Why no steel wool?

catherinetOctober 20, 2006


I always try to use a nylon scrubbie first on all my cookware (various kinds....from Revere ware, to Calphalon, to All-Clad). But sometimes it requires more. I'd rather not use chemicals. What's so bad about using steel wool? Does it just leave marks, or does it affect the cooking? Thanks.

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Steel wool can scratch....but I use it all the time....gently...on things like aluminum and stainless...not on Calphalon and not on any non stice and not on Le cruset.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 10:52PM
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A little Barkeeper's Friend and you'll be fine. If you're not familiar with it, it is a mild chlorine-free abrasive that is recommended by both All-Clad and Calphalon for cleaning stainless steel cookware. I also use it on Calphalon One infused anodized (not the nonstick line, though). It's also great for sinks and faucets.

For pans, I usually rinse them, wash using a scrubbie with mild detergent and rinse again. Then I sprinkle some Barkeeper's powder into the pan and make a little paste of it. I've then found that wiping it out with a paper towel is often more effective than a nylon or mesh scrubbie.

If you have badly burned-on food, you'll need to let the pan soak with some boiling water before cleaning....sometimes if it's really a bad mess, I add a little bit of white distilled vinegar to the boiling water.

I would NEVER use steel wool. It can scratch and leave behind carbon steel fragments.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 12:06PM
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Besides which, scratches can cause sticking and burning. I wouldn't even consider using steel wool on stainless for that reason.

The whole point of BKF, btw, is that you are repolishing the surface to remove those imperfections as much as possible.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 1:08PM
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Steel wool will eventually ruin your pans.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 1:08PM
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Barkeepers friend also contains oxalic acid...that's how it removes tarnish. I prefer not to use in on surfaces I will use for food, but I do when something is really stained...but prefer not to.
Also, there is steel wool and there is STEEL WOOL..I find the SOS soap filled pads are much finer grade of steel wool that the other brands.
And if I have a high polish pan I want to scour, I use some from my box of steel wool I use for polishing my newly finished oak table. It is abrasive enough to remove the black stains, but not scratch so you can see. I mean if it leaves a fine finish in the varnish on my table, how bad can it be for a stainless pan??
Anything you use to scour with that is harder than the pan will make small scratches in the finish. The trick is to make those scratches so small as to make a shine.
How do you suppose something dull and rough like a newly cast piece of silver is polished to a high shine? Why by using an abrasive, of course.
But I sure would not be using a one ought steel wool on my pots and pans! I do use an SOS soap pad on my antique brass candlesticks.
I am here to tell you...with a couple of Revere Ware pans that are 48 years old and have been scoured with steel wool more than 4 or 5 times, steel wool will NOT ruin your pans.
Linda C

1 Like    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 2:09PM
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Realistically, Linda, how many people do you think even know about, let alone stock, different grades of steel wool?

Sure, I could go out in my shop and get some of the 4-ought I use for wood finishing. But all the typical person knows about steel wool is the stuff they sell at the supermarket. And that _is_ course; and will scratch stainless badly.

The point is, I think, that there is no need to take unnecssary risks when there are so many effective cleaning methods that are risk free. A Dobie pad, for instance, and regular dish soap will do 99.9% of the job most of the time. Then a little BKF if necessary to remove the stubborn stains and polish out the surface. And voila!

I would also add that food which gets burned-on or really stuck to steel wool usually indicates that the cook is working on too high a heat. So the solution, long term, isn't to go with a stronger scouring agent. It's to work at a lower temperature; and be sure to pre-heat the pan before adding anything to it.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 7:30AM
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Fingers flying faster than they should. What I meant to say in the last graph was: ....which gets buned-on or really stuck to stainless cookware usually indicates.....

Sorry about that.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 11:09AM
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I recently scoured a very nasty burned on black stain from the bottom of my stainless, clad bottom stock pot, not at all sure how it got there...I thought I washed it and put it away clean and when I got it out there was a very nasty black burned on crust in the bottom...really can't figure it out...but it was there,....after about 10 minutes work with an SOS pad, the mark is gone and there are no scratches on my stock pot.
Perhaps soaking might have cleaned it, but I need to use the pot NOW.
Pre heat a stock pot before you add the chicken to simmer or the ham bone to make soup? Not me!
Really, really....an sos pad won't hurt your stainless pan.
Have you never spilled something down the outside of a pan and had it burn to the bottom?
Also one of my favorite low fat tricks is to heat a stainless pan and dry a boneless, skinless chicken breast and quickly brown it on both sides, then lower the temp and add your broth or wine to finish. believe it or not, if your pan is hot enough, the chicken won't stick.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 3:44PM
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THanks everyone.
Does anyone know what size steel wool is in the SOS and Brillo pads? I'm thinking you're right Linda, that the SOS is finer, because it rusts so much more quickly than the Brillo.......which is why I tend to use the Brillo. oops.
I, too, don't feel real comfortable using chemicals in cooking pots. I might just have to accept that the pot will only last for 40 years instead of 50. :)
Linda.....you mentioned you wouldn't use steel wool on Calphalon. I have a couple stainless calphalon fry pans. Did you mean just their nonstick?

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 12:06PM
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Just eyeballing it, I'd say the SOS is about a 3/0; Brillo is definately courser.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 2:41PM
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I find that the Brillo soap pads rust more quickly than the SOS...The soap in the SOS contains a rust inhibitor.
I agree with the Lad ( LOL!) SOS is about equal in abrasiveness to a 3.5 grade steel wool...
Calphalon is aluminum...lots "softer" than steel wool, it will really really scratch and remove the anodized finish. Don't use it on Calphalon.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 10:12PM
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I have the tri-ply calphalon. It's steel with aluminum in the middle.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 5:15PM
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Just a thought: I have used something called a "Hand Block" on some old carbon Sabatier knives to get the worst of the stains off. The cardboard sheath the block came in is no longer legible, so I do not know where I acquired this thing. It seems to be a very mild abrasive. Neither of the two esoteric hardware stores in my region had ever heard of this when I asked about it. Does anyone know anything about this or whether it might be appropriate for burned-on food on stainless steel pots?

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 7:39PM
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