The Ultimate Guide to Stainless Steel Cookware
If you have used stainless steel cookware before, you know how awesome they can be. If you own a set, you probably have figured out some tips and tricks to using your collection at home with ease. If you have never used stainless steel, you might be curious about the all the hype.
Why does it seem all professional kitchens use stainless steel cookware? Watch any cooking show, and the common theme is stainless steel cookware throughout. Aside from how attractive stainless steel is, it is also incredibly durable.
At Sweetbriar Rose, we don’t just want to serve you delicious food, we want to encourage and help you prepare your own (for when you can’t visit us.) Of course, we would love to see you every Thursday through Sunday!
Why Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is one of the most common, if not THE most common, material in cookware. Stainless steel is durable and able to be used in high-heat settings, including stove-top, ovens, and broiling. It is also rust and scratch-resistant and very beautiful. There is nothing like a shiny set of stainless steel in your kitchen.
A cookware set made of stainless steel is generally good for searing and sautéing, as well. However, you do have to consider which type of stainless steel you are using. The bottom of the line stainless steel will not hold up well nor conduct heat well.
A benefit of stainless steel over cast-iron is that there should be no food reactions, specifically acidic reactions. Stainless steel can brown food and add flavor through the Maillard reaction (the chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavor) without the risk of reactions.
High-quality stainless steel cookware can also hold up to extremely high heat, often up to 500°F. Plus, as many lovers of stainless steel and convenience know, they are usually dishwasher safe. However, whether or not you should actually put them in the dishwasher is another story (more on that later).
If used properly, most food should not stick to stainless steel. While this type of cookware is not as simple to use as non-stick pans, stainless steel is an everyday option. If you have owned non-stick pans, even high-end ones, you know they have a relatively short life-span.
Types of Stainless Steel
Alone, stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat. This fact is the reason you will almost always see stainless steel combined with other more conductive materials, like aluminum or copper. These materials also increase the sturdiness of your pans.
When you start shopping for your own set of stainless steel pots and pans, you will notice several different types and descriptions.
The best and also the most expensive option. In fully-clad sets, the conductive material, also called the core, is not just across the bottom; it continues up the sides. This added conductive material significantly improves its function.
Fully-clad stainless steel provides the best heating ability with even heating and little food scorching. The best fully-clad, like All-Clad cookware, can behave like cast-iron they are so well-made.
Fully-clad cookware is the most expensive, however. They are also heavy, meaning a pot full of beef bourguignon will be challenging to transfer from the oven to the stove top.
In the middle tier, which is also the most common for household use, the conductive material is only added to the bottom of the pan. The sides of your cookware will only be stainless steel. So, rather than fully-clad, these sets are only bottom-clad.
If you are a “regular” or daily cook, you will likely be more than happy with this type of set. You will find very few, if any, hot spots. They heat well and also cost drastically less than fully-clad. In some cases, you will save $1,000 or more purchasing a reinforced base versus a fully-clad set.
However, food will stick more with reinforced base. Because the sides are not reinforced, this type of stainless steel isn’t the best for oven roasting.
If you come across a set with no reinforcement in the sides OR bottom, walk away. These are the cheapest sets you will find, and for a good reason. They are generally weakly constructed and are often incredibly hard to clean.
They are cheap, but they will not cook well. Stay away.
How to Buy Stainless Steel Cookware
When it comes to purchasing your own set, there are several things you will want to consider.
Handles: Are the handles welded or riveted? Do they feel sturdy? Is the pan balanced when you’re holding it?
Lids: Are they stainless steel or tempered glass? Do they fit snugly with the pots and pans?
Weight: This is a personal preference, but can you easily handle the pans?
Compatibility: Stainless steel is generally compatible with most types of stoves. However, if you have an induction range, look for magnetic stainless steel.
Using Stainless Steel
When using stainless steel cookware, you should never use a higher heat than MEDIUM. Often, low or medium-low heat is enough. It might take slightly longer than a higher temperature, but it will cook better and make clean up easier. Stainless steel and reinforced layers of aluminum and/or copper will heat evenly and hold the heat at your chosen level.
The most crucial step in using stainless steel is preheating the cookware before adding anything. Preheat your pot or pan to medium heat, then add your oil and allow it to heat up, as well. After the pan and oil are heated, then add your food. These steps should keep food from sticking.
However, please know that some things will inevitably stick, particularly proteins, like eggs. Having one or two good non-stick pans can be helpful for specific food items.
Something else to remember is that dry food sticks less than wet food. Pat dry your meats before cooking. If you are cooking vegetables, ensure they have been dried after washing. Moisture will increase the likelihood of a sticky mess at the end by bringing down the temperature of the oil.
Cold food will also stick more. Similar to moisture, cold foods will decrease the temperature of the oil, making food stick more likely.
Cleaning Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is generally easy to clean, assuming you used it correctly and at the right temperature. After use, a good scrub with warm soapy water using a non-abrasive sponge should be all you need.
However, sometimes, you will have to do more. If there are burned or crisp pieces of food or scorched areas, immediately boil a cup or two of water after use. While the water is boiling, use a wooden spoon to scrape or rub off any problematic areas.
As a last resort, a stainless steel cleaner, like Bar Keepers Friend, will work wonders. If you want to steer clear of chemicals, try using a baking soda paste. This method takes more elbow grease but should work.
While most stainless steel can go in the dishwasher, it might be wise to hand wash if you have the time and ability. Using a dishwasher will eventually lead to more scratches and abrasions on your cookware. While this will not harm your cookware, it is less attractive.
Visit Sweetbriar Rose
We hope you stop by Sweetbriar Rose Thursday through Sunday. We have beer, wine, coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and more. We also have live music on the patio on Saturdays! We hope to see you soon.