How to Clean a Burnt Pot
Cleaning a burned pot doesn’t have to involve scouring for hours. One of these methods is sure to get your cookware looking like new again.
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.
If your usual let-it-soak-and-wait technique meets with failure, try one of these strategies for restoring scorched cookware to its original shiny state.
Working Time: 30 minutes to 2 hours
Total Time: 30 minutes to overnight
Skill Level: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $7 to $20
Before You Begin
When cleaning burned pots, first check the finish. Avoid using abrasive scrubbers on nonstick pans, as they can scratch the coating. Additionally, it’s a good idea to don some rubber gloves if you want to avoid irritating your hands as you scrub.
7 Ways to Clean a Burnt Pot
Cleaning a burnt pot may seem daunting, but these DIY strategies are simple and effective. Each utilizes items you probably already have on hand in your kitchen. We’ve organized these methods according to their level of difficulty, so the first strategy is the easiest way to rid your pan of tough stains. Read on to find the best solution for your scorched cookware situation.
Soak With Dishwasher Detergent
It stands to reason that dishwasher detergent is an effective solution for restoring burnt cookware. It is, after all, what you use when washing your pans anyway. We’re just going to use it in a different way.
1. Start by adding one dishwasher tablet, 1 tablespoon of powdered dishwasher detergent, or 1 teaspoon of liquid dish soap to the pot.
2. Fill the pot with a few inches of piping-hot water from your faucet; let it soak for at least 30 minutes.
3. Use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to gently scrape the bottom of the pot, testing to see if the charred bits of food lift easily from 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.
4. Remove the pot from the heat and let it soak while it cools, then 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.)
Scrub With Aluminum Foil
The aluminum foil hack for cleaning a burnt pot is effective and inexpensive, but it requires a bit more elbow grease than other techniques. It also comes with an important note of caution: Do not use this method on nonstick pans, as it will scratch the coating.
1. 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.)
2. Crumple a small sheet of aluminum foil into a ball.
3. Use the abrasive foil ball to scrub the pot until the stubborn burnt food residue is removed.
4. Once you’re done, toss the makeshift metal scrubber into the recycling bin.
Combine Vinegar and Baking Soda
If you need something a bit more powerful for tougher stains, try using vinegar and baking soda. Baking soda contains mildly abrasive particles that help neutralize acidic burnt foods. When you combine it with vinegar, a fizzing reaction occurs that helps loosen the grime off of your pan.
1. Fill the pot with enough vinegar to cover the charred area. Do not dilute the vinegar with water.
2. Bring the vinegar to a boil. Turn the heat down slightly and let it simmer on the stove for a few minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the vinegar cool slightly.
4. 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 messes.)
5. Once the fizzing has stopped, discard the liquid.
6. Scrub the pot with a dish brush or scouring pad suitable for the type of cookware you’re working with. If necessary, try using a bit more baking soda—and elbow grease—until the stain is completely removed.
Another popular method for removing caked-on debris from cookware involves lemons 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 of vinegar. In fact, the lemon method will both clean a burnt pot and add a refreshing citrus scent to your kitchen. That’s a win-win!
1. Cut two or three lemons into quarters or thick slices, and then place them in the bottom of the pot.
2. 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.
3. After about 5 minutes, remove the pot from the heat and let it soak while the water cools to room temperature.
4. Discard the water and lemon pieces.
5. Lightly scrub off any remaining grime with a soft sponge.
Boil Vinegar and Water
Here’s another vinegar-based method that’s worth a shot for persistent stains and tough-to-remove burned bits.
1. Pour equal parts water and vinegar into the burnt pot, enough to cover the charred area completely. Once again, boil the liquid for about 5 minutes. The combination of heat and acidic vinegar 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.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and let it soak while the liquid cools. Then, dump it out and scrub away any remaining burned gunk, using a sponge that’s safe for the cookware you’re cleaning.
Soak a Dryer Sheet
Did you know that the conditioning properties of most dryer sheets can also help to loosen charred remnants from your pots and pans? It’s true! Here’s how to do it:
1. Fill the dirty pot with a few inches of warm water.
2. Submerge a dryer sheet. Let it soak for at least 1 hour or overnight.
3. Toss the dryer sheet into the trash and pour out the water.
4. Use a sponge to scrub off any remaining food bits. When you’re done, be sure to clean the pot thoroughly with your normal dishwashing method to remove any conditioning residue left by the dryer sheet.
Boiling Water and Baking Soda
This last method harnesses the softening power of hot water and the abrasive quality of baking soda.
1. Fill the pot with a few inches of water or enough to cover the charred area.
2. Bring the water to a boil and keep it at a rolling boil for 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Remove the pot from the stove and set it aside to cool down.
4. Once the water has returned to room temperature, pour it out. If necessary, use a plastic spatula or wooden spoon to carefully scrape any large burned bits into the garbage can.
5. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the wet pan and proceed to scrub any remaining stains with a cookware-safe dish sponge or scouring pad. You should find that the black residue comes off much more easily, particularly with the combination of abrasive baking soda paste and a little bit of elbow grease.
Cleaning a burned pot isn’t impossible! In case you need more information before getting started, here we address some of the most commonly asked questions.
Q: Is it safe to use a burned pot?
It is generally safe to use a burned pot as long as it is cleaned thoroughly after each use. That said, it’s recommended that you inspect the pot for any signs of damage, such as charring, discoloration, or warping. If the pot shows substantial damage or emits noxious fumes when heated, replace it for safety reasons.
Q: How do I clean a stainless steel pot?
The best way to clean a stainless steel pot is by soaking it in warm water and adding a small amount of dishwasher detergent. Let it soak for a while to loosen any food particles or stubborn stains, and then scrub it with a nonabrasive sponge or brush. Rinse it thoroughly and let it air-dry.
Q: How do you clean a nonstick pot?
Cleaning a nonstick pot requires some special care to avoid damaging the coating. Fill the pot with warm water and add a small amount of dish soap or mild dishwasher detergent. Then, use a soft sponge or nonabrasive brush to gently scrub the inside of the pot. Rinse thoroughly and pat the pot dry with a soft cloth or towel.
Gourmet chefs and home cooks alike scorch their cookware occasionally. But now you know that you don’t necessarily have to throw out burned pots and pans, as there are several simple ways to make them good as new—you may even want to tackle cleaning burnt pans too! Stubborn char can indeed be removed, and often without a great deal of effort. It’s just a matter of gathering the right household staples and knowing how to use them.