How to Clean a Burnt Pot

And we'll also reveal the secret trick for removing stuck-on food.

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Everyone needs to learn how to clean burnt pots, from pro chefs to home cooks. Typically, this dreaded cleaning task means lots of scrubbing. Want to spare yourself the extra elbow grease? Follow the steps below, starting with the gentlest method to make your pot last longer and working your way up.

Instead of soaking in soapy water overnight, let white vinegar and some added heat lift away burned bits. Then, grab our editor-approved tool for tackling stuck-on food. Using this method, your pots and pans will look shiny and new in no time.

How Often to Clean Burnt Pots

Make sure you clean your pan thoroughly after every use. Try to clean, or at least soak, the pan soon after using it, but always let the pan cool slightly first. As cooked-on food gets cold, it becomes much harder to remove.

Considerations Before You Get Started 

First, double-check what material the pot or pan is made out of. The methods below work well on both stainless steel and enameled cast iron. However, since aluminum is a reactive metal, you'll want to skip the vinegar technique on this material.

Cast iron pans have their own cleaning requirements. No matter what material you're dealing with, it's always a good idea to start with the mildest, least abrasive cleaning technique first.

What You Need:

How to Clean a Burnt Pot With Vinegar or Water

Step 1: Soak Pans Immediately After Cooking

Get into the habit of letting your pots and pans soak in hot, soapy water as soon as you're done cooking. This will loosen the baked-on food while you eat, and the pan will be much easier to clean when dinner ends. For extremely stuck-on food, soak the pan overnight.

Step 2: Deglaze With Water

That's right, deglazing isn't just a cooking technique; it can be used for cleaning, too!

  • Add a layer of water to cover the bottom of the pan, then heat on the stovetop.
  • Let the water simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and carefully use a spatula or spoon to scape away burnt bits (grab the spatula you typically use with that pan, so you know it won't scratch the surface).

Step 3: Try It With Vinegar

If deglazing with water didn't work, you can try the same technique with white vinegar on stainless steel or enameled cast iron pans (skip this step if you have an aluminum pan).

Step 4: Scrape Off Stuck-On Food

Reach for a durable, dishwasher-safe pan scraper. Made of hard polycarbonate, they quickly scrape away the toughest grime but won't scratch the surface of enameled pots or pans. They may even allow you to skip soaking and deglazing the pan first.

Removing Stubborn Stains With Baking Soda

Step 1: Check for Discoloration

Inspect the pot to see if it's returned to its original coloring. Hopefully, the steps above have helped remove most of the food and char, but some discolored brown areas may still exist.

Step 2: Make a Baking Soda Paste

For stainless steel and enameled cast iron (not aluminum), mix a paste of one part baking soda with one part warm water. Spread the paste on the stained spots and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Step 3: Scrub, Rinse, and Dry

With a soft scrubber sponge, scrub small areas of the pot using a circular motion. Baking soda acts as a mild abrasive and won't damage the pot's surface. Rinse and make sure the stains are gone, then dry completely.


How do I keep pots and pans from burning?

Always keep an eye on what you're cooking to prevent burned pots and pans (and for fire safety). Stir to make sure the food isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan, and lower the heat if necessary. Also, make sure the stovetop burners are clean. Otherwise, when you put your pot down on the burner, residue from previously cooked food can burn into the bottom of your pot.

Can I scrub pans with steel wool or a knife?

No. This abrasive scrubber may scratch pots and pans. We recommend sticking with a pan scraper like the one mentioned above. It's made of polycarbonate, a very resistant form of plastic. A pan scraper is effective, doesn't retain odors, and won't scratch your pot.

Is aluminum foil an effective tool for scraping pots?

You may have heard about using aluminum foil as a scouring pad. This common cleaning tip involves balling up a sheet of foil and using it as an abrasive surface to scrape pots. While this technique can be effective in a pinch, this hack should never be used on nonstick surfaces. It will damage the enamel.

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