How to Fix Seasoned Stainless Steel Cookware That is Brown and Sticky?

how to fox seasoned stainless steel cookware

Updated 8/2023

I received the following question from a reader a few days ago on my blog: How to Fix Seasoned Stainless Steel Cookware That is Brown and Sticky. 

This was in response to my article on how to season stainless steel cookware.  I originally created the article in 2012. 

The reader followed the instructions on my blog on how to season her new stainless steel cookware, but she left the pan in the oven to cool and didn’t wipe away the oil while it as still wet.

When the reader returned several hours later, the oil had dried and congealed on the metal, which is a process called polymerization.   This ooey gooey mess left an ugly brown stains on her shiny new stainless steel cookware.  Now she needs to know how to fix her stained seasoned stainless steel cookware, to return the shine to her pans, while keeping them function stainless steel cookware.

After I received the question how to fix seasoned stainless steel cookware from this reader, I decided it was time to update the article to include these instructions.

The good news, is that if this happens your new stainless steel cookware is not ruined.  You can salvage your expensive stained and brown stainless steel pan, and make it look like new or almost new with a little elbow grease.


Let’s take a closer look.



How to Fix Seasoned Stainless Steel Cookware That is All Brown and Sticky?



how to fix stainless steel cookware with Barkeepers Friend



I read several articles on how to fix burned on oil after you season stainless steel cookware, when the oil is too hot or left on too long.  The key is to remove the polymerized oil from the stainless steel as quickly a possible so it doesn’t dry on the pan, thus making the oil difficult or impossible to remove.

Fix Seasoned Stainless Steel Cookware, you need a product that loosens the dried on oil, and makes it easier to scrub off.

The two products that will do the trick are Bar Keekers Friend or basic baking soda, like Arm & Hammer.  I use baking soda to remove baked and burned on food from my cast iron cookware, and it works like a charm every time.

If one doesn’t work, get the other one.  Based on my own experience using baking soda to clean stains and dried on food, this will get the job done!

You may need to reapply Barkeepers Friend or baking soda a few times to really get in to the oil residue and finally release it from the cookware.

Once it comes off, your cookware will look brand new, or darn close to it.


Then you can season your stainless steel cookware again to get the desired results.


Follow these steps How to Fix Seasoned Stainless Steel Cookware


  • Wash stainless steel cookware in warm soapy water, if you haven’t cleaned since seasoning cookware.
  • Sprinkle liberally with Barkeepers Friend to fully cover the stains.
  • If you don’t have Barkeepers Friend, you can use baking soda.
  • Sprinkle baking soda liberally over stain.
  • Let penetrate for several minutes.
  • Use a small amount of water and mix Barkeepers Friend or baking soda into a paste using a damp sponge or soft cloth.
  • Do not use steal wool pads.
  • Rub vigorously in circular motions until stain starts lift off from the metal. This can take up to five minutes with some elbow grease.
  • Always clean with the grain of the metal.
  • Depending on the stain, you may have to reapply cleaner and water multiple times.
  • I use baking soda when removing hard baked on stains from my cast iron cookware, and it works like a charm every time.
  • Bar Keepers Friend is recommended for removing rust spot and oxidized stain on stainless steel cookware, but both will work at removing those brown unsightly stains from your seasoning-gone wrong project.

Barkeepers Friend or Baking soda to clean stainless steel cookwaee


How to Fix Season Stainless Steel Cookware



Once you have removed the brown sticky stains from your seasoned stainless steel cookware, you can follow these steps from my blog again to season stainless steel cookware.


1) Wash stainless steel cookware in hot soapy water to remove any dirt, dust or packaging residue.

2) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3) Coat the inside, outside and handles of your stainless steel cookware with a 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, olive oil or peanut oil.

Some people say you can season stainless on a stove top, but since the purpose of seasoning is to bake the fat into the steel to create a non-stick surface, it is best to season your stainless steel cookware in the oven.

4) Leave the skillets in the oven for about 1 hour until it starts to smoke.

5) Turn off the oven and let the pan sit until it is cool enough to touch.

6) Remove the pan and immediately wipe out remaining oil. Don’t let the pan cool with the oil residue in the pan. As the pan cools, the oil will polymerize and leave those unsightly brown stains that are impossible to clean off with soapy water.

7) After using pan simply wipe clean. Re-season as needed. With regular use, the

8) After washing with soapy water, it may be necessary to re-season your stainless steel cookware, as the oil coating can be washed off with soapy water.

This should help you fix seasoned stainless steel cookware, and to

re-season your stainless steel skillets.


Ken Weiss


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