I'm here to tell you how to keep your stainless pots clean, because I just got a brand new set of gorgeous stainless steel cookware with shiny copper bottoms, and I am obsessed. I didn't use them for a week after getting them because I was scared to death to get them mucked up, blackened, or stained. I was worried for good reason, too, because that happened the first time I used my new skillet! If you frequently cook with stainless steel and worry about marring your pretty pots, stop – I've got everything you need to know about how to keep your stainless pots clean, too!
1. No High Heat
With stainless steel, you don't need high heat. This is also true for stainless steel cookware with copper bottoms or copper cookware. Trust me, I learned the hard way. The point is, these pots and pans are hardcore. When they get hot, they get really hot, and they heat evenly. If you try to cook your food with the burner turned up to 8, you run the risk of scorching your pots inside or on the bottoms, plus you'll end up with stains from the food. Learning how to keep your stainless pots clean first involves sticking to steady heat, so keep it somewhere between 3 and 5.
2. Cool It down
Do not, I repeat, do not stick your pots in the sink or rinse them out while they're still hot. You may read conflicting advice on this, but I'm telling you firsthand. Actually, my dad did this after making eggs, and the skillet ended up with little dark spots, dotted all over the bottom and sides. I nearly flipped. Then, as we do in my family, we read the care instructions after the fact, and discovered that it's much, much better to give your pots and pans time to cool before rinsing them out. Above all else, never, ever rise hot pans with cool water. Just give it some time!
3. Soak, Soak, Soak
After your pots are cool, it's time to rinse. Go ahead and spray or gently scrape out any lingering foods, sauces, or oils. If everything comes out clean, fill up the pan or pot with warm water and dish soap. If there's any remaining debris, go ahead and use hot water instead.
4. Get Liberal with Lemon Juice
Lemon juice will remove pretty much any stain from stainless steel cookware. It's worked wonders for mine thus far, so I always have a huge bottle on hand! If those stains are particularly stubborn, cover the bottom of the pot with lemon juice – or more if the stains continue up the sides. Let it soak for as long as you need – sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes overnight is best. You may need to scrub the stains every once in a while, to see how things are progressing, but your pots will come clean. I promise. If you still have problem, you can either use a steel specific cleanser or water and vinegar, which you boil in the pot.
5. Avoid the Dishwasher
You'll hear and read that it's just fine to put your stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher. Don't! Having only recently gotten my own dishwasher, which I worship every day of my life, I know what a bummer that is. However, if you want to keep your cookware in good condition, so that it looks and cooks great, then spending a little extra time on the cleaning process is worth the sacrifice. They'll just get scratched and beaten around in the dishwasher, plus you'll have to deal with water spots. By the way, always thoroughly dry your cookware – those spots get icky!
6. Break out the Baking Soda
I haven't had to use this yet because the lemon juice hasn't failed me yet, but you can also clean stubborn spots and stains with baking soda. This will also restore shine. All you have to do is get your pots totally dry, then pour in the baking soda and scrub. Whenever you scrub your cookware, use a gentle pad, such as something covered in netting or a soft sponge. Never use anything made of metal, like steel wool cleaning pads.
7. Cook Them Clean
Finally, if those stains just won't come out, you can actually cook it away. The vinegar trick – 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar – works well, or you can simply use enough water to cover all the stains or burned on food. Once the water boils, throw in some salt, kill the heat, and let this mixture soak in the pot for a few hours.
Your pots will get dirty. If you cook a variety of foods, you'll have to deal with spots, scorched or black bottoms, and other awful imperfections. You might be saying, “Well duh, Lyndsie, stop trying to keep your pots perfect!” If you display your cookware, though, as I do, and want to keep it in great condition for years to come, high quality care is important – but these techniques work every time! Finish them up with polish if you like, although it probably won't be necessary. Do you have any other tricks for keeping cookware spotless?