How to Clean a Burnt Pot

Burned-on food and stains can be extremely difficult to remove from pots and pans. However, with the right techniques and tools, even the most stubborn burnt residue can be cleaned. This article will provide step-by-step instructions for cleaning burnt pots and pans using common household items.

Assess the Level of Damage

The first step is to take a close look at the pot or pan and determine how badly it is burnt. This will help you decide which cleaning methods to try:

  • For light burning such as discoloration or minor stuck-on bits, standard scrubbing with soap and water or baking soda may do the trick.
  • For medium burning with some caked-on residues, you’ll need to use more intensive techniques like simmering water or scouring pads.
  • For heavy burning with thick, carbonized deposits, the big guns will need to come out – abrasives like Bar Keepers Friend or oven cleaner.

Pay attention to any burnt spots on the handles or rims, as these can be just as challenging to remove. Don’t forget the underside and base of the pot – burnt grease and food here can be just as stubborn.

Prepare the Pot or Pan

Before starting to clean, prepare the pot or pan to maximize the effectiveness of the cleaning methods:

  • Remove as much debris as possible by scraping off any large chunks of food residue with a spatula or spoon. This will help the cleaners work better.
  • Soak overnight for dried-on messes – this softens the burn for easier removal later. Cover the pan completely with hot water and let sit.
  • Avoid abrasive pre-cleaning like steel wool or abrasive sponges, as this could make burnt stains harder to remove later. Stick to soft scrubbing for now.

Also assemble all your cleaning supplies – scouring pads, scrub brushes, baking soda, cleanser, rubber gloves, etc.

Try Low-Intensity Cleaning Methods First

It’s best to start with gentler cleaning methods before escalating to more abrasive scrubbing. Here are some milder ways to tackle burnt pots and pans:

Simmer With Water

  • Fill the pot or pan with water until the burn mark is covered.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Once simmering, scrape the burnt areas gently with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Simmer for 5-10 minutes, adding more water if needed.
  • Remove from heat and allow the pan to cool completely. The simmering action helps detach burnt-on residues.

Baking Soda and Water Paste

  • Make a paste with 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water.
  • Apply the paste to burnt areas and let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Gently scrub the paste over the stains with a damp non-abrasive sponge or cloth.
  • Rinse thoroughly when done scrubbing. The baking soda acts as a gentle abrasive.

Soap and Water With Scrubbing

  • Coat burnt areas with a few drops of dish soap.
  • Fill the pan with hot water and bring to a boil for a few minutes.
  • Drain the water and allow to cool until safe to touch.
  • Scrub the burnt spots gently with a non-abrasive sponge, nylon brush, or plastic scraper.
  • Avoid steel wool or abrasive pads as these can damage the pan’s surface.
  • Wash thoroughly with dish soap afterward.

Use Intensive Cleaning Methods for Stubborn Burns

For tougher burnt-on stains that don’t budge with milder methods, try these more intensive techniques:

Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser

  • Apply a generous layer of Bar Keepers Friend powder or liquid cleanser to the burnt areas.
  • For powder, make it into a paste with just a little water first.
  • Let sit for 5-10 minutes. This allows the oxalic acid in the cleanser to work on the stain.
  • Scrub vigorously with a nylon bristle brush, plastic scraper, or non-scratch scouring pad.
  • Rinse thoroughly and wash with soapy water.
  • Bar Keepers Friend can also be used with simmering water for extra cleaning power.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

  • Make a thick paste of 2 parts baking soda to 1 part vinegar.
  • Spread the fizzing paste onto burnt regions and let bubble for 15 minutes.
  • Scrub with a damp non-abrasive sponge, cloth, or nylon brush.
  • Rinse thoroughly when done. The chemical reaction helps lift stains.

Oven Cleaner Spray

  • Ensure your kitchen is well-ventilated before use.
  • Apply oven cleaner liberally to burnt areas according to product directions.
  • Let sit for the recommended dwell time, usually around 15-30 minutes.
  • Scrub with a plastic scraper or non-scratch scrub pad.
  • Rinse thoroughly with hot soapy water.
  • Oven cleaner is very caustic, so wear gloves and avoid inhaling fumes. Use as a last resort.

Abrasive Scouring Pads

  • For very heavy burnt stains, abrasive pads may be needed to physically scrub them away.
  • Try plastic mesh scouring pads first to avoid scratching. If those don’t work, move up to stainless steel wool.
  • Apply some of the cleaning solutions above to burnt areas first to help lift stains as you scrub.
  • Rub abrasive pad over burnt spots, applying firm pressure.
  • Wash with hot soapy water afterwards. Avoid using on coatings that can be damaged like nonstick.

