The Telltale Sign You've Overheated Your Stainless Steel Pan

Stainless steel pans are the ideal cooking tool for many meals from sauces to stews. They are also beloved for their ability to achieve a perfect sear on meat, which won't take on the same kind of crispy crust if cooked in a nonstick pan. And unlike cast iron, stainless steel doesn't need to be seasoned and can be cleaned with soap just like you would clean a nonstick pan. They also don't run the same kind of health risks often attributed to the Teflon coating on nonstick pans, per Healthline.

They are incredibly durable, usually oven-safe with metal handles, and can be used at high heat without the threat of damage to the pan. But while nonstick pans are covered in a slick coating that keeps food scraps from digging in their heels and embedding themselves into the metal surface, stainless steel pans aren't equipped with this, which can expose them to tenacious stains that would frustrate even the friendliest of home cooks. When food is burnt onto your pan and you can't get rid of it even with forceful scrubbing, this is also a clear indicator you've overheated it. 

How to get stains out of stainless steel

Anyone who has ever used a stainless steel pan knows that its name is a bit euphemistic. Stainless steel pans in fact stain quite easily, especially when used at high heat. Without a protective barrier, burnt bits of fat will adhere to the pan's surface, which refuses to budge when attacked with your everyday sponge or scrubber. While there are a number of commercial non-abrasive stainless-steel cleaners on the market designed just for this task, you can also get the job done with products you already have in your kitchen. 

For mild stains, a mixture of equal parts dish soap and baking soda applied with a microfiber cloth should do the trick. But for dark stains that appear to not be going anywhere, apply white or apple cider vinegar to the pan and scrub along the grain of the steel. You can even combine these methods by soaking a towel in boiled vinegar and letting the towel rest on the stain for 30 minutes, before sprinkling the stain with baking soda and scrubbing it away. Just be sure to avoid abrasive cleaners like steel wool, which can ruin the finish on a stainless steel pan. If you don't feel like scrubbing, another trick is to use the same stainless steel pan to cook something acidic like tomato sauce, which will help dissolve the stain.