7 Easy Ways to Rescue a Scorched Pot

Though you may doubt if the burnt surfaces of your favorite cookware can ever be completely cleaned, it's not only possible but can actually be done with very little labor-intensive scouring. Here are seven simple methods for how to clean a burnt pot so it looks like new.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot

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Fear not: Cleaning blackened, burned cookware doesn’t have to mean an arm-wearying afternoon of rigorous scouring. It doesn’t have to mean the use of harsh, toxic chemicals, either. You probably already own everything you need to save scorched pots and pans from stains left by screaming-hot burners and charred food. So if, and when, your usual let-it-soak-and-wait technique ultimately meets with failure, try one of these tried-and-true strategies for restoring scorched cookware to its original, shiny state.

7 Methods for Cleaning a Burnt Pot

Cleaning a burned pot may seem difficult, but these DIY strategies are simple and effective. Each utilizes items you likely already have on hand, including boiling water, white vinegar, dishwasher detergent, baking soda, and a dryer sheet. Read on to find the best solution for your scorched cookware situation.

Method 1: Boiling Water

How to Clean a Burnt Pot - Boiling Water

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This cleaning technique involves going back to the source of your problem—the stove. First, fill the pot with a few inches of water or enough to cover the charred area. Bring the water to a boil and let it roll for 5 to 7 minutes.

Next, remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool down. Once the water has returned to room temperature, pour it out. If needed, use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to carefully scrape any large, now softened, burned bits into the garbage can.

Finally, sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the wet pan and proceed to scrub any remaining stains with a cookware-safe sponge or scouring pad. You should find that the black residue comes off much easier, particularly with the potent, abrasive combination of baking soda paste and a little bit of elbow grease.

Method 2: Vinegar

If the boiling water strategy described above only helped somewhat, call in more firepower—that is, white vinegar. Pour equal parts water and vinegar, into the pot, enough to cover the charred area completely. Once again, boil it for about 5 minutes.

In addition to the heat, vinegar’s acidity will help to loosen the stubborn stains left by burned food. As it boils, you might even see blackened debris breaking away from the bottom and sides of the pot. Repeat the steps of letting the pot soak while the liquid cools, dumping it out, and scrubbing any remaining burned gunk away using a sponge that’s safe for the cookware you’re cleaning.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot - Vinegar and Baking Soda

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Method 3: Vinegar and Baking Soda

In the most extreme cases, try this alternative method: Fill the pot with enough vinegar to cover the charred area (here, vinegar is not diluted with water), then bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down slightly and let it simmer on the stove for a few minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the vinegar cool slightly.

Next, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the pot. The mixture of these two ingredients will cause a fizzing reaction. (Helpful hint: You may want to do this part in the sink to minimize potential messes.) Once the fizzing has stopped, discard the liquid.

Then, scrub the pot with a dish brush or scouring pad suitable for the type of cookware you’re working with. If needed, add a bit more baking soda and elbow grease until the stain is completely removed.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot - Boiling Lemons

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Method 4: Boiling Lemons

Another popular method to remove caked-on debris from your cookware involves lemon and water. Similar to the acetic acid in white vinegar, the citric acid in lemons helps to break down burned food stains—but without the pungent odor. The lemon method, rather, will clean a burnt pot and add a refreshing citrus scent to your kitchen. That’s a win-win! Here’s how to do it:

First things first, cut approximately two lemons into quarters or thick slices and place them along the bottom of the pot. Next, add enough water to cover the entire scorched area and bring it to a boil on the stove. You’ll see the burnt food particles coming off the bottom of the pan as the lemon floats around.

After about 5 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let it soak while the water cools to room temperature. Discard the water and lemon pieces, and then lightly scrub off any remaining grime with a soft sponge.

Method 5: Dishwasher Detergent

How to Clean a Burnt Pot - Scrub Detail

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Dishwasher detergent is another effective solution for restoring burnt cookware. Start by adding one dishwasher tablet or 1 tablespoon of powdered dishwasher detergent or 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to the pot. Then fill it with a few inches of piping-hot water from your faucet; let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Next, use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to gently scrape the bottom of the pot, testing to see if the charred food bits easily lift off of the surface. If so, pour out the soapy water and scrub off the remaining residue. If not, kick it up a notch by simmering the water-and-detergent mixture on the stove for about 10 minutes.

After removing the pot from the heat and allowing it to soak while it cools, discard the liquid and scrub off any remaining gunk. (It’s important to note that the type of detergent you use can affect how successful this method is.)

Method 6: Aluminum Foil

The aluminum foil hack for cleaning a burnt pot is effective and inexpensive, but it requires a bit more elbow grease than the techniques mentioned previously. It also comes with an important note of caution: Do not use the aluminum foil method on nonstick pans, as it will scratch the coating.

Start by adding enough warm water to the pot to cover the charred area. (It’s beneficial to also add a teaspoon of dish soap and let it soak for at least 30 minutes.) Then crumple a small sheet of aluminum foil into a ball. Use the abrasive foil ball to scrub the pot until the stubborn burnt food residue is removed. Once you’re done, toss the makeshift metal scrubber into the recycling bin.

Method 7: Dryer Sheet

Did you know that the conditioning properties of most dryer sheets will also help to loosen charred remnants from your pots and pans? It’s true! Here’s how to do it:

Fill the dirty pot with a few inches of warm water and submerge a dryer sheet. Let the concoction soak for at least 1 hour to overnight; then toss the dryer sheet into the trash and pour out the water.

Use a sponge to scrub off any remaining food bits, and be sure to follow it up by thoroughly cleaning the pot with your normal dishwashing method to remove any conditioning residue left by the dryer sheet.

How to Clean a Burnt Pot

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FAQ for How to Clean a Burnt Pot

How do I clean a burnt stainless steel pot?

There are many ways to clean a burnt stainless steel pot, the most effective of which involve warm to boiling water and cleaning agents such as white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and dish detergent. However, hacks using common household items such as tin foil and dryer sheets can work wonders on scorched cookware, too.

Can a burnt pot be saved?

Yes, a burnt pot can be saved—it just might require some elbow grease to do so. The DIY tips outlined above are super-simple and use tools and materials you likely already have on hand in your pantry.

How do you clean a burnt pot with baking soda?

Baking soda is a go-to ingredient for cleaning a burnt pot. The best method involves first boiling vinegar for about 5 minutes. Then take the pot off of the heat and add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda. The mixture will fizz, loosening the stubborn charred bits off of the bottom of the pan. Once done fizzing, dump out the liquid and wash the pot as usual using dish soap, water, and a gentle scrub brush.

Final Thoughts

Gourmet chefs and home cooks alike scorch their cookware occasionally. But now you know not to dispose of burned pots and pans, as there are several simple ways to clean it—good as new. Though it may seem impossible at first, stubborn char can indeed be removed, and often without a great deal of effort on your part. You only need to know what household staples you need to gather and precisely how to use them. Before you know it, the scorched cookware will look shiny and clean once more!