How to Clean Burnt Pots and Pans So They Shine Like New

Eliminate stuck-on residue from scorched cookware with minimal scrubbing. These methods for cleaning burnt pans and pots use basic household ingredients and simple cleaners to loosen grime with ease.

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Using too much heat or stepping away for a little too long can quickly scorch whatever you're whipping up. And when you're dealing with a burnt-on mess at the bottom of your cookware, a simple wash with soap and water likely isn't going to get it clean.

The best ways to clean burnt pots and pans typically involve additional household ingredients or cleaners that can cut through the grease and lift away stuck-on grime. Most methods also require a fair bit of elbow grease, so be prepared to do some scrubbing to make your pot or pan sparkle again. It's also important to note that your approach should differ depending on the material of your cookware. Stainless-steel pans can stand up to a certain amount of scouring, but abrasive cleaning methods could damage your nonstick pans.

Always check the manufacturer's instructions first for specific cleaning steps, as these might differ between brands, and let the pan cool down before you attempt to clean it. Then refer to these instructions on how to clean burnt pots and pans to eliminate stuck-on residue and restore their shine.

before and after cleaning a pot with burned food at the bottom
Praewphan/Adobe Stock

How to Clean Burnt Stainless-Steel Pans

There are a variety of strategies you can use to clean burnt stainless-steel cookware. One of the easiest methods is to use Bar Keepers Friend ($9, Amazon), an abrasive, acidic cleaner that cuts through and loosens burnt-on food. First, rinse your pan under hot water. Wearing rubber gloves, sprinkle a small amount of the powder onto the burnt surface and rub it in with a damp cloth or sponge. Wait one minute, then rinse the pan again and scrub off any loosened bits of food with a sponge or scouring pad. Repeat this process as necessary until the pan is clean.

To clean burnt stainless-steel pans using basic household ingredients, grab some baking soda and aluminum foil from your pantry. Sprinkle 2-3 Tbsp. baking soda across the burnt area and add just enough hot water to form a paste. Crumble a piece of aluminum foil into a ball (steel wool also works) and use it to scrub away stuck-on residue. Wash in hot soapy water to rinse away any remaining debris.

You can also use the concentrated cleaning power of dishwasher tablets, such as Finish Powerball Deep Clean Tabs ($7, Amazon), to clean a burnt stainless-steel pan. Simply scrape the tablet over the burnt surface with a bit of warm water to loosen food debris and rinse clean.

How to Clean Burnt Nonstick Pans

When cleaning burnt nonstick pans, take care not to use any abrasive tools, such as scouring pads or steel wool, which could scratch or otherwise damage the surface. The mild abrasiveness of baking soda should be enough to clear away most stuck-on residue. Sprinkle baking soda over the burnt area and add a small amount of water to form a thin paste. Let the pan sit overnight, then gently scrub with a non-scratch sponge. Rinse and wash with soap and water.

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