How To Cook Vegetables in A Stainless Steel Pan

flat lay photography of saute skillet beside spoon of spices and vegetables

If you’ve considered getting rid of your non-stick pots and pans because of the health risks, you are not alone. Stainless steel pots, ceramic cookware and cast iron pans are coming back into popularity. New non-stick products are being designed, all with the promise of being safer for your health.

Non-Stick Cookware Controversy

When used at low temperatures, non-stick cookware is deemed safe for use. At high temperatures, non-stick pans release gasses which may be harmful to humans and pets. The release of harmful gasses is due to the substance perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The risk of exposure to PFOA gasses is increased by the difficulty of assessing the exact temperatures of heated cookware.

Health risks from using non-stick cookware improperly are numerous. One study linked the release of chemicals from non-stick cookware to higher levels of cholesterol in children. Another study showed that higher levels of PFOA were found in women and men with thyroid disease. Release of PFOA gasses has also been linked to cancer and birth defects in experiments with animals.

Whether to use non-stick cookware or not is a personal choice. Harmful chemicals are found in numerous ordinary items such as fabrics, furniture, electronics and other household products. However, reducing exposure to harmful chemicals is wiser than doing nothing at all.

Method For Cooking Vegetables In A Stainless Steel Pan

Use the following steps to reduce sticking when using pots without a non-stick coating. An added benefit to the following method is that it conserves water, which reduces nutrient loss. When cooking chopped greens such as spinach, chard or kale, use 1/4 cup water.

Ingredients and Supplies

  • 1 cup vegetables chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2-4 tbsp water
  • stainless steel sauce pan or pot with a lid


1. Heat your pan on medium heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is heated and runny (but not smoking) move to step 2. If the oil is smoking, turn down the heat slightly and proceed.

2. Add the vegetables and stir constantly until they are coated with oil. This should take less than a minute.

3. Add the water, which helps prevent sticking. Cover the pan with a lid and allow it to cook. Water may evaporate while the vegetables are cooking. Check back every few minutes, adding more water if the vegetables begin to stick. Cook time ranges from 5 to 10 minutes. Tougher vegetables, such as kale, may require 15 minutes.

If you feel adventurous, drink any leftover water to give yourself a nutrient boost.

Tips for Conserving Nutrients

Vegetables (and fruits) lose vitamins and minerals through water, light and air. To maximize nutrient content in cooked food, use the following measures:

  • Buy fresh vegetables and cook them within a few days of purchase.
  • Chop or slice your vegetables immediately before cooking or eating.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in the fridge, which shuts out light most of the time.