Simple Tricks for Extending the Life of Your Saucepan

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Next to a spoon, a saucepan is probably the most used tool in the kitchen. A saucepan is a small, metal pot designed for range top use. It is characterized by its round shape, vertical sides, and long handles. These come in an assortment of sizes ranging from 1/2 liter to 6 liters, and can be used for practically all types of food preparation.

How to extend the life of your cookware |

Like all kitchen tools and appliances, saucepans take a certain amount of care to keep them performing properly. Since there are so many different kinds of saucepans available, most manufacturers include instructions for proper use and care. For those of us who never look at the instructions, there are some basic guidelines that can be applied to all saucepans.

The right size for the job

Most kitchen ranges usually have two sizes of burners, large and small. One important tip to remember is that the base of the vessel should match up with the size of the burner. Placing a small saucepan on a large burner can melt or warp the handle. Conversely, placing a large pan on a small burner can warp the base of the pan and heat the food unevenly.

The right temperature

In addition to matching up the right size burner to the pot, cooking at the right temperature also helps extend the life of the pan. Many people make the mistake of turning the burner on high, assuming that the higher temperature will cook the food faster. While this may be true of thin soups, broth and water, thicker soups, stews and sauces will stick to the cooking vessel if they are heated at these higher settings. This “stuck on” food can be hard to remove once it bakes or burns on the surface, with the removal process often damaging the metal.

Using proper tools for stirring

Stiring with wooden, silicon, or plastic utensils helps to protect the surface of your cookware |

Metal utensils can be tough on the surface and should never be used on porcelain coated cast iron or teflon coated cookware, since they will quickly ruin the protective finish. Wooden, silicon, and hard, plastic utensils are the best type of utensils for using on all types of saucepans. If you find that you must use a whisk for blending creamed sauces, a “spronger” type whisk is the best tool for the job.

Although I am historically a fan of wooden utensils, I’m staring to fall in love with silicone and really like the set pictured below that I found at Amazon. The same company also produces a wisk and a tong set that really helps me to protect the surface of some of my more delicate cookware such as my few nonstick pieces and my tin-lined copper pots and pans.

Silicone Kitchen Utensils Set (5 Piece)

Proper cleaning

All pots and skillets can be hand washed with a stiff scrubby brush and warm sudsy water with the exception of raw cast iron – use water only. To keep any piece of cookware looking new, it really shouldn’t ever be washed in the dishwasher. Dishwashers will discolor copper and aluminum, rust cast iron, and leave water spots on the stainless steel.

To remove baked on food, add water to a depth of 1/2 inch. Add a couple of heaping tablespoons of baking soda to the water, and bring the solution to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, taking care to add additional water if needed. After 15 minutes, remove the vessel from the burner, and “lift” the burned on food with a rubber spatula. Repeat if necessary.

Some manufacturers have additional instructions for keeping specialty pieces of cookware looking like new:

To remove discoloration from copper cookware, use a commercial copper polish or apply mixture of flour, salt, lemon juice, and ammonia before the regular washing. I prefer to use Bar Keepers Friend for normal polishing talks.

Bar Keepers Friend® Cleanser & Polish: 12 OZ

if I want an even better polish, I follow it up with a product called Flitz that creates a mirror look. Both of these products are non toxic and aren’t just for copper – they can be used on stainless steel and all other metals as well as plastic and glass.

Flitz Metal, Plastic and Fiberglass Polish Paste in 1.76-Ounce Blister Tube

To keep cast iron cookware or carbon steel looking like new, coat the interior with unsalted shortening or oil after every washing. Porcelain coated cast iron can be run through the dishwasher safely; if your model has a wooden handle, do remove it before washing.

Aluminum cookware and enamelware should always be washed in warm soapy water. The finish on these can be damaged if run through the washing machine; older enamelware will warp and eventually rust.

Go easy with stainless steel scrub pads - for use on clad or stainless steel cooking vessels only |

Stainless steel cookware can be machine washed; however, I’ve noticed that over time, the steel will lose its luster, and the black knobs and handles becoming brittle. For best results, always wash in hot, soapy water or a warm ammonia and water solution, then thoroughly rinse. This is the only form of cookware that you can get away with safely using a stainless steel cleaning pad with little fear of damage – although the pad will create micro-scratches leading to a softer, matt finish rather than the bright, polished look that most pieces have when new.

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll be delighted to discover that a quality piece of cookware will last for many decades of use.

About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

17 thoughts on “Simple Tricks for Extending the Life of Your Saucepan”

  1. I am usually too lazy to hand-wash my saucepans, I greatly prefer the convenience of using a dishwasher. Now that I know this damages my saucepan over time, I will probably try and take better care of my saucepans!

    A tip I’ve heard is to wash your utensils whenever you’re finished using them, so that you won’t see a giant pile of dirty dishes to handle at the end of cooking and lose all motivation. I will probably try and use this tip to trick myself into hand-washing saucepans!

