My Stainless Cookware is Discolored or Bluish. What do I do?

Pot and StoveOne of the frequent questions we get here at MetroKitchen customer service is “My stainless steel cookware has become discolored. How can I restore its luminous finish?” Or various iterations of the same question.

Before we get into the solution, let’s talk about some of the reasons your stainless steel cookware may become discolored or end up with a bluish hue:

When cooking with stainless steel, we recommend that you use lower heat to cook your food.  While this technique may seem basic to some of you — cooking on high heat can burn food and give you less flexibility as you cook — stainless steel will discolor from constant high heat. This discoloration is sometimes known as “bluing.”

Over time, oils can accumulate on your pan. Avoid using cooking sprays as their formula can accumulate on your pans over time and leave a tacky surface causing all cooking surfaces, especially non-stick cooking surfaces to loose its non-stick characteristics, not to mention that they darken the look of your cookware. Butter and other vegetable oils are much better for good results and the appearance of your cookware over time.

Don’t worry.  If you’ve discolored your cookware or have burned your pot, here’s how to restore it’s finish:

First, if you haven’t done so already, purchase a can of Bar Keepers Friend.   It is available on our site and readily found at your grocers everywhere, next to the Comet and Ajax cleansers. Unlike Comet and Ajax (which we do NOT recommend as they are chlorine based cleaners that will ruin non-stick cooking surfaces), Bar Keepers Friend is an acid based, bleach-free cleanser that will quickly restore your cookware to its original luster.

With Bar Keepers friend in hand, apply the cleanser to the surface or to a wet cloth or sponge.  If you decide to apply to the surface, be sure it is wet before applying.  Rub in a circular motion to loosen bits or oils.  No need to rub hard, as the solution should do all the work.  If the stain is difficult to remove, turn the powder to a paste and leave for one minute.  Once you’re done, clean the cookware with warm soapy water so no residue is left behind. Warm soapy water is recommended for the daily cleaning of your stainless-steel cookware. Every now and then, Bar Keepers Friend will bring back the original finish.

So, to recap:

  1. Cook your food on lower heat to prevent discoloration of your stainless cookware.
  2. Use only butter and oils for cooking — avoid cooking sprays.
  3. Keep your stainless cookware clean and stain free by regularly using Bar Keepers Friend followed by warm soapy water.

Whether you own All-Clad, Viking Cookware, J.A. Henckels Classic Clad, Mauviel Stainless or other brands of stainless steel cookware, we hope these tips will help you keep your pots and pans bright and clean!

Do you have any tips on how you keep your stainless cookware shinny? Leave them in the comments!

Creative Commons License photo credit: The Written Geek™

  • Denise

    Hi, can you advise on how to maintain the All Clad brushed stainless exterior? I noticed my pan is getting discolored from the dishwasher. The exterior looks whiter over all, and it appears to have blue-white water marks. Is it the soap, hard water, or high heat from the machine? BKF didn’t help. I suspect lime scale has gotten into the finish, but I’m not sure. Any advice?

  • tommy

    Wow, great. That was very informative. I will look forward to more good reading info. Thank you.

  • joan olson

    New dutch oven,(says Food Network on bottom) Cooked bean soup, on low only, since pot was quite full. About 3 hours, with stirring, wooden spoon. Never been used. Inner part very discolored. What has happened, and will it always do this?

    • Admin

      We’re not terribly familiar with the Food Network line of dutch ovens, so unfortunately we can’t tell you why this is occurring. Have you considered contacting them directly? Best of luck and thank you for your comment.

  • deano

    The protien stain can be removed with lemon juice or real lemon. just let soak for fifteen to twenty minutes then wash pan with “Barkeepers Friend”.

  • Norma Cox

    On your website, I was hoping to find a method of cleaning stainless steel cutlery which had developed a dull, bluish appearance. Would Bar Keepers Friend work on spoons, etc.?

    Thank you.

    • admin

      Bar Keepers Friend should be able to help!

  • margaret mckinley

    I have a set of stainless steel pots & pans that I bought 40 years ago when I was 17 from a company called Cordon Bleu, and of course they had a “lifetime” guarantee !! Who knew I would live this long ?!! lol’s !!! Anyhow, they are just now getting to where everything sticks and they are seriously beyond difficult to clean, and all the pans are like that, so I’m figuring there must be some kind of deterioration occurring due to age….since they have sentimental value, I don’t want to throw them out ! They have served me well thus far, and of course Cordon Bleu probably doesn’t exist anymore (doyathink ?!!) I would be interested in discovering whether or not these pans of mine could be restored to a smooth finish so food would cease sticking the way it is. Can ANYTHING be done ? Hope you can help !!! Sincerely, Margaret McKinley

    • admin

      We’re not familiar with the Cordon Bleu line of cookware, but have you tried Bar Keepers Friend? As long as it is stainless steel on the cooking surface, it might be able to help you clean them up. Hope this helps!

  • Richard Simkus

    Wipe with lemon juice and a soft cloth … Try it now … Did it work?

    • george

      We’ve burned our All-Clad pans and with some intense cleaning, they are just fine, still use them most every day! Follow these 3 steps: 1. Wash/scrub out whatever burned materials you can. 2. Soak the pan/pot in warm soapy water for at least 10 hours. Repeat if necessary. 3. Use a soft cleanser, such as Copper Glo (put a link here) or Barkeepers Friend and keep scrubbing! It may take several attempts, but with diligence and a little elbow grease, the pan will come clean.

  • Upsetaboutmypan

    Hi, I accidentally left a stainless steel pan on my electric burner with boiling water in it. The water totally evaporated before I realized that I forgot the pan on the stove. The bottom on the inside is stained and looks like the stain was baked into the steel. I want to restore the “inside” of my pan, because it was a gift from my mother and I do not want to throw it away. However, I don’t want to use it with that stain at the bottom. Baking soda did not help. I’ve been reading about various products, but I get the impression they are supposed to be used on surfaces, only. What can I use to “safely” remove the stain from the inside of my pan? I am worried about using products that could make the steel porous, which would affect the taste of food and transfer whatever chemicals from the metal to the food. Is there any hope of removing this stain without compromising the inside surface? Please help.

    • george

      Hey, thanks for commenting! Stainless steel cleaners such as Bar Keepers Friend and All-Clad Cookware Cleaner are very fine powdered cleaners that are specially designed for cleaning steel and other metals without scratching them. They’re perfect for cleaning the outside of pans as well as the inside specifically because they’re extremely fine and non-abrasive, meaning that there is very little likelihood that they will scratch the inside of the pan. Just make sure that you use a soft cloth while cleaning and never use steel wool. It may take a little longer to clean the stain, but with a little elbow grease I have been able to remove tough stains from my stainless steel pans with Bar Keepers Friend. If you are still worried about chemicals afterward you could always wash it with soap and water or scour it with some salt and a paper towel.

  • susan hom

    I left my all clad d5 on the stove to boil some water. I totally forgot about it and the pot was burning. There is a slight discoloration which I used barkeepers to get it out. I was told to throw the pot away since there are 5 layers of metal to the pot and this heat would have melted it. It would explode if I continue to use it. Is this true? I feel awful that I did it, but it looks like it’s still in good shape, but I don’t want to take the chance especially if it is bad for cooking. I hope you will respond