3 Best Ways on How to Clean a Burnt Pot or Pan

It’s dinnertime. You have just finished cooking a delicious meal and now the time has come for the post-dinner clean-up. Caked on food may be easy to scrub off of plates, bowls and utensils, but what about that burnt mess that’s on the bottom of your pots and pans? That black crud can build up over the course of time, and it seems to take forever to get off.

Sometimes it’s so bad it seems sure to ruin the pan forever. But with a few pot and pan tips and tricks up your sleeve, you can return your burnt pot or pan to looking brand new in no time at all.

Deglaze It

Part of the problem of a burnt pot or pan is that the food material has now firmly burnt to the bottom and sealed itself via a glaze. This layer of gunk, oil and grease seems impermeable to even the best dishwashing detergent. To remove it, you’ll need to break through this glaze barrier in order to get every little bit of the burnt grime off of the bottom, and then you can follow-up with a good scrub in order to restore the shine. One of the easiest ways to deglaze a burnt pan is through boiling water or other substances in it that will help to actually lift burnt on food off the bottom.

You might be able to remove the burnt matter by simply boiling a small amount of just water in the pan; if you’ve cooked with the pot or pan recently and haven’t cooked with it again since burning it, this might be enough. Simply fill the pan with enough water to coat the bottom, and boil at high heat for fifteen minutes. The offending material should break free of the bottom, and then you’re free to clean it as you normally would.

If you’ve cooked with the pan since it’s been burnt (especially if you’ve used it multiple times), you might need a little more than water to really get through the burnt layer. Fill the pan with a layer of water (enough to completely cover the bottom), and then add a half-cup to a cup of vinegar. Bring to a boil for about fifteen minutes and watch the burnt matter simply flake away from the bottom.

If there is still food coating the pot or pan after boiling the vinegar/water combination, turn off the heat and add two tablespoons of baking soda (you’ll only need to add one tablespoon if you used a half-cup of vinegar). The pot will fizz, and once the bubbles subside, the pan will be magically clean once more. You can follow this baking soda step by scrubbing the pan clean, but by boiling the vinegar and water, and adding the baking soda, the ingredients should do most of the cleaning work for you.

Soak It

A tried and true method of removing burnt matter from the bottom of pots and pans is to soak the pan in a liquid that will help lift burnt matter while also cutting through any grease. If the pan is recently burnt, soaking with a layer of water and strong dish detergent might be enough. Simply fill the pan with enough water to coat the bottom, add a few drops of dish detergent, and stir. Leave the pan sitting for an hour and then wash clean.

Soaking a Pan

For those tougher jobs where the food and oil is a hard, burnt mess, place water in the pan then let it with a dryer sheet soaking in the water. If you do not have a dryer sheet, you can substitute a few drops of liquid fabric softener mixed in the water to help loosen the burnt glaze. Let the pot or pan soak for one hour, and then rinse the pan cleaning, cleaning it carefully to ensure all the softener or dryer sheet water has been washed away.

If you have club soda (or any other type of carbonated beverage), the carbonation can do wonders to help fight whatever is stuck to the bottom of your pot or pan. Simply fill with enough soda to coat the bottom, and let sit for an hour (or until the grime has fully lifted). Make sure to clean the pan or pot thoroughly after, and if the pot is stainless steel, consider using a polish to restore its true luster.

Scrub It

If all else fails and boiling the pot or soaking it doesn’t work to get it clean, you’ll have to resort to using good old fashioned elbow grease. Luckily, there’s a variety of ingredients that will help scour the bottom of the pan and get it looking shiny and clean again.

Cleaning a burnt pan

Depending on what type of pot or pan it is, baking soda and salt are both abrasive materials that work well for scrubbing. Either one can be used independently (with a little bit of water mixed in) to make your scrubbing a little more efficient. Salt can also be combined with dish detergent (which helps to cut through grease and oil), or lemon juice for an especially effective cleaner that also smells great.

Baking soda and salt will work well for stainless steel or enameled bakeware (think of the material a crockpot is made out of), but should be avoided for aluminum, which is a softer metal and can scratch easily. This same rule goes for using a rough scrubber like a Brillo pad; for aluminum pots and pans you’re better off boiling water or vinegar or soaking the pan with a solution instead of scrubbing with an abrasive material, or you risk damaging the pot or pan permanently.

With all these methods, there’s sure to be at least one great way to save that favorite pot or pan from the burnt grime and muck on the bottom. Whether you boil, soak, or scrub it, remember to follow up with cleaning the pan thoroughly (and a quick polish if you’re using a stainless steel pot or pan). If you find yourself with burnt pots and pans repeatedly, consider cooking with lower temperatures, or cooking with cast iron, which tolerates high heat well.


    1. Shamiek White January 31, 2019
    2. Joel Nolan October 27, 2019

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