How to Season Stainless Steel Pans

Super durable, non-reactive and great heat distribution – stainless steel pans can be a delight to cook with. Unfortunately for many cooks they have a significant drawback: food sticks to them. This can make them a real nightmare to clean and can put some people off using them altogether. By learning how to season stainless steel pans you can get rid of this problem and enjoy their many benefits.

Why is it Important to Season a Stainless Steel Pan?

The reason food, especially proteins, sticks to stainless steel cookware is that the surface is filled with tiny pores. Seasoning creates a protective surface that covers these imperfections. This surface helps to give nonstick qualities to stainless steel pans.

Because of this, a seasoned stainless steel pan is perfect for anyone who worries about the toxicity of some nonstick cookware. The layer of seasoning gives many of the benefits of nonstick pans without the health concerns associated with PFOA or PTFE.

Finally, as food doesn’t stick so easily a properly seasoned pan is much easier to clean. In most cases you’ll simply need to rinse off any food and dry your pan with a towel.

Is Seasoning Stainless Steel Pans Essential?

The short answer is no. One of the most attractive things about stainless steel cookware is its resilience. You can cook anything in these pans without causing any real damage. Cookware made from cast iron, which can rust as well as reacting with acidic foods such as tomatoes, should always be seasoned to prolong its lifespan. On the contrary, as long as they’re well looked after stainless steel pans can last for years without a layer of seasoning.

However, even though it’s not essential we think you’re doing yourself a big favor by taking the time to occasionally season your stainless steel pans. The benefits listed above are well worth it. There is also no real downside to applying seasoning.

Do you Need to Season New Stainless Steel Pans?

Unlike cookware sold as nonstick, or some new cast iron pans, stainless steel pans are rarely sold with any pre-seasoning. Because of this it is important to season new stainless steel cookware if you want a nonstick layer.

What You Need

  • Scouring brush
  • Dish Soap
  • Clean towel
  • Oil (see more information below)
  • Paper towels

What is the best oil to season stainless steel pans?

When choosing an oil, the most important thing to consider is the smoking point. Because the process of seasoning involves applying a high level of heat, you want to avoid choosing an oil with a low smoking point which will fill your kitchen with thick black smoke.

Oils with a high smoking point will tolerate the heat much better and stick to the pan more effectively. This helps to ensure the seasoning lasts longer.

We recommend using canola, peanut or vegetable oil to season your pan.

To learn the smoking point of the oil you’d like to use, we recommend checking out this handy table.

How to Season a Stainless Steel Pan

Step 1: Thoroughly Clean Your Pan

To begin with you need to make sure that your pan is completely clean. This will make sure that any aromas or food debris are cleared from the pan and won’t prevent the oil from creating a smooth surface on the pan.

Wash your pan in warm water and use dish soap to scrub the inside and outside with a scouring brush. Depending on the condition of you pan you may need to put in a bit of elbow grease to scrub off any stubborn debris. Rinse off and thoroughly dry with a clean towel. Be sure that there are no water droplets still in the pan as they can interfere with seasoning process.

If your pan is badly stained and needs a thorough clean, check out our article on how to clean stainless steel cookware.

Step 2: Add Oil

Pour two tablespoons of your chosen cooking oil on to the pan. Take a clean paper towel and gently rub the oil into the surface of the pan. Make sure that the whole inside of the pan is evenly coated and that there are no spots that appear to have more oil than others.

Step 3: Heat Your Pan

Place your pan on the stove over a high heat and leave until the oil begins to smoke. Once the oil starts smoking, turn off the heat and remove your pan from the stove.

Step 4: Allow Your Pan to Cool

Leave the pan to stand for as long as it takes to cool down – this could take as long as 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, use a paper towel to wipe the surface of the pan and clear away any excess oil.

Caring For Your Stainless Steel Pan

Whilst seasoning will make food less likely to stick to your pan, it is still recommended that you use some oil when cooking. It doesn’t have to be much, but this will help to prolong the length of time the seasoning lasts.

How Should You Clean a Seasoned Stainless Steel Pan?

Cleaning seasoned stainless steel pans is an easier job than cleaning ‘regular’ stainless steel. You’re much less likely to have to worry about tackling burnt on grease and food build up, as food shouldn’t be sticking during cooking.

To make sure that the seasoning lasts, don’t thoroughly wash your pan after each use. This means steering clear of using detergents and only using very small amounts of soap when necessary. It goes without saying that you should also avoid placing your pan in the dishwasher as this will eradicate the seasoning. Lastly don’t use any rough cleaning implements like steel wool as this will scratch away the seasoning.

To keep your seasoned pan looking clean after cooking, simply allow it to cool and rinse in warm water. Use a dry cloth to gently wipe away any food that remains in the pan.

If you are starting to notice food and grease sticking to the pan, it’s likely time to re-season and recreate the nonstick layer.

How Often Do You Need to Re-Season a Stainless Steel Pan?

You certainly don’t need to re-season your pan every time you use it. By following the care instructions above the seasoning should last for some time. However you will eventually notice that food starts to stick to the pan more often than before. Depending on how often you use your pan, and what you cook in it, you may need to re-season as often as once a month or as little as once a year.

To re-season your stainless steel plan, simply clean it thoroughly and repeat the seasoning process.