There’s always been some debate as to whether or not stainless steel pots and pans need to be seasoned. While cast iron and carbon steel cookware must be seasoned before cooking with them, it is not an essential step when cooking with stainless steel – one of the many advantages of stainless steel cookware.
Personally, I’ve never bothered to season my stainless steel pans but, full disclosure, if I’m planning on cooking something that is likely to stick and be hard to clean off, I’ll tend to use a non-stick frying pan for that job rather than my trusty stainless steel pans.
If you’re someone who avoids nonstick cookware and would rather cook everything in stainless steel, you’ll probably want to learn how to season your pans as it can be a good way to help prevent food from sticking.
Seasoning a pan gives it a very thin layer of coating on the cookware surface which creates a bit of a barrier between the food and the pan.
Seasoning is a pretty simple process that just requires some oil and a few easy steps. The process is the same whether you are seasoning a stainless steel frying pan, skillet or wok – you’ll just need a bit more oil to season a wok.
Here’s how it’s done:
To begin, clean the stainless steel pan thoroughly with soap/detergent and water. Using a dry towel or paper towel, pat dry the pan.
Preheat the empty pan on your stovetop over medium heat. This heating is said to help open up the “pores” of the stainless steel which will allow the oil used to season it to penetrate.
Once the pan is hot add up 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and continue to heat over medium heat.
Once it is hot enough to shimmer, tip the pan around to spread it all over the inside surface of your pan and use a thick wad of paper towel to spread evenly across every inch, taking care not to burn yourself.
Then, once the oil starts to smoke slightly, take the pan off the heat and allow it to cool.
Once cool, use a clean paper towel to wipe away all of the excess oil from the base and sides of your pan.
Why you should season your stainless steel pans:
As mentioned before, there is some debate as to whether it’s worth the effort of seasoning a stainless steel pan. Those in favor of seasoning stainless steel claim that the process helps to fill in pores in the metal with oil.
Filling these pores is said to create a smoother, more nonstick surface which of course would help to stop food from sticking to your stainless steel frying pan.
So, the people who are pro seasoning are usually those looking to make their stainless steel cookware a little less sticky and therefore easier to clean.
Those who don’t believe seasoning a stainless steel pan is worthwhile put forward the valid argument that oil will be used in the cooking process anyway so there is no need to coat the pan in oil beforehand.
Also, if you think about it, every time you wash your pan with detergent or soap you’ll be removing the oil from the pores. Therefore you would have to season your stainless steel pan or skillet every time you use it.
This could be a daunting prospect and might not seem worth the effort to many home cooks.
One way to look at it might be, if you’re planning on cooking something that might stick, like eggs, you might like to season your pan before you begin cooking.
If you’re cooking something more like a creamy sauce that is unlikely to stick, you would be well justified in not bothering to season your pan first.
Whatever you decide, if you do choose to season your stainless steel pans, at least now you know how easy the process is.