Stainless steel is a beautiful metal alloy made from chromium, nickel and steel (steel is composed of carbon & iron). A long lasting metal, it resists corrosion & bacteria. Stainless steel is heat tolerant, easy to care for and can be made into anything. It's the metal of choice in commercial kitchens because entire countertops can be fashioned out of it in one seamless piece. There is no space for bacteria or dirt to hide. For the home, stainless steel can certainly be used for countertops or even cabinets (if you like a modern/commercial look). Generally, consumers tend to opt for stainless when it comes to appliances, flatware, cooking tools and cookware. Although the material is resistant to stains and corrosion, it is susceptible to scratches (these can take on a patina), fingerprints, dents, water stains and pitting. Caring for stainless steel isn't too difficult.
Countertops, Cabinets, Appliances & Sinks:
- Never use chlorine bleach on these items or they will pit. A soft cloth with some warm water & a mild dish soap is all that's needed to keep them clean.
- A commercial stainless steel cleaner (available at supermarkets & hardware stores) can be used with great success and is great for tackling fingerprints, which are almost always inevitable.
- Scratches will occur, but can be softened with a gentle abrasive sponge (you should always clean with the grain). For me, scratches are not a problem because they develop a patina over time.
Flatware & Cook's Tools:
- These come in 18/10, 18/8 or 18/0 Stainless Steel, which tell you the composition of the item. The first number gives you the amount of chromium (chromium is added to steel to reduce corrosion & staining). The next number gives you the amount of nickel (nickel provides shine & gleam; the higher the number, the better the quality).
- These items are dishwasher safe. The only thing to remember is not to soak them for long periods of time & never mix them in the dishwasher with silver items. This will cause irreversible damage to both the silver & the stainless steel.
Pots & Pans:
- These too are dishwasher safe (as long as they don't have a nonstick coating) or can be washed by hand. One thing that I recommend is drying your items by hand with a soft cloth. This will prevent water stains. If however, you find your pots with "heat marks" from your burners or the imprints of food or liquid on both the inside and outside, I highly recommend using a mild cleanser. Let me show you what I do.
- Here's a list of Essential Pots & Pans.
This is all I need to keep my pots & pans looking their best. I love using Bar Keepers Friend powder because, not only is it recommended by All Clad, it actually works! A good sponge with a gentle abrasive (non-scratching) side, some rubber gloves & a few absorbent cotton towels is what you want to have.
This 2 qt. sauce pan was used repeatedly before I actually decided to polish it. The bottom was left with a bit of discoloring (this is harmless & sometimes I let it go for days before tackling it) from constant use.
I always wet my pot or pan completely before sprinkling any powder. I leave a small pool of water at the base of the pot to create a paste. Always wear rubber gloves!
Using the soft side of your sponge, begin cleaning with the grain of the stainless steel, getting all around the walls & base of your pan. If you need to add more powder make sure there is still water in the pot. Rinse thoroughly under hot water when you're done.
The outside of these pots are polished to a mirror finish, so I'm even more gentle. I sprinkle the powder directly onto the wet sponge & dissolve it. Although scratches are almost always inevitable, I want to reduce the amount of them by not applying dry powder directly to the outside surface. Make sure the outside of your pot is wet; don't apply powder to a dry pot.
Clean the outside gently with the soft side of your sponge. When you're done, rinse thoroughly under hot water.
Using your soft, absorbent dish towel, dry thoroughly.
This pot looks much better with a clean interior.
Having clean stainless steel isn't difficult. I love the timeless look of cleanliness that this metal brings to a home. One of the beautiful things about stainless steel is that you can have it in a mirrored or polished finish. Shop around and decide what you want. Although my pots & pans have a mirrored finish and look flawless, they do have many scratches. It's only evident when you examine them up closely under the light. I don't mind scratches. To me it just a reminder that I'm a cook. Cheers!