It’s sparkly. It’s gleaming. It’s perfect. You can’t stop admiring that stainless-steel cookware you made dinner with for the first time, and we don’t blame you. Then, suddenly, you notice—cue the Twilight Zone theme—a rainbow tint on the interior.
First of all, the good news:
This multicolored phenomenon is purely cosmetic. Yep. It has nothing to do with the quality of the materials of your pan and will not (we repeat, will not) affect its simmering/boiling/searing abilities. (It also won't affect the flavor—or edibility—of the food you cook in it.)
Turns out those vibrant swirls are widely known as “heat tints.” By design, stainless steel contains a touch of chromium (a very sturdy metal that helps protect your pans from corrosion and rusting), When chromium and air mingle, a protective layer appears on your pan—a protective layer that happens to be very thin, almost transparent, and slightly rainbow colored. In summary: when stainless steel is heated to high temps, the oxidized layer can thicken, resulting in, well, a little pan tie-dye. Nice of you to stop by, science.
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So, if your heart swells up at the sight of a rainbow, you get butterflies in your stomach while opening a new box of crayons, and if you view funfetti cake as an essential food group, then you’re in luck: You need do absolutely nothing about it. The pan will still work wonderfully, and it's completely safe to use.
OK, now for another (also good) newsflash. If rainbow-lined cookware isn’t your thing, we have a never-fail method to make those tints disappear…
Splash a little white vinegar diluted with water into your pan, swirl the mixture around, and use a non-abrasive sponge to wipe away the rainbow stains. Vinegar's acidity will help break down that thin oxidized rainbow layer while still being gentle on your pans. (Alternatively, a sprinkle of Bar Keepers Friend, which is similarly acidic yet non-corrosive, will also do the trick.) Rinse, dry, and...voila! Your stainless steel will be gleaming good as new.
Have your own stainless steel cleaning trick? Let us know in the comments below.