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9 Mistakes You’re Making with Stainless Steel Cookware

Learn how to take care of stainless steel and avoid these top mistakes.

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Set of stainless pots and pan with glass lids on the white wooden backgroundMaxx-Studio/Shutterstock

Don’t ruin stainless steel cookware with incorrect cleaning

Stainless steel pots and pans are great for many reasons. I prefer mine for searing meat, as it leaves behind pieces of fond that are the perfect start to a pan sauce. They’ll also last forever, as long as you take good care of them. It’s surprisingly easy to make these mistakes that can shorten the lifespan of your pans, but don’t worry; we can help you fix that!

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Open dishwasher with clean dishes in the white kitchenLeszek Glasner/Shutterstock

You rely on the dishwasher


Most stainless steel pots and pans are dishwasher safe, but that doesn’t mean you should clean them that way! Long cycles and high-temperature water can damage the surface of pots and pans and loosen-up the handles. Make sure you know exactly how to load your dishwasher, too.

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Tableware in sink/Washing tableware in sink with waterSerdiukov/Shutterstock

You clean them before they’ve cooled

Exposing hot pots and pans to cold water is a great way to warp or crack the pan. The shock of the temperature difference also causes steam, which could burn your hands. Practice a little patience and let the pans cool down before attempting to clean them. Did you know that cast-iron cookware has special cleaning rules, too?

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The chef prepares spaghetti and pasta, salt water, against a dark backgroundAnton27/Shutterstock

You add salt to cold water


Many of our favorite pasta recipes call for seasoning the pasta water—it should be as salty as the sea—but recipes often fail to tell you when to add that salt. Always add your salt after the water has come to a boil to avoid pitting the surface of the pan, an irreversible condition.

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Hand holding stainless steel pan or wide pot on white backgroundBonNontawat/Shutterstock

You’re not removing calcium build-up


Depending on how hard your water is, it could take a week or a few months to notice those chalky white spots on your stainless cookware. These calcium build-ups not only look unseemly, but they can also encourage bacteria growth. Remove them by boiling a solution of 3/4 cup water and 1/4 cup vinegar in the pan. Once the pan cools, wash and dry them like normal. Use this tip for ridding water spots from dishes and glassware.

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Tomato sauce in pan. Top view wooden brown background; Shutterstock ID 1380828656; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHLucky_elephant/Shutterstock

You’ve overheating it


If you’ve noticed stains that can’t be removed (even with vigorous scrubbing) around the edges of your pan, you have overheated the pan. Gently scrub at the stains with vinegar, or use the pan to cook something like tomato sauce. The acidity in the tomatoes will help with the discoloration. If you use stainless steel cookware, you probably also have a cast iron skillet for things like burgers and sauces. These products can clean your pan fast.

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Drops of water on pan / saucepan stainless steel surface.Unconventional/Shutterstock

You’re not drying your pan

I have a confession to make: hand drying pots and pans is my least favorite kitchen task! Unfortunately, it’s the only way to remove those harmless water spots on stainless steel. It only takes a minute, but it makes a huge difference. Learn how to clean the rest of your kitchen one minute at a time.

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Two Filet Mignon Steaks Being Cooked on Hot Stainless Steel Skillet; Shutterstock ID 224139040; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): TOHAnna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

There are too many burnt bits on the pan

It’s hard to remove burnt bits on any pan, but stainless steel is particularly troublesome. Since food is more likely to stick to a cold pan, you can avoid the problem altogether by preheating your pans before cooking in them. If your pan is already burned, boil water in it to remove the burnt bits without the need for abrasive chemicals or scrubber brushes. If that doesn’t work, here’s our best solution for cleaning burnt food from a pan.

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Wash the frying pan on a dark marble background.iiiphevgeniy/Shutterstock

You’re using steel wool

Steel wool seems like a great way to remove stains and stubborn burnt bits, but it will also scratch the finish of your stainless steel pans. It may even void the warranty! So toss the stainless steel and wash your dishes the right way using nonabrasive sponges.

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Close up of stack of pan and dirty dishes with foam bubble sponge and running water from faucet in sinks at modern kitchen.Punyhong/Shutterstock

You’re using the wrong cleaner


If regular soap and water aren’t working, you might need to upgrade your cleaner. Bar Keepers Friend works wonders at getting out all kinds of hard-to-clean stains, tarnish, or mineral deposits on your cookware. Simply combine it with water to make a paste, rub it onto the stain and rinse it off after a minute. Easy, peasy! Even if you clean your pans religiously, chances are you might be making these 11 kitchen cleaning mistakes.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home