For chefs with strong opinions and a no-nonsense approach to cooking, stainless steel cookware is a popular choice. Prized for its resistance to staining, odors, and the transference of flavors, stainless steel cookware is a sound choice for any kitchen. It does require some special care, however, if you want to make the most of your pots and pans.
When it's new: Stainless steel is nonporous, so it won't affect the taste of the food you cook in it. Unlike cast iron, stainless steel cookware doesn't require seasoning for the optimum cooking experience, but you can season stainless steel cookware to make it more non-stick, if you desire. As with any new pots and pans, it's a good idea to thoroughly wash and dry it before the first use. Make sure to always dry stainless steel thoroughly, so hard water doesn't leave spots.
When you're cooking: To prevent food from sticking, add oil when the pan is still cold; heat the pan for just a minute or two before adding any food. Also important in cooking with stainless steel is remembering to heat water to a boil before adding salt; adding salt directly to the surface of the stainless steel can cause pitting or discolored spots to appear. Take care not to let oil get smoky; this is a sign that the pan is too hot, and the food will stick.
When cleaning it: A lot of cookware is dishwasher safe, but hand washing it will keep it looking newer. Use hot soapy water, rinse, and dry it thoroughly. Never soak stainless steel pots and pans, and never scrub it with steel wool or copper scrubbing pads. If you do have burnt food that is difficult to clean, fill the pot with water, add a tablespoon or two of baking soda, and bring it to boil. The burnt food should begin to float to the surface in a few minutes.
When there are streaks or marks: If your stainless steel pans develop streaks, you can remove them by scrubbing gently with club soda or a white vinegar and water mixture. Once the streaks are gone, wash the pans again with soap and water to remove any residue. Leaving your stainless steel pots and pans over high heat for too long can create a rainbow effect on the metal; while some enjoy this look or view it as a mark of seasoned pans, it can be removed with a paste made of mild abrasive cleaner, like Cameo or Bar Keeper's Friend.