  2. Now that I’m an adult, I understand why my mother always got so mad when my sister, my father, and I wouldn’t watch what we were doing with her saucepans. She always did what she could to keep them in really great condition and none of us paid any attention. She had quite a few non-stick ones that we ended up ruining because we wouldn’t use a wooden spoon like we should have. My dad would stick a fork in to stir things and they would get scratched up.

    This is a list of tips I’ll have to keep close by. I look for good cookware when I can, but my boyfriend doesn’t paid attention. Maybe he’ll learn something.

  3. I am so glad I’ve followed these tips! My saucepans are in great shape. I wouldn’t mind a new set, though 🙂 Do you have any suggestions for a new brand? I love getting new cookware.

  4. The biggest mistake I make with all my saucepans is to cook them on too high of a temperature. My saucepans always end up burning and I end up tossing them out every few months.

    • I used to do that sometimes as well. I can’t remember how many pans I ruined before my mother told met that I was ruining them due to the heat. I thought it was only me that had this problem. I bought a few pans from the thrift store that I can use when I want to cook something quicker. I don’t have to worry about ruining my good pans.

  5. I’m guilty of using the wrong saucepan on the wrong burner, but now that I know the damage it can do, I won’t do it anymore. I always use wood or silicone utensils with all of my pots and pans, and I actually prefer to wash my pots and pans in the sink for some reason. I feel like I can clean them better than the dishwasher.

  6. It seema as though at least several of these rules are disreguardrd at my house daily. My husband does not seem to understand why he cannot use metal utensils in my sauce pans. I just bought a brand new set of “Kitchen Aid” pans about a year ago and I am pretty sure they are all warped. He may have paid for them but I guess he does not understand their true value. It is quite a shame!

  7. Since I started buying better pans and skillets I’ve taken more care of how I clean and store them. I usually buy Nordic Ware skillets as they are made in the USA. I hand wash all of those with special non-stick coatings. I use the dishwasher for just about everything that’s not non-stick. My cast iron skillets are a completely different animal!

  8. Thanks for the cleaning tips for the saucepans. I have to admit that I use my old ones from years ago and probably need to buy some new ones. But, as long as they work and we still have the lids I’m hard pressed to rush out to buy expensive ones. That’s different than my skillets. I’m constantly retiring skillets for some reason. I donate them or pass them onto the kids for their new kitchens.

  9. I’m pretty good in taking care of my pots and pans, but I could do a lot better. Something that you mentioned here is key which is using the right utensils, I really need to go to the dollar store and get some plastic utensils to use in some of my pots and pans. Hopefully the dollar store utensils will be good enough, anything seems better than what I currently do sometimes, which is use metal utensils.

    I also like the idea about putting baking soda in a pan and heating it on the stove. I have a large Magnalite skillet that is in desperate need of some attention to get it clean. Perhaps the baking soda will do the trick.

  10. I love washing my utensils and the whole nine yards but if we are going down that trail of cleaning and polishing the same sauce-pan i just washed a minute ago,…. kindly let me catch a breath and somehow get a little bit siesta…i’ll need all the energy i can muster and courage to face my friends who will ask me if i have OCD {Obsessive Complusive Disorder}…considering am a bit of a neat freak {humble-brag abit}…but am in awe…i had no idea that there are products to actually polish saucepans…i confess, i was in the dark, but by jolly the light has been switched on.

  11. Silicone utensils are fantastic and can be used with any pan. Whilst I am a fan of wooden spoons, I find they can stain easily and they take an age to dry. Silicone seems more hygienic to me.

  12. I’m guilty of using metal implements in my pots and pans, even though I know it’s not good for them. Slowly, but surely, I’m retraining my brain to not do so, since I don’t want to have to replace my cookware. It’s good to know the tip about reheating the pan with water and baking soda, since I always have that on hand and readily available. I don’t use my dishwasher, so thankfully, that’s one less thing to worry about. Thanks for the great tips!

  13. Thanks for the tips. I’ve unfortunately ruined some non stick pans by using metal utensils on them. I heard that once the pan is scraped it car release toxins into the food cooked in it. I bought silicone utensils after damaging my first pan and haven’t had an issue since.

  14. My mom is extremely delicate when it comes to her pans! and I thought that she just was exaggerating, but I can definitely see why, especially with the tip of using only wooden spoons, I have ruined a lot of pans because I used to cook with only metal spoons, after reading this article I have definitely learned the lesson.

  15. It sure was nice when you said that you should use warm soapy water in cleaning aluminum cookware to make sure that they won’t be damaged easily. My husband and I are planning to shop for bakery pans. We’d like to make sure that these bakery pans are going to be kept in good condition for years to come because we’d like our children to be able to use them when they learn to cook. Thanks!


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