This is a safe place, right? OK, everyone who has ever burned a pot while cooking, please raise your hand. Great. Now that everyone’s hand is up, we can all agree that the pain of burning your beloved cookware is second only to the pain of burning yourself (alright, maybe not but you know what I mean). If it’s happened to you, don’t panic. You’ve got everything you need to clean that burned pan right in your kitchen (and laundry room).
Just remember that how you attack that hot mess depends on what kind of pan you’ve burned. A stainless-steel pan needs a gentler approach, while cast-iron takes a little more work but can withstand harsher treatment.
For normal amounts of burned-on food (just a spot or two or minor burns), this two-step process will save your pan. You can use this method on other materials, like enamel-coated pans, but be careful because they’ll scratch more easily than stainless steel. We also don’t recommend using vinegar in Teflon-coated pans and being very careful not to scratch the surface or the pan is ruined.
First, remove any food that’s still in the pan and use running water in the sink to just rinse out what you can. Immediately return the pan to the stove and try deglazing the pan with white vinegar. If the white vinegar smell is too strong for you, you can make a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 1 part water (or you can try just water to start and break out the vinegar if that doesn’t work). Make sure there’s enough liquid in the pot to cover all the burned bits by at least an inch.
Bring the liquid to a boil and then let it simmer for a while, using the spatula to scrape away any burned bits. Add more liquid if it starts to evaporate before you’re done. If you’re lucky, this will take care of the problem by itself, and you can just wash it with dish soap as usual. If not, go to step 2.
If there’s still burned-on residue, make a paste of equal parts baking soda and warm water. Use the business end of a double-sided sponge (aka the rough scrubbing side) to scrub the burned spots with the paste. Rinse as needed and repeat, working section by section until the burned-on spots are gone, then wash it as usual.
It’s OK, we’ve all been there. We’ve all somehow ended up with a pan that looks like this:
Well, relax because it can be fixed!. Here’s what you need to do.
Add a few drops of high-quality dish soap to the pot and cover the burned spot with very hot water. Toss in a dryer sheet (yes, we’re serious) or two and make sure they’re fully submerged. Let it sit for 1 hour
Use the dryer sheets to wipe up the burned-on bits. Wash the pan as usual using a double-sided sponge as needed.
Next: How to clean a burned cast-iron pan
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