Cleaning A Badly Burnt Saucepan

Yes, You Can Save That Charred Pan!

We’ve all done it — Put a pot of something on the stove, forgotten about it, or had the heat turned up too high (and you walk away for a quick minute) and the next thing you know your pan is a mess and has a layer of burnt on crud that shows no signs of ever coming off! Think you destroyed your stainless pots and pans? Think again. Try one of these solutions to lift burnt on food and make your pans look good as new.

Heavy Duty Dish Soap + Baking Soda

In order to clean a burnt pan, try coating the surface with Boulder Clean Liquid Dish Soap or Boulder Clean All-Purpose Cleaner then sprinkling it with baking soda. Let the two sit on the surface for at least 20 minutes, then scrub with a scouring pad and rinse clean.

Baking Soda Paste

You can also clean a burnt pan by using common, natural ingredients and simple materials you likely already have around your house. Jen Stark, the founder of Happy DIY Home, a gardening and home improvement blog, likes to sprinkle baking soda onto the affected area, then slowly add enough water to make a paste. She then balls up aluminum foil and uses it to scrub away at the area, starting at the outside edges. If you’re worried about scratching your pans, you can use a scouring pad in place of foil. “Once the scorched mess is cleared away, rinse your pot with warm, soapy water,” says Stark. “If it’s clean, you’re done. If not, repeat the process until it all comes off.”


Salt, especially coarse Kosher salt, is great for alleviating scorch marks in pans and is especially great for greasy messes. Try pairing it with Boulder Clean Liquid Dish Soap and hot water, or massaging it into the burnt pan with the juicy core of a cut lemon.

Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is an abrasive substitute for baking soda. Simply mix a tablespoon of it in a cup of water and bring it to a boil in a scorched pan. Allow the water to cool and scrub the pan to bring it back to a shine.

Lemon Water

Another method Jen Stark, of Happy DIY Home, recommends is slicing two or three lemons and adding them to your burnt pan, topped with a few inches of water. Bring the water to a boil and allow the lemons to simmer in there for 5 to 10 minutes. The acid from the lemons will start to remove the buildup and you will see food particles begin to float in the water. Then you can remove the rest with a scouring pad.


Heather Yan, the founder of the kitchen and cooking blog My Kitchen Culture, swears by ketchup or apple-cider vinegar. “This is my last resort for cleaning up greasy messes and burnt-on residues from baking,” says Yan. “The acids in the ketchup help release the oils and lift the stain off your pans and bakeware.”

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple-cider vinegar also works well, but it’s harder to keep the vinegar where you need it. Just don’t use this method on nonstick pans because the acid can damage the nonstick coating.

Soft Drinks

While the pan is still hot, pour soda (either club soda or an inexpensive store-brand soda) and coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the carbonation in the soda to loosen the burnt grime then wash the pan clean.

Alka Seltzer

This common household effervescent will work just as well as club soda. Add 1-2 tablets to hot water in your pan, and allow it to sit and take action against stubborn burns.

Tips For The Most Effective Cleaning

  • First, the most important thing to do is to clean your pots and pans immediately for the best chance at lifting the caked-on food before it has time to fully dry.
  • Next, the hotter the water, the better— in most cases. “The only exception to the rule is dairy-related foods. Dairy tends to grow stickier with warm water—so cold water is best for cleaning cheesy dishes,” says James Conner, VP of operations at Molly Maid.
  • Soak the pan for anywhere from 20 minutes to overnight, he advises, depending on how dirty it is. If, after putting some real elbow grease into the scrub, the residue still hasn’t lifted, Conner recommends covering the surface with baking soda and pouring vinegar on top of it.”Wait while the chemical reaction occurs and wipe away with your soapy sponge,” he says. “With freshly cleaned dishes in hand, use a dry rag to wipe away the remaining water before storage. Equipped with a clean pan, you’re ready for a new recipe!”
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