While trendy eco-friendly coated pans and great-grandma’s famous cornbread skillet may get a lot of attention these days, it’s time to reconsider cooking with stainless steel —high-quality stainless steel — when you’re shopping for kitchen gear. High-quality meaning not the pan that came with your pre-boxed college dorm kitchen survival set. Nothing you can dent, really.
Longstanding cookware brand Hammer Stahl’s seven-ply pans — that’s right, seven bonded layers of steel — just may shift your view of stainless steel cookware irrevocably. Non-stick enthusiasts and cast-iron purists alike may consider investing in what can, when used to its fullest potential, be one of the most important tools in your kitchen.
We asked Bobby Griggs, VP of sales and marketing at Hammer Stahl for insider tips. He’s a culinary wiz and lifelong stainless steel devotee, and is all about the advantages of cooking with this versatile material. We left our chat with a renewed appreciation for the art of the sear, and a few other valuable lessons.
Use Your Phone. No, Seriously, Use It.
Griggs: When I’m making a steaks or protein, I’m using the timer on my phone, I really am. Otherwise, I’ll pick up my tongs and do something stupid. It’s another way to keep you in line. I don’t touch it, I don’t cover it, I don’t bother it, I sear it, I turn it, I sear it, then I pull it off, Let it rest for 20 minutes, put under a broiler at super-high heat and serve.
Titanium Matters — Scale Up
We use a 316 TI interior stainless steel. Most folks use 304. 304 is fine, 316 is the next level up. It’s a titanium that’s been enhanced to bond all the alloys and lock it in together. What it does is act as an inert stable surface — it’s highly non-porous. It gets super-hot and heats evenly so you’ll get an incredibly even sear.
Look, I like cast-iron, nothing against it, but what I love about stainless steel is that it’s incredible heat-responsive. When I hit the temperature, these pans react instantly. You go from moderate level, where I’m braising something up to a high temperature where I can deglaze, and it takes no time: 10, 15, 20 seconds. It doesn’t take long. It’s like having a great paring knife as an extension of your hand. A great stainless steel frying pan is like an extension of your mind when you’re cooking. You can move that heat up and down very rapidly. Additionally, non-stainless and other materials are more porous and some of the leftover cooking residue is always embedded in the pores of the pan. Especially if it’s well-seasoned, you’re really not fully cleaning it out too often.
Respect The Ply
Our pans are made with seven-ply steel versus the typical triple-ply or two-ply. There’s a reason behind it, it’s not just a cool marketing idea. We’ve been making cookware for more than 100 years, so we tend to think long-term. We’re a small custom cooking and craftware shop, we have hands touching our product all the way throughout the process. When we make a pan, it should stay in the family for a long time. We have heirloom cookware we made in the 40s that we still replace handles and knobs on to this day. We’re a bunch of guys and ladies in the South trying to make some good pots and pans.
Keep Bar Keepers Friend Closer
If you get a patina on the outside, or you get oil overcook on it or heat marks from your burner, you can get some stainless steel cleanser and really clean pans up beautifully, quickly. I’m a big fan of Bar Keepers Friend. There’s also a company in Florida called Siege that makes a really good stainless steel cleanser. I like them a lot as well, not as readily found but it’s a good product. I use Bar Keepers Friend almost exclusively.
On Seasoning Stainless Steel
Personally, I do not, but it works. It does a great job when you season it. I just feel that with the right fat and the right temperature, you can get any sort of sauce or sear result that you want. You just take a paper towel, a little oil, rub it around. Any residue will come right off. Once you clean a stainless steel pan with soap and water, after you season it, you’re going to have to season it again. But if you really want that ease of use to fry an egg, seasoning will do you some good.