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After I sear a steak the exterior sides and bottom of my stainless steel pan get coated with what looks like burned oil.

I usually let it cool down, then fill with the soapy water for overnight soaking. Only to find all the exterior stained in the morning.

I am puzzled how that happens: I’m using a splatter screen and while cooking the exterior does not seem dirty.

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The blackening on the exterior of your pan begins with the polymerization of oils, which sometimes spill over, but often times collect there as a result of being aerosolized while you are cooking. This happens whether or not use use a splash screen. To have any luck cleaning this, you have to get it right after cooking, and you have to work at it quite a bit with an abrasive cleaner. When it first appears, if you catch it before burning, it is usually brown. After a couple of uses (or high heat, long enough) it will blacken and be even more difficult to remove. Some folks like a shiny exterior and will work at this diligently after each use. Personally, I don't give the exterior of my pans much attention. For the stainless ones, the inside is shiny and clean, the exterior is black and not so pretty to look at. I don't find it impacts the functionality at all.

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Every so often I have a go at my pans' exteriors. [Mostly I don't bother but sometimes a bit of OCD kicks in]

Barkeeper's Friend, either a Brillo [steel wool pad] or if you don't want scratches several melamine sponges… plus two hours of scrubbing. Scraping at heavier bits with a fingernail helps.

Alternatively, for uncoated pans like stainless steel, a good oven cleaner, left to soak for four hours or so [don't let it dry out]. Periodically scrape or brush with your dish wash brush & re-apply.

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  • Is carbon stainless steel any easier to maintain? Or any other kind, or even with glazed / coated exterior?
    – Kentzo
    Aug 5 at 16:03
  • They're all as hard to keep clean - the hardest, though, are the ones whose surface can be damaged by harsh cleaners. The burnt-on matter is the same in all cases.
    – unlisted
    Aug 5 at 16:38

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