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Fear not: Cleaning blackened, burned cookware doesn’t have to mean an arm-wearying afternoon of intensive scouring. It doesn’t have to mean the use of harsh, toxic chemicals, either. You probably already own everything you need to save a scorched pot or pan from the clutches of charred food. So if and when your usual let-it-soak-and-wait method ultimately meets with failure, try one of these tried-and-true strategies for restoring scorched cookware to its original, shiny state.
Fill the burned pot with enough water to cover the charred area completely. Bring the water to a boil on the stove and let it continue boiling for two or three minutes. Next, remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool down. Pour out the water only once the water has returned to room temperature.
Now that the char in the pot has softened considerably, sprinkle in a generous amount of baking soda and proceed to scrub. With luck, you should find that the black residue comes off much more easily, particularly with the potent abrasive combination of baking soda and a rough-textured scouring pad.
If the technique described above ended up helping but not enough, call in more firepower—that is, white vinegar. Pour enough of the stuff into the pot to cover the charred area completely (here, vinegar substitutes for the water used in the first method.) Once finished, add in about one cup of baking soda. Once the fizzing dies down, pour the liquid out of the pot and proceed to scrub the burned area clean.
In the most extreme cases, try this alternative method: Fill the pot with enough vinegar to cover the charred area, then bring the vinegar to a boil. Let it simmer on the stove. (As the vinegar simmers, you might even see blackened bits breaking away from the bottom and sides of the pot.) After a few minutes, set the pot aside and add baking soda. Once the fizzing has stopped, pour out the liquid and scrub.
Even gourmet chefs scorch cookware occasionally, so there’s no telling when you might face the problem again. But now you know not to dispose of a burned pot or pan. Though it may seem impossible at first, black and bristly char can indeed be removed, and often without a great deal of effort. You only need to know what staples to pull out of your pantry and precisely how to employ them to get results.