Why Does My Stainless Steel Pan Have a Rainbow?

Last Updated on November 9, 2021 by

Why Does My Stainless Steel Pan Have a Rainbow? You just noticed the annoying rainbow, and like you, some wonder, “why does my stainless steel pan have a rainbow?” Well, it is a bit of a kitchen mystery, but we solve it together.

A rainbow stain on your stainless steel pan results from a thin film material causing constructive interference. This stain reflects from an individual spectral wavelength which could be organic (oil substance or fat) or metallic oxide layer.

We often refer to the rainbow stain on your stainless steel pan as ‘iridescence’. You can also call it heat tint or discoloration. But the manufacturer says, “it is stainless,” why the stain? Do not miss any article lines though.

You love rainbows, but it’s quite unfortunate that this particular rainbow is in the wrong place—your favorite pan. Depending on the toughness, you might need a premium replacement pan that withstands stains going forward.

Why Does My Stainless Steel Pan Have a Rainbow?

As mentioned earlier, the rainbow is a ‘kitchen mystery’, it is not a mere stain. But why does the rainbow appear in your pan?

  • Food residue

Your stainless steel pan could have had deposits of fat or oil residues at the time you heat it on the cooker. In this case, while the pan heats, the residue liquifies, leading to diffraction/refraction in the thin layer.

Most of the time, the residue is visible. Thus, when the pan goes cool, it stylizes your stainless steel pan with the rainbow.

  • Overheating

Overheating is the major cause of a rainbow on your stainless steel pan. When you overheat the pan on the cooker, it forms an unwanted, perhaps, kitchen-worthy design.

The secondary cause remains the thin layer of oil and fat residues baked in the stainless steel pan. The rainbow is not harmful. It even coats your pan with non-stick properties.

A thickened layer makes your stainless steel pan even less sticky.

  • Decaying organic materials

Bacteria produce organic acids and enzymes that are remarkably aggressive. When the pan is heated unkempt, it can form into a rainbow. It is not common for rainbows to appear in stainless steel pans in this manner – many people clean before heating’.

  • Steel variety

A rainbow in your pan is not always caused by fat and oil residues. It can also depend on the variety of steel used for your pan.

Typically, stainless steel contains chromium in small quantities to help it resist rusting and corrosion.

When air mixes with the chromium, it forms a protective layer in your pan. When your pan heats to higher temperatures, the layer oxidizes and thickens which causes a rainbow tint.

  • Cheapies

If you have a cheapie for a stainless steel pan, it degrades faster and a rainbow forms quickly in it. Nevertheless, your pan being ‘stainless’ and expensive does not mean it can never get the rainbow stain.

However, investing in a reliable stainless steel pan resists magnet attraction. If your stainless steel pan attracts a magnet, it could be a bad steel, or say ‘vulnerable to rainbow discoloration’.

Do not also rule out the age of your pan. That it is stainless does not mean you will burn it forever and get no discoloration. That rainbow is simply a sign that you must budget a contemporary replacement stainless steel pan.

Experts think exposing your pan to strong acid will not cause a rainbow tint. Stainless steel is not so vulnerable to food acids such as acetic acid, ascorbic acid, or oxalic acid. However, hydrochloric acid and other powerful mineral acids can attack it.

Is it Normal for Stainless Steel Pans to Discolor?

It is normal for a stainless steel pan to discolor or have a rainbow, especially when overheated. A stainless steel pan will also discolor if exposed to certain chemicals. Therefore, it is not impervious to rainbow stains.

Perhaps, “rust-resistant steel” makes the perfect name for stainless steel. Typical stainless steel contains alloying elements, including molybdenum, nickel, and chrome.

Again, a rainbow stain could reflect poor pan maintenance on your side. Purchasing the cheapie stainless steel pan also adds to the checklist.

How Do You Remove Rainbow Stains from Stainless Steel?

A rainbow does not necessarily mean that your stainless steel pan is unkempt. Let us reiterate that the rainbow is a result of a thin oxide film containing chromium oxide.

You want it off but this may not be a walk in the park depending on the hardness. Besides, it does not poison your meal.

Below are the ways you can remove rainbow stains from your stainless steel pan:

  • Steel wool, dish soap, and time

If the rainbow tint is from a tough burn, use steel wool and dish soap to remove it. You also have to give it a bit of your time.

  • Abrasive pad and detergent

A stainless steel pan is easier to clean to get rid of the rainbow using an abrasive pad and detergent. Just a bit of your time and energy removes the rainbow burn or tint caused by residue oil or fat.

