Your Guide To Cooking With Stainless Steel

Cooking with stainless steel cookware

When you are cooking and need high temperatures to brown meats or cook the perfect steak, cooking with Stainless steel is one of the best options for you.

All most all nonstick pans are unable to be heated to the temperature that you need for your food to be browned. In some cases, the nonstick pans will burn off their coating causing potentially harmful fumes

Cooking with stainless steel cookware is far more versatile and durable than nonstick and so will last longer if used correctly.

Stainless steel cookware is non-reactive and so you will not get the same “leeching” as you do with reactive materials such as aluminum.

This guide will show you how to cook with stainless steel

Why food does not stick to hot stainless steel pans?

Your food sticks to your pan because of a chemical bond forms between the metal and the food. Proteins(Your meats)are particularly prone to this as these bonds are quite strong.

When you have heated up the pan and the oil on adding the food (let’s say a nice juicy rump steak) the hot oil sears the steak, this is done at the temperature that is well above the boiling point of water and so steam escapes from the superheated steak surface. This forces the steak to lift off the surface so that nothing is actually touching and the opportunity for chemical bonding to occurs is eliminated.

Getting this right is the tricky bit. That sizzling sound that you hear is the steam escaping(water vaporizing on the surface of the oil). When that stops the temperature of the meat will shoot up and you should take care not to burn the food.

This browning will take place at about 285F and is known as the Maillard reaction . This is the same reaction that is used to caramelize food and gives you those delicious flavors that you get with roast meats

Tips for preventing food from sticking to the pan

Make sure the pan surface is clean – If there are food particles already on there then there will act as something for the food to stick on. Read here on how to clean stainless steel Cookware

Make sure the food surface is dry and not too cold – It is a good idea to let food warm up to room temperature if possible before cooking it as well as making sure that it is dry from any liquid as both of these factors will cool the oil down and potentially cause sticking.

What happens if the stainless steel pan you are cooking with gets too hot? This is something that can easily happen. While it does not usually damage the pan it is a pain to clean properly. Read here to learn how to clean a burnt or scorched pan

How to tell if the pan is hot enough so that your food want stick.

There are two methods for this, the first one is the one that I use.

  • Flick a few small drops of water onto the pan when you think that it is hot enough if the droplets vaporize immediately or the larger drops of water hiss and float across the pan then it is ready to go. (This is called the Leidenfrost effect)
  • Adding oil to a hot pan it will heat up fast and the oil will ripple and run very quickly over the pan. If you overheat the pan the oil will start to smoke. You want to get the food in ideally just before this happens.

Depending on the quality of the pan, stainless steel will heat up very fast and distribute the heat evenly over the base so that there are no hotspots on the pan that will burn food.

If you cook like this you will taste the difference to your food. This browning effect is something that you cannot achieve using the normal run-of-the-mill nonstick pans. Using stainless steel cookware will take your skills up a notch, there will be a little bit of trial and error but that will pass and before you know it you will be doing it like the pros.

What quality stainless steel should you be suing to cook with?

When it comes to the quality of stainless steel, really you will need to be using the best that you can afford.

If you are using stainless steel with a label of 18/10 (chromium steel/nickel steel)then this is the best type and you are doing good.

Another important factor to take into account is the base of the cookware. It is best to select a model with a 3 ply base. This means that they have either copper or aluminum bases “sandwiched” together so that the heat transfer is super fast and even.

It is also a good idea to look for pans that have stainless steel handles, that are riveted to the pan, you can use these in the oven as well opening up a whole different level of cooking.

Is stainless steel induction ready?

There will be some stainless steel cookware that is not induction ready. Again with Stainless steel a lot of this will come down to quality, the better the quality the better over-all usability of the cookware including use for induction. Higher quality stainless steel will have nickel in it which works well with induction cookware, we have more of this here in this article.

Most reasonable quality stainless steel cookware will tell you if it is induction ready, you can also do the magnet trick if you have a magnet handy. If it sticks you are good to go.

What utensils to use with stainless steel cookware?

Kitchen Utensils for stainless steel cookware

This is a really easy one to answer. You can use anything on it. Unlike the nonstick pots and pans the surface of the pots and pans is basically steel and so is very robust and scratch proof. As with most things stainless steel, the better the pot or pan the more resistant it is going to be.

Make sure that you are using utensils that are more heat resistant as you will be cooking at higher temperatures. You can still damage these so don’t go round treating them badly just because they are more robust.

In conclusion

Cooking with stainless steel is a little different to what you may be used to when you are cooking with your normal nonstick cookware. I am sure that after a little bit of research and experimenting you will begin to really appreciate the benefits of cooking with stainless steel cookware. While some of the cookware sets can be a little bit expensive you are investing in something that will last a long long time if looked after.

Extra Reading

inks to sites that give more information on the topics that we have covered here.

Why food sticks to stainless pans

How To Sear Meat Properly

Healthy Cookware Guide

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