxic, carcinogenic particles and gases with extended use? Got it. Sorry mom.

So, what’s a lazy gal to do when she doesn’t want to spend more time cleaning but also doesn’t want to send herself into an early grave? Season her stainless!

If you've never heard about seasoning your stainless steel pans, don't worry, we hadn’t either (and it's our job to know about this kind of stuff). But the process is painless, and pretty much the same as seasoning cast iron: Heat oil in the pan until it smokes and voila, stick-free pan.

Step 1: Start with a very clean pan

Before pan
Credit: / Jessica Teich

I hate you, stainless pan.

Wash and dry your pan very thoroughly. Make sure you really get in there and remove every last bit of food residue, or you’ll see where you failed later (like me!) in the form of a dark food stain.

Step 2: Fill your pan with oil

Pouring oil
Credit: / Jessica Teich

Pour enough oil into the pan to fully cover the bottom, and swirl to coat the edges. Make sure you use an oil with a high smoke point like sunflower, soybean, or peanut—regular olive or vegetable oil won't work here.

Step 3: Heat the oil until it smokes

Smoke point
Credit: / Jessica Teich

Now we're cookin' with... smoke.

Fire up your stove and heat up the pan mercilessly, swirling every now and then to coat the edges. Once the oil starts smoking, it's time to remove the pan from heat.

Step 4: Wipe down your pan

Credit: / Jessica Teich

Post-season. Notice the glossy sheen to the pan.

Wait for the pan and oil cool completely, then dump the oil and wipe out the pan with paper towels. You’ll notice a brown ring where the seasoning ends, and how much shinier the newly-seasoned portion is. You're now ready to cook with your au natural nonstick pan without need for any oil, butter, or grease. (Cue skeptical eyebrow raise.)

The results

After cooking egg
Credit: / Jessica Teich

Um, it worked. It worked, like, infomercial-well. I didn’t need a drop of oil, butter, or spray, and a fried egg slid right out of the pan without leaving a mark. I literally didn't even have to clean the pan when I was done, which is a dream come true for a dirty dish hater like me.

After pan
Credit: / Jessica Teich

This dark stain is a clear sign that I couldn’t get my pan completely clean from the mess of egg #1, but oh well, life goes on I guess.

Of course there’s a catch: You can't wash the seasoned pan with soap, or you'll remove the seasoning. Inevitably, the pan will eventually get gunked up enough that you'll have to wash it with soap, which will be the end of its nonstick properties. Luckily, re-seasoning stainless steel is a simple, quick process—albeit one that makes your house smell like a frialator. Just remember that between seasons, cleaning is a job for only hot water and paper towels.

Thanks to this experiment, I no longer hate stainless with the fiery passion I did just days ago. Seasoning has introduced me to a simple world filled with noncarcinogenic, clean, nonstick cooking and an excuse not to wash my pans! How can I be mad at that?