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How to Clean a Burnt Pot So It Looks as Good as New

It's surprisingly easy to learn how to clean a burnt pot like the pros, and you probably have all the supplies you need in your pantry

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Burned Enamel Kitchen Pot, Dish TowelJANN HUIZENGA/GETTY IMAGES

From scorched to shiny

Whether you’re an experienced chef or a novice in the kitchen, there’s an unavoidable fact of cooking: You’re going to encounter burnt pots and pans at some point. Maybe you left your culinary concoction on the stove a little too long. Or maybe those scorch marks have simply built up over time. Thankfully, your charred cookware isn’t a lost cause. Learning how to clean a burnt pot is easier than you might think.

There are simple, effective and expert-endorsed methods to clean a burnt pot so that it looks good as new. And as with other popular cleaning hacks, most of the items you need to restore your favorite cookware are probably already in your pantry or cleaning supply stash. (Yep, you’ve just stumbled upon yet another of the many uses for vinegar and benefits of lemon.)

Whether you want to incorporate cookware care into your regular cleaning schedule, tackle the task when you clean your kitchen or do it whenever you notice scorch marks, we have the expert tips you need to know how to clean a burnt pot or pan. The best part? With the right tactics and tools, you can clean scorched cookware without a whole lot of elbow grease.

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Eco friendly natural cleaners for burnt meal in a saucepansvehlik/Getty Images

Vinegar and baking soda

Learning how to clean a burnt pot or pan is easy, according to Alicia Sokolowski, a cleaning expert with more than 15 years of experience as the president and co-CEO of AspenClean. Her go-to method uses baking soda and white vinegar, two pantry staples that offer a whole host of benefits when it comes to keeping your home spick-and-span.

What you’ll need: Vinegar, baking soda and a scrub brush

What to do:

  1. Add equal parts vinegar and water to your pot.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Once it’s boiling, turn off the heat and add two tablespoons of baking soda.
  4. Allow the liquid to simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse out the water, then scrub at the burn, which should be loose by now.
  6. If the stain is very tough, you may have to repeat the process or add a bit of dish soap to the liquid solution.
  7. When the stain is gone, dry the pot with a microfiber cloth, and it will be as good as new.

Pro tip: “For stainless steel pans only, you can use a ball of aluminum foil to help scrub away the stain,” Sokolowski says. Add hot water and dish soap to the pan, allow it to cool and then rinse and scrub with the aluminum foil.

to wash the dirty dishes in the sink in the kitchenDevin_Pavel/Getty Images

Dish soap and powder scrub

Dish soap does wonders against stuck-on food and grease, so it should come as no surprise that one of the easiest ways to clean a burnt pot or pan involves this kitchen miracle. But you’ll need more than a handy bottle of Dawn Powerwash Dish Spray. Sokolowski suggests using a combination of AspenClean Super Scrub Powder and your usual dish soap. “This scouring powder is great for removing tough stains,” she says.

What you’ll need: Dish soap, AspenClean Super Scrub Powder and a scouring pad or brush

What to do:

  1. Add some warm water and two tablespoons of AspenClean Super Scrub Powder to the pot.
  2. Mix the ingredients into a paste.
  3. Add a drop of dish soap.
  4. Scrub thoroughly with a scouring brush.

Pro tip: If the stain is stubborn and refuses to lift, you might need to repeat the process until you’re left with a clean and shiny pot.

Coca-Cola

While you may want to think twice about chugging the sugar-laden drink, give no pause to cleaning with soda. There are plenty of surprising things you can do with a can of Coke, and cleaning charred cookware is one of them. “Coca-Cola is excellent at loosening tough stains, as it is extremely acidic,” says Sokolowski.

What you’ll need: Coca-Cola and a scouring pad or brush

What to do:

  1. Pour some Coca-Cola into your burnt pot.
  2. Turn on the heat and let the Coke simmer for 15 minutes to loosen the stain.
  3. Rinse the pot and scrub at the burn.

Pro tip: Watch the heat! “Do not bring it to a boil, as Coca-Cola can thicken and turn into a sticky syrup, which will further burn your pan,” says Sokolowski.

Midsection of man washing sauce pan with scouring pad at sinkMaskot/Getty Images

Warm water and mild dish soap

If all you have on hand is the soap you use to clean your dishes, don’t worry. You can clean a burnt pot with mild dish soap, says Nate Collier, director of marketing communications and culinary at Le Creuset.

