How to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans

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Anyone can cook, but not everyone can clean a burnt pan properly. Burnt pans spoil the taste and quality of the food, and make it difficult to cook food as the burnt on mess forms an uneven layer on the pan where burnt particles get into the food.

Burnt food is also labeled a carcinogen, which makes it unhealthy to consume food cooked on a burnt pan. Nevertheless, we can't avoid meeting a burnt pan once in a while as we cook! Here are ways you can easily clean a burnt pan or pot without damaging your cookware:

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What You'll Need

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Dish soap or Dishwasher tablets
  • Dryer sheet
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scrub Brush or Sponge
  • Clean drying cloth
  • Grapeseed oil, Olive oil, or Vegetable oil - for the pan's seasoning

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How to Clean a Burnt Pot or Pan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Cast Iron Pan

A cast iron skillet is notoriously difficult to clean when burnt, as you could end up with scratches in your pan that would start to form rust over time. Cast iron pots and pans are crafted in one piece: meaning there should be no danger of scrubbing out the top layers.

However, you need to understand proper care when it comes to your cast iron pans, as they can get damaged with improper cleaning methods. You will also need to finish off the pan by seasoning it, which is to add a layer of polymerized oil to protect the material, and act as a nonstick coating. Here's how to keep your cast iron pans in good condition:

Step 1: Soaking

First, soak your cast iron skillet in soapy water made with a mild dish soap or a dissolved dishwasher tablet. Soaking will soften the burnt on bits, and remove as much food particles from your cast iron as possible.

Step 2: Scrubbing With Salt

Add some kosher salt or sprinkle baking soda to effectively scrub your cast iron without leaving scratches. Add a bit of cold water if your pan feels dry, and rub the salt in circular motions using a sponge, scrub brush, or scouring pad. Scrub all around the pan, including the handle and the bottom of the pan.

Step 3: Removing Stains and Rust

If the salt scrub did not remove the stains and rust, then create a paste with baking soda and warm water. Apply the paste directly onto stained areas, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Use the same brush or scouring pad to scrub the rust away.

Step 4: Rinsing and Drying

Dry your pan as much as possible using a clean cloth, then place the pan in a hot oven until all the water has evaporated. Your pan should have absolutely no moisture on its surface to prepare it for seasoning. Cool the pan before seasoning.

Step 5: Seasoning

Season the pan by adding two teaspoons of grapeseed oil or other oils, and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly around the pan. Use another paper towel to soak up as much excess oil as possible, leaving only a very thin layer of oil behind. Place the pan in a 375-450 degree oven for 1 hour, then turn off the gas, and let the pan cool inside the oven.

Stainless Steel Pan

Stainless steel pans are fairly easy to clean as they can withstand most cleaning solutions and abrasive scrubbers. Besides using up a lot of elbow grease to clean burnt stainless steel pans, there are easier methods to get the shine back into your stainless steel pan without much effort! All you'll need is some time and a few pantry staples.

Step 1: Soaking

Soak the pan in hot water, and dissolve a dishwasher tablet or add some dish soap into the water. Let the pan soak for 10-20 minutes, or longer depending on the severity of the burnt pot or pan.

Step 2: Scrubbing

Use a scrub brush to remove the food bits from inside your pan, then rinse off the loosened bits. Repeat the soaking method if there is remaining debris inside the pan that cannot be scrubbed out even with some elbow grease.

Step 3: Baking Soda Paste

Use the same baking soda paste mentioned above to clean the bottom of the pan. Apply the paste all over the sooty areas, and let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Use crumpled up aluminum foil to scrub away any remaining soot.

Step 4: Rinsing and Drying

Wash the pan as normal, and dry it with a clean drying towel. Make sure the pan is completely dry to prepare it for seasoning. Alternatively, you may dry the pan on the stove to evaporate excess moisture.

Step 5: Polishing

Season the pan like you would a cast iron one. Add a neutral oil into the pan, and place it in a preheated oven to polymerize the oil. However, if your pan has a plastic handle, you may also do the same on the stovetop, making sure the oil reaches its smoking point. The result should give your pot or pan a shiny, glassy appearance without any stickiness.

Ceramic, Teflon, or Other Nonstick Pans

Ceramic, Teflon, and other nonstick varieties of cookware often come with a nonstick layer that keeps food from sticking onto the pan. When food debris gets burnt onto the nonstick layer, it may be difficult to remove as you may end up scraping off the nonstick layer along with the burnt food, ruining your pan.

Instead, you will need to use different cleaning methods to clean burnt nonstick pans. You need to use as minimal scrubbing as possible, and use only food-safe cleaners as nonstick layers tend to get porous over time.

Step 1: Boiling Food Particles

Add water into the burnt pot or pan, and place it over the stove. Mix in two tablespoons of baking soda, and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow the water to boil for 5 minutes before removing the pan from the heat.

Step 2: Gently scrub with a Wooden Spoon

Use a wooden spoon to chip away loosened burnt bits without scratching the pan. Use a soft sponge to clear food residue from the nonstick surface. Repeat the boiling process for any stubborn spots, or extend the boiling time for particularly large stains.

Step 3: Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

Use a paste made from baking soda and vinegar to clean the bottom of the pot or the pan. The same mixture can be used to clean the handle and the nonstick surface. Let the mixture sit for about 20 minutes.

Step 4: Rinse and Repeat

Rinse the pan as normal, and repeat the process as needed. Do not season a nonstick pan, as the surface may not withstand high temperatures.

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What to Avoid When Cleaning Your Burnt Pot and Burnt Pan

There are a couple of things to remember when cleaning cookware, but the most important thing is to know what material your pots and pans are made of. A scouring pad may be efficient for some materials, but the same scrubber may scratch others. Here's what to avoid when cleaning a burnt pan or a burnt pot:

  • Do not use non-food safe cleaning solutions, especially as you use the cookware in food preparation.
  • Avoid using harsh scrubbers for any type of cookware material as it may scratch your pots and pans, causing them to lose their nonstick features.
  • Do not leave burnt food in pans for long. As much as possible, clear out burnt on food after each use.
  • Do not leave the bottom of the pan burnt as this soot will affect cookware quality, cleanliness, and durability.
  • Avoid storing your pans while wet as these can cause your pans, especially cast iron ones, to rust.

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Clean Your Kitchen

Cookware is definitely an essential part of any kitchen, but the cleaning doesn't stop with your pots and pans. Keep your entire kitchen and home clean with Luce Home cleaning services! Our experienced cleaners will be more than happy to assist you with your housekeeping at your most convenient schedule.

Contact us today to schedule your cleaning session!

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