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 background

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!

Plus: Learn how to polish your stainless steel sink with stuff you already have in your pantry.

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Open dishwasher with clean dishes in the white kitchen
Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock

Mistake #1: Relying 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.

Psst! Learn the reason why you should opt for the dishwasher (if you can!) for cleaning every day glasses and dishes.

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Tableware in sink/Washing tableware in sink with water

Mistake #2: Cleaning 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 background

Mistake #3: Adding 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.

Did you know stainless steel also makes a great backsplash?

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Hand holding stainless steel pan or wide pot on white background

Mistake #4: 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.

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

Mistake #5: You’ve overheated 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.

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Drops of water on pan / saucepan stainless steel surface.

Mistake #6: 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): TOH
Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock

Mistake #7: 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.

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Wash the frying pan on a dark marble background.

Mistake #8: 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!

Stainless steel is also a common appliance finish. Learn the pros and cons of stainless steel appliances here.

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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.

Mistake #9: 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!

Note: Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and a food writer. After graduating from Cascade Culinary school, Lindsay became the Executive Chef at Jackson's Corner in Bend, OR, from 2013 to 2016. Her genuine passion for food and sustainable food practices led her to find the farmer in herself. She lives in Durango, CO, where she enjoys the trials and errors of small plot farming. Lindsay is currently working on a cookbook that teaches home cooks how to craft beautiful meals without a recipe, tentatively titled "The Art of Bricolage: Cultivating Confidence and Creativity in the Kitchen."