Why do my stainless steel pans look so bad out of the dishwasher?
July 10, 2006 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Why does my new stainless steel cookware come out of the diswasher covered with white splotchy stains that I have to hand wash?

We just bought a set of Emerilware (made by All-Clad) cookware. I'm learning to adjust to cooking in steel without teflon, and for the most part I love it. However, if I brown anything in the pans, when I clean them in the diswasher, wherever there was any cooked on residue, there are very ugly whitish splotches. I tried pre-soaking the pan as well, and it still did the same thing. The manufacturer says these pans are dishwasher safe.

I can restore them to their original look by cleaning the interior with Barkeeper's Friend, but it's kind of a pain to have to hand wash them.

If I don't brown/burn anything in the pans they come out of the dishwasher just fine. Am I using too much heat? I've read that only moderate heat should be used on clad stainless cookware.

Fellow MeFi gourmets, what say you?
posted by AstroGuy to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I forgot to add, I'm new to dishwashers as well. I've been using powdered detergent but I was going to try a gel instead.
posted by AstroGuy at 12:11 PM on July 10, 2006

Hard water deposits. There isn't much you can do about it, other than what you are already doing. There are some products like Jet Clean that are supposed to help.
posted by 517 at 12:14 PM on July 10, 2006

Don't wash them in the dishwasher. I know that's probably not the answer you wanted, but, don't. BKF is your friend. As you learn to cook with it and to wash it immediately, you'll have to do even less work than loading and unloading it in the dishwasher entails.

Even if some of the cheaper stuff I own says it's "dishwasher safe", I don't bother - the only knives I put in there are the Henckels EverEdge set I have from undergrad, and I think it's because I'd like an excuse to replace them.
posted by kcm at 12:17 PM on July 10, 2006

Run the dishwasher in it's rinse cycle (don't add any detergent). Just after it has filled with water and is about to start rinsing the dishes, CAREFULLY open the dishwasher and dump in a cup or three (depending on apartment size or full size, too much doesn't hurt) of vinegar. Let it complete the cycle. Ten minutes later, the deposits are gone!
posted by shepd at 12:25 PM on July 10, 2006

517: According to our water utility, our water is "moderately hard." I use Jet Dry rinse agent. Is this Jet Clean something else? Note I don't get these deposits on anything else, including any other stainless steel (or the interior of the diswasher which is stainless steel) or non-stainless stuff. Only the cookware, on the inside, where I had browned-on food.
posted by AstroGuy at 12:25 PM on July 10, 2006

Use liquid detergent? Maybe it's powder getting stuck in there.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 12:32 PM on July 10, 2006

You need salt in your dishwasher. Buy a bag of dishwasher salt and pour it into the reservoir (ours is at the base of the dishwasher, underneath the bottom shelf, to the left). Replace it when it has all dissolved (here in London approx. every two months - we can tell because we start to get white spots on the cutlery...).

The wikipedia article on hard water explains the science.

Do you get gross limescale in your kettle (if you fill it from the tap)? If so, for some reason, a teaspoon in the kettle works to keep it from your drink.
posted by goo at 12:41 PM on July 10, 2006

Second washing by hand with Bar Keeper's Friend. My wife and I have a kitchen full of All-clad products, and they look brand new, years later.
posted by Merdryn at 12:46 PM on July 10, 2006

Do the splotches affect the taste of food, or heat transfer? If not, another option is to simply ignore them, or to clean the pans with BKF at irregular intervals when you can be bothered to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:15 PM on July 10, 2006

A third vote for washing by hand with Bar Keeper's Friend. It's the best thing you can do for your AllClad.
posted by briank at 1:17 PM on July 10, 2006

I have All Clad stainless pans. Often, after browning residue is washed off (by hand or by machine) I see white splotches. It's odd because the surface feels smooth and clean. I've used different types of detergent and various wash cycles, but hand-washing with an abrasive is what works. (Bon Ami is gentler than Barkeeper's Friend, if you want an alternative.)

All I can tell you is that it's normal. I've talked with several friends and relatives who also have stainless-steel pans, and they all experience the same thing. None of us knows how to prevent the blotches. Even using more fat when browning doesn't seem to make a difference.

Now that I've had my pans for a long time, it doesn't bother me. If I don't scrub off the smudges for a while, they don't affect cooking or the taste of the food, and they don't become harder to remove.

By the way, I live in a soft-water area.
posted by wryly at 1:20 PM on July 10, 2006

When cooking in steel make sure to bring the pan completely up to heat before putting any food or oil in it - will prevent a lot of the staining to begin with.
posted by jeffmik at 3:19 PM on July 10, 2006

DON'T use liquid detergent in your dishwasher. Trust me on this.
posted by banshee at 4:15 PM on July 10, 2006

ITYM don't use sink-dish-soap in the dishwasher. This will make huge suds.

But there are liquid / gel dishwasher detergents that work fine in the dishwasher.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:44 PM on July 10, 2006

banshee: I wasn't thinking of using regular dish soap in the dishwasher. I've read all the warnings against that in the manual. I picked up some Cascade gel tonight and I'll see how it goes, but I think that wryly (and all the others praising BKF) have it right--I may just have to hand wash to avoid the staining.
posted by AstroGuy at 8:22 PM on July 10, 2006

I'm late to the party...

If this is the kind of splotchyness you are talking about, then it is hard water. The splotchyness in the photo is caused by calcium carbonate (CaCO3) which is, kind of, one of the chemicals that make water hards. CaCO3 is precipitated out of the water at boiling temperature and is insoluble in water, so once it's there, you have to use a nonpolar solvent (something oil based) in order to remove it.

The only thing that would stop this from happening is to use a reverse osmosis filter on all the water you cook and wash with.

And yeah, jet dry was the stuff I was referring to.
posted by 517 at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2006

517: It's kind of hard to tell from that pic, but to me that looks like ordinary hard water spots (as if, as you described water were boiled away in the pot). What I see appears different, and it only appears in the exactly places where browned on foods were in the pan after the pan is washed, either in the dishwasher, or by hand with normal dish soap. Dish soap and a scouring pad will not remove these stains, but BKF will. I'll try to post a picture in a few days to this thread if anyone is still watching it.
posted by AstroGuy at 2:26 PM on July 11, 2006

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