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I have a set of stainless steel frying pans. They are Emeril Lagasse brand which at some point was mentioned to be made by all-clad. I don't believe they are of particularly high quality but seem to be fine. They have a "copper core" with stainless steel making the remaining components.

When I cook just about anything, such as pan frying bratwurst/sausages, making chicken piccata, or caramelizing onions - the end result is always the same. The pan develops a golden brown residue. It could be called a crust of oil, fond, or just burned residue. It is possible to remove it completely by scrubbing with bar keepers friend and a rag for ~20 minutes of elbow grease.

Note that I am using a fairly robust gas stovetop at medium-high to high heat for these tasks. I usually am using 1tsp-1tbsp of EVOO, added after the pan gets up to temp and before adding the meat/vegetables.

Is it expected that using a stainless steel fry pan will result in this residue? Or is my technique off?

Image of what my pans will look like after using them once (somewhat severe outcome): enter image description here

Image of what my pans will look like after using them once (somewhat mild outcome): enter image description here

Image of what I can clean the pans to look like after bar keepers friend: enter image description here

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  • Highly related, maybe even duplicate: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/22855/… – rumtscho Jan 24 at 21:21
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    Does this answer your question? How to remove film from stainless steel pan – AMtwo Jan 24 at 22:46
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    As noted in the question, I know how to remove it. Bar keepers friend works just fine for me. I’m not interested in how to remove it, rather I am interested in if my technique is causing it or something else. – dpollitt Jan 24 at 23:22
  • It's not a dupe. OP already knows how to clean it off. Question is "Is this expected?" Answer… Yes. (See below for differing opinions on whether that's worth the effort;) – Tetsujin Jan 25 at 11:05
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I use stainless daily, and they are pans I have had for almost 20 years. The outside of my pans look like crap, but the inside looks like your final pic. My tips are: (1) Reduce your heat a bit when you can, as high heat will polymerize the oils in your pan, creating the coating that is difficult to clean. (2) Make sure you are using proper cooking techniques, particularly when it comes to using the correct pan for the job, and deglazing. Also, your pan does not have to be smoking hot before you add oil or ingredients. Be gentle. (3) Clean pans right after use, and when you see a hint of polymerized oil (the brown haze) work hard to get it off (it's actually not so hard...just takes some effort, and sometimes some scouring powder and/or pad). Any residue you leave behind will worsen with time.

The pans pictured can certainly be cleaned up. It will now take some elbow grease, but it would be in your best interest. Use a scouring powder with just enough water to make it a paste. Let it sit on there a while, then scrub with a scouring pad.

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    I see comments below stating that you have to "live with the residue." I don't find this to be the case at all. On occasion, I really have to work at cleaning, for example, if I am pan frying a protein, and have to repeat batches. Otherwise, it is not that difficult to avoid polymerizing the oils...or cleaning them when you catch it early enough. You can fry in cast iron or carbon steel...I have those as well, they come with their own needs for up-keep. Of course, you could just use non-stick, which you probably could wipe clean, but there are temp restrictions with that material. – moscafj Jan 24 at 22:53
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That's stainless steel for you.
Opinions may vary, but mine has always been, "don't fry in stainless"… or if you do, be prepared for this constant battle to keep it clean.

The 'problem' with stainless steel is that when they invented it, they chose the wrong name. It's a perception issue based on that naming. It won't rust* or tarnish , but by heck things will stick to it. Burned-on frying, hard water residue, you name it, it will stick…

*so long as you don't put it in a dishwasher with anything that's already rusted… otherwise it too will rust.

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  • Thank you this is valuable info. If the answer is "this is expected" (as you suggest), that is just fine with me - I just wasn't sure. Follow up question - what do I fry and/or sear in if not stainless steel? Cast iron? – dpollitt Jan 24 at 19:05
  • Good non-stick, 'teflon' but not the cheap stuff. It doesn't last forever, though, you have to replace it every year or three (or ten… you make the call) when it does start to stick. Cast iron will last forever but will never be as non-stick as 'teflon'. – Tetsujin Jan 24 at 19:10
  • @dpollitt you can fry in whatever you like. All options have both advantages and disadvantages, so you just have to choose what you are prepared to live with. Frying with stainless steel is also perfectly fine, you just have to live with the residue (or the time needed to remove it). – rumtscho Jan 24 at 21:23
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    I’ve been frying in stainless steel for the past decade. None of my frying pans have ever gone like that. The closest I got was when I had a pan far too hot before throwing in backstrap of venison. Nor does food stick to them. – Spagirl Jan 25 at 2:09

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