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Settle a longstanding feud in our household for me: is it safe to put pots and pans in the dishwasher?

Assume we have both stainless steel and various non-stick pans. Assume we have frypans, sauce-pots, and larger pots that would conceivably fit, but we're not talking about cast iron pans here, or bakeware. The answer may differ based on the type of pan specifically being used, but assume all boxes and manuals have been lost since we bought the pans and we don't know if it's rated for the dishwasher.

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What would be unsafe about it? You will shorten the life of pans made from some materials, and not others. There is neither a food safety problem here, nor the danger of a pan shattering in the dishwasher or something like that. –  rumtscho Jun 12 at 20:59
    
@rumtscho "unsafe" is probably a bad term, I mostly mean will it damage the cookware or shorten the life –  Yamikuronue Jun 12 at 22:40
    
I answered another question which was posted a few hours before yours when I logged on today, and the answer covers yours too: cooking.stackexchange.com/a/44827/4638. –  rumtscho Jun 12 at 22:47
    
Putting non-stick pans in a dishwasher mainly sounds like a huge waste of hot water, heat, and dishwasher soap to me. Non-stick pans will generally clean completely with a few swipes of a soapy brush and some hot water -- a fraction of the water, energy and soap a dishwasher uses. –  Carey Gregory Jun 13 at 3:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

There is no problem with putting either stainless steel or non-stick pans in the dishwasher in terms of their materials. However:

  • Non-stick pans are often better washed gently by hand without too much soap, so they retain a bit of oil. This helps them stay non-stick. You may note that a dishwashed non-stick pan is quite sticky the first time you use it after a wash.

  • Non-stick pans hold odours quite readily. Many dishwasher soaps are quite strongly scented, and this can be retained in the pan itself, and thus transferred to your food when it's heated up. I remember well a batch of marinara sauce with a noticeable lemon-fresh overtone!

  • Dishwashers knock everything around while they work. If your pans' handles are sturdy this shouldn't be an issue, but you can find that handles can loosen up after a few bouts in the dishwasher.

So, in summary, yes, you can put pots and pans in the dishwasher, with caution. Personally I put my Ikea stainless steel pans with welded handles in without a second thought, but I reserve my non-stick Tefals with bolted handles for hand-washing.

Go not to the Elves for advice, for they will say both no and yes

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I've had problems in particular with lids - my stainless set has a metal rim wrapped around glass, and dishwashing always manages to seep into the gap and get into the rim, which is nearly impossible to get back out. Handwashing avoids this problem. –  logophobe Jun 12 at 16:54
    
@logophobe you can cut small gaps in the metal rims to allow water to drain out, then there is no issue with dishwashing the pot/pan lids. In an ideal world, well designed sets would already have some kind of hole in the rim of course. –  Coxy Jun 13 at 3:06
    
@Coxy Agreed, but my point is that it's still a pain and the reason that I no longer put them in the dishwasher. This wasn't something I considered when buying the set, but it will be in future, and it may well be something to check when determining whether you want to put your set in the dishwasher. –  logophobe Jun 13 at 17:37

I've been under the impression that placing pots and pans in the dishwasher will reduce their lifetime. However true that may be, in the overall lifespan of the pots or pans the difference is negligible.

In my experience with non-stick pans, they will wear out from normal use before the dishwasher will wear them out. I usually replace my pans every 2 years depending on use with commercial ones. They're not super expensive to replace, and the convenience of having a good coating is worth it.

What's nice about non-stick, as the name implies, they're really easy to hand wash. As a result they're the last thing I'll put in the dishwasher, but if I'm swamped with things to clean then in they go!

Stainless Steel follows the same rule, hand wash preferred but dishwasher safe. I've had a stainless steel pan for 3+ years now and it's still going strong, handle is well attached and the surface is smooth to the touch. I reserve stainless steel for more heavy duty cooking, such as situations where I make a reduction sauce, foods that require even cooking or anything that could damage non-stick pans. While the dishwasher works, it does a poor job of cleaning the pan and dulls the finish.

What I also find with stainless steel pans is they need an occasional thorough cleaning to remove built up residue. One culprit of such residue is making hash browns at a high temperature--after 7 days in a row of this the pan will get a thin sticky gold buildup. A little bit of elbow grease and acid cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend will remove the majority of this buildup.

So in summary...

Non-stick: Dishwasher safe, hand wash preferred and easy to do. Replace when the coating starts to wear.

Stainless: Dishwasher safe, hand wash preferred and gets the pan cleaner. Occasionally clean thoroughly by hand with Bar Keepers Friend to regain stainless finish.

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The gold buildup is polymerized oil -- you're effectively seasoning the pan, like you would with a cast iron skillet. –  Joe Jun 12 at 19:46
    
Scrubbing your stainless pans with acid cleaner makes me cringe - stainless should be seasoned to prevent sticking just like cast iron –  Crake Jun 12 at 21:10

Depends on how you value your pans and the detergent you are using. If they are cheap and old, then toss them in the dishwasher. If they are expensive and new, it probably doesn't make sense to risk it. Lodge claims that over time the harsh detergents can cause spotting and discoloration in stainless cookware.

If you are specifically using stainless and non stick, I can't imagine you are saving much time by putting them in the dishwasher - assuming you are seasoning your stainless pans properly.

You can easily maintain a good seasoning on stainless steel frying pans so that they require nothing more than a rinse and an occasional (soap-free) wipe down after use. If your non-stick pans are in reasonable condition, this should be the case for them as well.

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