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Stainless Steel Cooking Tips and Tricks?

 
pollinator
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I'm finally taking the plunge that I should have taken long ago and transitioning away from nonstick pans. I've used my new stainless steel pans twice so far. The first time I burned the butter, and the second time ended with a stuck layer of oatmeal. This thread taught me how to clean the pot: https://permies.com/t/16354/kitchen/cooking-stainless-steel#143106

What are you other tips and advice for using stainless steel?
I did an internet search, but I would love more firsthand experience over the "Top 10 things to know" lists of the general internet.
 
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I have been using stainless steel almost all my life.  My mother had a set that I used as a kid.

Like the thread, you posted there are different qualities of stainless steel.

Mine are Revereware with the heavy bottoms.

I have one that I got after my mother-in-law passed away that has a copper bottom.

Depending on what I am cooking I like to have some water in the pan.

If I am browning meat I usually add just a small amount of water then let it come to a boil before adding the meat.

If I am warming something I use very low heat with the lid on.

Another trick that I use is if I am warming leftovers in a glass jar, I put the jar in the pan with cold water then heat the water and the jar.

It sounds like your heat was too high for melting or browning the butter.

For the stuck oatmeal, again the heat was too high or there was not enough liquid. Maybe it needed to be stirred more often.

I hope some of this is of value to you or one of our other members.
 
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When stainless steel is new, the inside surface is polished.  It's practically non-stick.  If you can keep it that way, then your life with this pot will be easier.

- no metal inside the pot.
- never add salt to cold water.
- never clean with anything firmer than your fingernail.

If it gets pitted or scratched, polish with baking soda and water mixed into a paste.  Or if it's very badly scratched, get some stainless steel polish and a buffer attachment for a drill or dremmal to get it back to a polished surface.  

I like to get stainless steel with a thick base so that the food is less likely to stick.

Other than keeping the inside smooth, I find it very easy to use.  Like any other cooking, use the lowest temperature needed to get the results you want, and try not to burn stuff inside the pan.  
 
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Our dog loves stuck oatmeal (we call it porridge). Keeps her happy for a good twenty minutes and pan is polished by the time she's finished.
 
pollinator
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You can season stainless like you would cast iron, as well. I have a stainless pan I use for my pancakes. I seasoned it once by heating oil in it, letting it cool, wiping it out. Since then, all I do to it is put three drops of canola oil in it after I'm done using it, but while it's still hot, and spread it around with a scrap of luffa to coat the whole inside. Then it's ready for the next use.

I think this would only work for some things, though. For stickier stuff, you might need to cook in oil. If you avoid oil, like I do, cook in water like Anne suggested. But if you cook something wet, you might need to reseaon. I have a different pan I use for everything other than pancakes, and I steam fry so no seasoning needed for that one.

Cooking at a lower temperature, as has been suggested, also really helps. Another trick is if you're frying something, don't move it until it's formed a crust on the bottom and realeases easily. If you nudge something and it doesn't move, it's not ready to flip or take out of the pan. If it burns before releasing, you need to cook at a lower heat
 
Nikki Roche
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Thank you all! Sounds like cooking at a lower temp will be my first step.
One of the pans is brand new, but the other is a hand-me-down with scratches and tiny knicks. I get now why that one sticks so much, besides the high temps.
 
pollinator
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I have an old frying pan made of stainless and everything would stick in it.   I was told to drop a bead of water into it....if it broke apart into many little droplets and dance around it was not ready.  When a water drop stayed together it was time to start cooking.  Has worked like a charm ever since.  
Apparently when heated the small pores open up in the steel, then after a little time they close back up and pan is ready.
Stainless is nice for clean cooking.
 
Nikki Roche
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It worked! I cooked oatmeal with zero sticking. I turned the heat down a little and stirred occasionally. Thanks for all of the advice!
 
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