  • Grinding and polishing

Grinding can get rid of your rainbow tint. Follow this up with polishing to get rid of scratches from your stainless steel pan.

  • Acidic treatment

You can use acidic materials to get rid of rainbow stains from your pan. You need the Malic acid from a freshly cut green apple. A sour-cut green is better. Apply the cut apple on the spot with a rainbow, it should disappear after some time.

  • Cloth polishing wheel and jewelers rouge

Jewelers rouge can get rid of a rainbow stain in your stainless steel pan. Use a good quality jewelers rouge and cloth polishing wheel on the oxidized layer of the pan.

Finally, wash and dry your pan, getting rid of any residue. If you allow water in the pan, it can cause more rainbow or bluing, or rust, in extreme cases.

Experts advise against using solutions that contain steel or iron to remove the rainbow in your pan. The reason is that it can attach microscopic particles of foreign metal to the pan, making it vulnerable to rust.

  • Get a replacement pan

Your best bet could be to get a replacement stainless steel pan depending on the condition of the rainbow stain.

Best Stainless Steel Pan

At this point, we know why your stainless steel pan has a rainbow stain. One of the permanent ways to get rid of this stain permanently is to buy the best stainless steel pan:

Fissler ‎084-368-28-1000

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The Fissler is a premium stainless steel pot that complements your kitchen. Its uncoated design produced from 18/10 stainless steel ensures the best meal-making experience.

Its innovativeness gets rid of burnt smells and makes preparing your favorite meals easier than ever. Speaking of the pouring rim, Fissler gives an extra-wide pouring rim that gets rid of drips and spills.

Below are the features the stainless steel Fissler pan offers:

  • Heat absorption. Fissler’s stainless steel pan makes faster and even heat absorption. The distribution and retention have been optimized for your induction, electric, and gas cookers.
  • Stay-cool handle. It is time to experience larger ergonomic handles that make handling your pan even easier. The stainless panhandle gets less heat and is lighter than ever to handle.
  • No warp. Warps take away the luxurious finish. Fortunately, Fissler’s innovativeness puts warps and hot spots in the past. [easyazon_link identifier=”B000JJIODW” locale=”US” tag=”realkal-20″]Click here to see on Amazon[/easyazon_link]

OXO Good Grips Non-Stick

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OXO is the definition of non-stick ‘contemporary’ in the area of pans. It handles your sautéing vegetables and browning ground beef deliciously. What is more? It features a three-layer non-stick coating for performance enhancement. Lest we fail to mention, OXO uses less oil, and the delivery is flash-fast.

    • Scratch resistance. You would love scratch resistance to keep your pan sparkling. With OXO’s innovative scratch-resistant, your stainless steel pan stays the easy-wash way. Cooking is easier too.
  • Heat conduction. OXO’s hard-anodized body delivers excellent heat conduction and scratch resistance
  • Dishwasher safe. If you have a dishwasher, OXO’s pan has been modified to simplify dishwashing.
  • Multi-menu. Menu excellency is what you achieve with OXO’s stainless steel pan. Prepare all your meals comfortably with your modern pan. [easyazon_link identifier=”B00PCI6XP6″ locale=”US” tag=”realkal-20″]Click here to see on Amazon[/easyazon_link]

Is It Safe to Use Discolored Stainless Steel Cookware?

It is safe to use discolored stainless steel cookware, including your pan. However, it depends on the toughness, place or general effect of the rainbow stain.

If your stainless steel pan is discolored inside but in a small area, you can safely use it. However, if the rainbow spot does not only discolor but also takes away the beauty, consider getting a replacement pan.

You also have nothing to worry about if your stainless steel pot is discolored on the outside. Sometimes, you might find hot spots, bubbled spots, or warps, meaning you need a replacement pan.

Warped spots cause less aggressive heat on the pan, so you need a replacement to ensure even heat distribution. The reason is that your pan stops being flat-bottom.

Regarding health, unless your stainless steel pan has a coming-off in the inside of the pan, no threat to health. Warped inner causes residues to stick.

In essence, although your stainless steel pan will have a rainbow eventually, you can still prepare meals with it. Cleaning it can be difficult nonetheless.

Final Thoughts on Why Does My Stainless Steel Pan Have a Rainbow?

Again, the rainbow is beautiful but not when it distorts the aesthetics of your stainless steel pan.

Advisably, if the rainbow does not distort the aesthetics, there is no need to remove it. Do not use hot citric acid to avoid damaging the passive coating on your stainless steel pan.