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Chef Suggestions: 5 Things to Avoid When Cooking with Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cookware is great for cooking a wide variety of foods, and the material is virtually indestructible as long as you follow a few hard and fast rules. Not many people realize that you can damage stainless steel cookware. Fail to follow the tips below, and you could end up with a discolored, warped, sticky pan that will only serve to frustrate you every time you attempt to cook with it.

So, without further ado, here are several things you should avoid when cooking with stainless steel.

1. Don’t Let an Empty Pan Sit on a Hot Burner for too Long

You can purchase the best stainless-steel cookware sets money can buy and it won’t matter if you’re in the habit of letting an empty pot sit on a hot burner for too long. Of course, you’ll want to preheat your pan for searing and sauteing, but don’t let it heat for too long as the prolonged exposure to high heat can cause discolorations in the metal that won’t be easy to remove.

On this same note, avoid letting oil heat for too long in a stainless-steel pan. The longer oil heats on the stove, the more it breaks down, creating a sticky residue on the food and cookware. Over time, this gummy residue builds up and destroys the non-stick nature of your pan.

2. Never Use Stainless Steel Pans on a Grill or in a Microwave

We all know not to put metal objects in a microwave, right? Using stainless steel in a microwave can cause sparks or even a fire, so don’t do it.

As for the grill, stainless steel cookware is not recommended. Technically, stainless steel pans can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees, but grills can get hotter than that, so it’s not a good idea to take a chance cooking on one with your stainless-steel pans.

3. Ditch the Cooking Sprays

Cooking sprays are great for non-stick cooking, but when it comes to stainless steel cookware (or most types of cookware, for that matter) cooking sprays can leave a sticky residue that’s difficult to clean, thus building up over time and damaging the pan.

If you must use something, opt for oil or butter instead, and keep our first tip in mind to avoid preheating the fats too much.

4. Don’t Add Salt to the Water too Soon

Ask any chef and they’ll all agree that you should salt your water generously when cooking things like pasta and vegetables. Did you know, however, that there’s a right time and a wrong time to add salt?

Adding salt to cold water allows the crystals to fall to the bottom of the pan where they can cause corrosion (also called salt pitting) before they dissolve. This destroys the shiny finish of a stainless-steel pan. To avoid this, wait until the water is boiling before adding salt. This will ensure the salt dissolves before it can hit the bottom of the pan.

5. Don’t Cut Food in the Pan

Whether you just want to check for doneness or cut the food into smaller pieces, don’t do it in a stainless-steel pan. You run the risk of scarring the pan or damaging your knife, neither of which is a desirable outcome. Instead, move the food to a cutting board, cut it, then put it back in the pan if necessary.

Stainless steel cookware sets are great for cooking all kinds of things, and they can last a lifetime if treated right. Follow the tips outlined above to keep your stainless steel pots and pans in good condition.

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