How to clean a burnt pot or pan

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In this article we tell you everything you need to know about cleaning food off of a burnt pot or pan. We lay out all of our best tips and tricks for working with different types of pans and different cleaning products. This article contains three sections. The best way to clean a burnt pan (or pot) describes our preferred method for removing burnt food from a pot or pan. Tips for cleaning a burnt stainless steel, non stick, or enamel pan contains extra tips that apply to cleaning a specific type of pot or pan. Other ways to clean a burnt pot or pan contains a few additional methods you can try out if you do not have the required materials for our preferred method.

We are constantly updating our posts with new cleaning methods! If you have an effective way to clean a burnt pan that is not mentioned in this post, leave a comment detailing your method! We will try the method out and add it to our post.

How to clean a burnt pot or pan

The best way to clean a burnt pan (or pot)

Do you have a pan with burnt food caked on? Here is what you will need to get burnt food off of a pan.

  • 1/3 cup baking soda
  • 2 cups water 
  • a sponge or scrubber
  • a wooden spoon (optional)
The easiest way to get food off of a burnt food off a pot or pan is to boil a mixture of baking soda and water to loosen up the food. You should combine 1/3 cup of baking soda and 2 cups of water and boil this mixture for at least 10 minutes. If you have a wooden spoon it helps to scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon periodically as the water boils. 
 

What if there is a thick layer of burnt food on your pot or pan

There are a few extra steps you might need to take if you have a thick layer of food burned onto your pan. The first step is easy, just boil the baking soda in the pan for a longer time period. You might need to boil the baking soda for 30-40 minutes if your layer of burnt food is half an inch thick or more. 

If you have boiled your baking soda for 30-40 minutes and it is still difficult to remove all of the burnt material from your pan you should try repeating the process one more time. Scrape as much of the burnt material as you can off of your pan then boil another round of baking soda and water. Sometimes the top layer of burnt food makes it hard for the baking soda and water to reach the lower layers of burnt food. If you clean your pan iteratively by scraping off the top layer of burnt food and then adding more baking soda and water you will be able to penetrate each layer. 

If you have repeated the process multiple times and you still have food on your pan, you should try using a little vinegar. When you are cleaning burnt food with vinegar you need to give the acid some time to eat away at the burnt food. I recommend soaking the pan in a solution if half vinegar and half water overnight then boiling the vinegar and water solution for ten minutes the next day. 

Why you shouldn't use baking soda and vinegar at the same time

I often see articles that recommend cleaning burnt food off of a pan by boiling baking soda and vinegar at the same time. I do not recommend doing this and here is why. Baking soda and vinegar have very different mechanisms for removing burnt food from a pan. Baking soda is abrasive and physically scrapes food away. This means that baking soda can act quickly to remove burnt food. Vinegar, on the other hand, is acidic and works by eating away at the burnt food. Vinegar is more of a slow acting solution that needs more time to work. You might only need 10 minutes to clear burnt food off of a pan with baking soda, but you would need much more time to clear the burnt food with vinegar. 

Other tips for cleaning a burnt pot or pan

Our final tip for cleaning food off of a burnt pan is to make sure that you clean all of the food off before using the pan to cook again. The more you cook with a burnt pan, the more the burnt bits get stuck to the pan – especially if you are cooking something that is not liquid based. 

How to clean a burnt pot or pan

Tips for cleaning a burnt stainless steel, non stick, or enamel pan

How to clean a burnt stainless steel pan

So you have food burnt on to your stainless steel pan. Stainless steel pans can be harder to clean than other types of pans that have slippery coatings on them. The good thing about stainless steel pans is that they can take a beating and you do not have to worry about scratching a coating or enamel off of them.

You should start removing burnt food from a stainless steel pans the same way you would remove food off of any other pan. Boil water and baking soda for at least 10 minutes. The beauty of stainless steel pans is that when you are done boiling the water you can use an rough object to physically scrape food off of your pan. My favorite way to scrub food off of the bottom of a stainless steel pan is to use a tinfoil ball. Roll out a sheet of tin foil then pack it into a ball that is about 2-3 inches in diameter. Drag this tinfoil ball in circles across the bottom of the pan to scrape burnt food off. 

If you have tried the tinfoil ball method and there is still burnt food remaining on the bottom of your pan there is still hope. I have one last secret up my sleeve and that is a cleaning product called Bar Keepers Friend. Bar keepers friend is a bleach-free powdered cleanser that can remove nearly anything from stainless steel pans. Simply sprinkle the powder on the bottom of your pan and scrub the pan for about a minute. After a minute you should wash the powder off of the pan. 

How to clean a burnt non stick pot or pan

If you are working with a non-stick pan you need to be extra careful not to scratch the non-stick coating off of your pan. After you boil baking soda and water in your pan, you should use a soft sponge or a soft-bristled scrubber to clean burnt food off of a non-stick pan. You should not use a material such as tinfoil that is likely to scrape the pan.

Since you can not use more aggressive utensils like tinfoil balls to clean non stick pans your best bet is sticking with baking soda or vinegar. If you boil water and baking soda for long enough it will start to lift the burnt on food. 

How to clean a burnt enamel pan

Enamel pots such as dutch ovens burn fairly easily. Boiling baking soda and water works well  to clean burnt enamel pans. Boiling a combination of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can work even better. If you want to clean an enamel pan with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide you should add equal parts baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to the water in your enamel pan and boil it for at least 15 minutes. 

If boiling the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda does not work to clean the enamel pan, you can also use Bar Keepers Friend on enamel pans. If you want to use Bar Keepers friend to clean an enamel pan you should sprinkle powder on the bottom of the pan and wait for about a minute. Then wash the powder away from the pan.

How to clean a burnt pot or pan

Other ways to clean a burnt pot or pan

Here are some additional ways to clean a burnt pot or pan. We find that our preferred baking soda and water method works the best, but these methods will also help if you find yourself without baking soda. 

How to clean a burnt pan with salt

If you do not have baking soda or vinegar in your house you can also remove food off of a burn pan using soap. The salt acts in a similar way as the baking soda does. It is an abrasive substance that physically scrapes burnt food off of a pan. Coarse salt works better for this purpose than fine salt. 

In order to clean a burnt pan with salt you should combine 1/2 cup of salt with 2 cups of water and boil the mixture for about 15 minutes. I find that baking soda works better than salt but salt is cheap and readily available and it works in a pinch. 

How to clean a burnt pan with a dishwasher pack

Dishwasher packs are made to get off tough caked on food. If you are having trouble getting food off of a burnt pan, try filling the pan with about half an inch of water then rubbing the bottom with a dishwasher pack. You might want to wear gloves when you do this because holding a dishwasher pack for a long time will dry out your skin. 

Cleaning a burnt pan with cola

Some people recommend cleaning a burnt pan with cola. Cola acts two ways to remove food from a burnt pan and it cleans via both chemical and physical reactions. First, the acidity of the cola eats away at the burnt food. Second, the carbonation helps physically scrape food off of the pan.  

If you want to use cola to clean a burnt pot or pan you should empty one can of cola into the pot or pan then heat the cola on a burner over low heat. We recommend heating the cola for 30 – 60 minutes.

How to clean burnt pot (in pictures)

How to clean a burnt pot or pan

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