How to Remove Burnt Sugar from Pots and Pans

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From making caramelized sugar for flan to cooking up a thick sugar syrup-topped cheesecake, burnt sugar is an inevitable stain that can leave marks on even the highest quality stainless steel pans. Sugar does not easily clean off cookware, but trying to chisel the thick layer of burnt sugar off a pan can damage the cookware.

Fortunately, there are a couple of tried and true methods in removing burnt sugar off a pan that doesn't take a lot of elbow grease, and won't damage the surface of your quality cookware! Sugar can be boiled or softened off the pan using a few household ingredients:

How to Get Burnt Sugar Off a Pan - 2 Ways to Remove Burnt Sugar Stains

Boiling Method

The boiling method is the quickest way to clean burnt sugar from pots and pans, and requires less effort than scrubbing the sugar off a pan. This method is the best way to clean nonstick pans as well, as it uses no harsh cleaners or intensive scrubbing to remove tough burnt sugar stains from the nonstick material. Here's what you'll need:

What You'll Need

  • Water
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Stove
  • Silicone spatula or wooden spoon
  • Scrubbing tool - sponge or brush

Step 1: Fill the Pan with Water

First, fill the pan with water up to the point where the cookware is stained with burnt sugar. You will need to fully cover the burnt bits for this cleaning method to be effective. For particularly tough stains, add a cup of vinegar to the water. Place the cookware on the stove, and let the water simmer.

Step 2: Bring Your Water to a Perfect Boil

Bring the water to a complete and perfect boil, and then immediately lower the heat. Let the pan simmer for 5-10 minutes. As the hot water boils, it melts the sugar off your cookware, making them easier to remove. This method is especially effective in removing the thick layer of burnt sugar on the bottom of the pan or pot. Adding vinegar helps to dissolve the sugar faster.

Step 3: Stir to Dissolve the Burnt Sugar

Stir the water to dissolve the burnt sugar bits from the sides and bottom of your cookware. Carefully use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape away the stuck burnt sugar from the sides of the pan, dipping the tool in hot water to dissolve the sugar easily.

Step 4: Drain and Repeat

Make sure to remove the pot from the stove, and let the water cool immediately. Stir the cooled water to dissolve any remaining sugar, and drain the water. Wash the pot as you normally would, or rinse and repeat the process if there are any remaining bits of burnt sugar.

Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

The baking soda and vinegar method is the heat-free way of removing light to moderate caramelized sugar stains from your pots and pans. This method doesn't use any harsh chemical cleaners, and is safe to apply to any pot or pan. However, you may need to use a bit of elbow grease to clean your burnt pan. Here's what you'll need:

What You'll Need

  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Scrubbing tool - sponge or brush

Step 1: Fill the Pan with Baking Soda, Ample Water, and Vinegar

Fill the pan with water and vinegar just enough to cover the burnt sugar bits. Gradually add in a cup or two of baking soda, and stir to combine. The mixture should bubble slightly. This reaction is important in lifting the stains out of your pots and pans. Simmering vinegar will work better on heavy stains, but is optional.

Step 2: Let it Sit Overnight

Let the solution sit overnight. As it sits, the vinegar should soften the sugar, while baking soda helps to lift out stains left behind by the burnt sugar. The next day, the water should take on the amber-brown hues of caramelized sugar.

Step 3: Drain and Scrub

Drain the solution, but don't rinse the pan. Use a cleaning sponge to gently scrub the remaining burnt sugar bits from the pan until you no longer see or feel any remaining bits. Be careful when scrubbing nonstick pans as you may end up removing the nonstick coating.

Step 4: Wash as Normal

Rinse out your pan, and wash as you normally would with some dish soap and warm water. Use a new cleaning sponge if the previous one had been stained with burnt sugar. Make sure to wash the outside of the pan as well.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

Rinse the pan, and repeat the process for any remaining stains. For heavy stains, use a thick paste made from vinegar and baking soda to spot clean the burnt pan. For lighter stains, the baking soda, water, and vinegar method should suffice.

How to Prevent Burnt Sugar

Sugar melts and burns quickly over the stove, and burnt sugar is especially difficult to remove from a pot or pan. Preventing your sugar from burning will help prevent stains from forming on your cookware, and will help reduce the time and effort it takes to clean your pans.

Always wash pans immediately before the stains have set. When dealing with hot sugar, be careful not to touch the sugar as it is extremely hot, and can cause substantial burning. Add water to the pan to dissolve the sugar while it is warm, and place the pot over the stove to warm up the sugar. Use a cleaning sponge to scrub out the rest of the sugar.

Want more kitchen maintenance tips? Head over to our blog!

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