What you’ll need: Mild dish soap and a soft, natural or nylon sponge or Le Creuset Grill Pan Brush

What to do:

  1. Rinse the pot with warm water.
  2. Use mild dish soap and a soft, nonmetal sponge to scrub the cooked-on food until the pot is clean.
  3. Rinse and dry the pot thoroughly before putting it away.

Pro tip: “If there are food residues, we recommend filling the pan with warm water and letting it soak for 15 to 20 minutes before washing,” says Collier. “Just don’t submerge the Dutch oven in a sink full of water.” While your pan is soaking, consider another kitchen project: Clean your coffee maker.

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Le Creuset Cast Iron Cookware Cleaner or Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser

Knowing how to clean a burnt pot is one thing. Understanding how to clean a cast-iron pan or Dutch oven is a little different, says Collier. If you burned food in a cast-iron frying pan or Dutch oven, follow a cleaning method made specifically for these types of cookware.

What you’ll need: Le Creuset Cast Iron Cookware Cleaner or Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser and a brush or soft, natural or nylon sponge

What to do:

  1. Rinse the pot with warm water.
  2. Use Le Creuset Cast Iron Cookware Cleaner or Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser and a soft, nonmetal sponge or brush to scrub at the cooked food until the pot is clean.
  3. Rinse and dry the pot thoroughly before putting it away.

Pro tip: “Allow the pan to cool to room temperature before cleaning,” Collier says. “You never want to place a hot pan in cold water or fill a hot pot with cold water. That may lead to cracking of the enamel due to thermal shock.”

Pot of boiling water on stove topLew Robertson/Getty Images

Warm water

You read that right: You can clean a burnt stainless-steel pan with hot water alone. Just be sure to follow Collier’s No. 1 tip: “Never plunge a hot pan in cold water.” The resulting thermal shock may warp its base.

What you’ll need: Soft, natural or nylon sponge or a scrub brush

What to do:

  1. Let the pot cool completely.
  2. If there are food residues, fill the pan with warm water and let it soak until the burnt food releases easily.
  3. For stubborn residue, use a nylon or soft but abrasive pad or a scrub brush. “Do not use metallic pads or harsh cleaning agents, as these will damage the surface,” says Collier.
  4. Dry the pot thoroughly once it’s clean.

Pro tip: It’s tempting to quickly run a dish towel over a newly cleaned pot, then put it in the cupboard. But however high organizing your pots and pans is on your cleaning to-do list, don’t rush it. You want to be sure cookware is completely clean before storing it. “Never store pans while they are still damp,” says Collier. “Store them in a dry cupboard away from steam.”

lemon juicerez-art/Getty Images

Lemon

Mixing pure lemon juice into your cleaning routine yields some impressive results, says Sokolowski. “It’s a powerful cleaning tool that acts as an antibacterial agent as well as an antiseptic. Furthermore, lemons are cheap, portable and easy to pick up at your nearest supermarkets,” she says. And as an added bonus, cleaning with lemons leaves a bright, fresh scent in your house.

What you’ll need: Lemon or lemon juice and a scouring brush

What to do:

  1. Cut up a lemon and place the slices in the pot.
  2. Fill the pot with a few inches of water.
  3. Boil the mixture for five to 10 minutes.
  4. After burnt food particles rise to the top, rinse the pot and use a scouring brush to remove excess burns.

Pro tip: Lemons are also great degreasers for your pans, stovetop and pots, Sokolowski notes.

Woman Removes Aluminum Foil From ContainerGrace Cary/Getty Images

Tinfoil

Maybe the scrambled eggs you cooked in a skillet have hardened on your pan. Or perhaps the lasagna you baked for a little too long left behind stubborn burns. Sokolowski recommends a tinfoil hack for these and similar scorches.

What you’ll need: Tinfoil

What to do:

  1. Add water to the pot.
  2. Crinkle a sheet of tinfoil into a ball and use it to scrub any tough residue.

Pro tip: Don’t try this with nonstick pans, Sokolowski advises. “It has an abrasive surface that will peel away any baked-on grime in seconds,” she says. But it will also peel away nonstick coating. When your pan looks good as new, it’s time for a new cleaning project. Find out how to clean your baseboards (you’ll thank us).

Sources:

  • Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of AspenClean
  • Nate Collier, director of marketing communications and culinary at Le Creuset

Leah Groth
A general lifestyle writer, Leah covers everything from cleaning hacks and consumer products to travel and pets for RD.com. When she isn't working you will find her chasing after her four children (two humans, a Vizsla and a German Shorthaired Pointer) or working on her 100-plus year-old-home outside of Philadelphia.