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How to Break in a Stainless Steel Frying Pan

by Catherine Amo
Published March 24, 2010 | Updated March 17, 2015

Unlike cast-iron fry pans, stainless steel fry pans do not need to be seasoned before use; and unlike nonstick fry pans, you will need to use oil to avoid food sticking to the surface of your stainless steel fry pan and even then, some food will still stick. While these facts might seem like disadvantages, they're actually the reasons why many cooks prefer to use stainless steel fry pans. High-quality stainless steel cookware may not be the best for cooking things like eggs, but for the most flavorful searing of fish, meat, and vegetables, stainless steel fry pans are unrivaled. The following steps will teach you how break in your stainless steel fry pan before each use.

Breaking in Your Pan:

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  1. Wash the fry pan to remove any manufacturing oils and polish.

    Use a sponge or a washcloth to wash the fry pan with hot water and dish soap. Bleach, ammonia, iron sponges, and other abrasives will scratch the surface of your stainless steel fry pan.

  2. Rinse the fry pan.

    Use clean, hot water to rinse all soapy residue from the fry pan.

  3. Dry the pan immediately.

    Use a soft dishtowel to prevent water spots from forming.

  4. Heat your fry pan on the stove using a low heat setting.

    Heat the pan for about a minute before adding oil, butter, cooking spray, or shortening. Make sure the pan is well-coated in oil before adding food to the pan. Do not add salt directly to a stainless steel fry pan. Unmediated salt will form white dots that will mar the surface of the fry pan. Add salt to your cooking only with liquid or food. Once you have added salt, mix it into the food or sauce quickly with a spoon.

  5. Brown the food before flipping.

    When cooking with a stainless steel fry pan, be prepared for the food to "grip" the pan. Many foods will release their grip on the pan only when they're properly browned and ready to be flipped. Attempting to flip a pancake or a fillet of fish before it is ready will result in a stuck-on layer of food. It may take some trial and error before you know your pan well enough to get perfect results every time. Caramelized juices and small bits of stuck-on food are called "fond" and are excellent for making delicious pan sauces and flavoring.

  6. Wash the fry pan thoroughly after cooking.

    Reheating the pan while it still contains stuck-on food or oil residue will cause discoloration.