Rinse and Dry Thoroughly

Once the burnt stains have been removed, it’s important to complete these final cleaning steps:

  • Rinse with hot water until the water runs clear. This removes any leftover cleaning product residues.
  • Wash with dish soap and scrub any areas that still look grimy. This helps eliminate greasy residues.
  • Dry completely with a dish towel to prevent water spots. Burnt areas can still stain if not fully dried.
  • Hand dry rims and handles to get into crevices that can stay wet.
  • If any discoloration remains, repeat the cleaning process focusing on those spots.

Thorough rinsing and drying prevents burnt stains from reappearing once the pan is dry.

Restore Surface Appearance

Sometimes burnt stains can leave behind a discolored or dull area even after being scrubbed away. Here are some tips for making your pot or pan look shiny and new again:

  • Polish with baking soda – Make a paste of baking soda and water. Rub onto surface with a soft cloth until the dullness disappears. Rinse clean.
  • Shining with vinegar – Coat stained areas with undiluted white vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes before rinsing. The acid in vinegar removes tarnish.
  • Clean with dishwasher detergent – Make a thick paste of dishwasher detergent and rub it over discolored areas with a soft cloth until restored. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Use aluminum foil – Ball up aluminum foil and dip it in water. Rub the wet balled foil over stained areas to gently buff surface. Rinse cleanly afterward.
  • Spot season – Reseason any discolored patches following usual seasoning instructions for the cookware material. This will help blend the patch into the rest of the pan.

Prevent Future Burning

Once that burnt pan is sparkling clean again, keep it that way using these handy tips:

Cook at Lower Heat

High heat is the top cause of burning pans. Turn down stovetop settings and cook more slowly to avoid scorching.

Use Oils With High Smoke Points

Choose cooking oils like avocado, grapeseed or canola oil that can withstand higher temperatures without burning.

Don’t Leave Pans Unattended

Stay nearby and stir foods frequently when cooking over direct heat. Don’t walk away from simmering or roasting pans.

Soak After Cooking

Soaking hot pans after use in hot soapy water helps lift residue before it bakes on and burns.

Clean Often

Don’t let grease, oil or bits of food linger. Wash pots and pans after every use to avoid carbonizing.

With the right set of cleaning techniques and some care when cooking, even the most scorched pan can be restored. Just don’t let the burnt bits sit for too long before tackling them!

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Burnt Pots and Pans

Can I use steel wool to clean my burnt pan?

You can try using steel wool, but this risks scratching and damaging many pot and pan surfaces like nonstick coatings. It’s best to start with plastic mesh scrubbers or nylon brushes and only escalate to stainless steel wool for the toughest burnt-on stains. Use a very light touch when scrubbing to avoid scratching.

What is the fastest way to clean burnt pans?

For quick cleaning, the most effective method is using a store-bought burnt-on cleanser like Bar Keepers Friend. Apply the cleanser, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrub with a plastic scraper or non-scratch pad. Rinse thoroughly. The oxalic acid in cleansers helps speed up the cleaning process.

How do you clean an aluminum pan with burnt grease?

Fill the aluminum pan with hot water and dish soap. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes, scraping any solids that detach. Allow to cool fully then scrub with baking soda and a soft sponge or cloth. For tough grease stains, wipe crumpled aluminum foil dipped in hot water over the area until the residue lifts. Avoid abrasive pads that can scratch aluminum.

What removes stuck-on food from stainless steel pans?

Soaking in hot water helps soften stuck-on foods. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply to stuck residues for 15 minutes before scrubbing with a soft cloth. You can also try boiling water with dish soap in the pan for 5 minutes then scrubbing gently with a plastic mesh pad. Avoid steel wool or abrasive pads that can scratch stainless steel.

How do I clean burnt food off enamel pots and pans?

Enamel coatings can chip if scrubbed too aggressively. Soak overnight in hot soapy water to loosen burnt food, then simmer a diluted vinegar solution for 15 minutes. Scrub very gently with a soft sponge. For tough stains, apply Bar Keepers Friend cleanser mixed into a paste and scrub delicately with a non-abrasive pad. Thoroughly rinse enamel pans after cleaning.

What is the best way to clean burnt food from glass cookware?

Soak glass cookware overnight in hot, soapy water. For light burning, sprinkle baking soda over the pan and scrub gently with a soft sponge. For heavier burning, simmering the pan for 10-15 minutes should help loosen residue for scrubbing. Avoid abrasive pads or cleansers that could scratch the glass surface.

Rinse and dry glass thoroughly after cleaning.


Burnt, stuck-on messes in pots and pans can seem impossible remove, but with some persistence and the right cleaning techniques, they can be eliminated. Start with mild methods like boiling water, baking soda, or soap and scrubbing. For tougher stains, break out heavy duty cleaners such as Bar Keepers Friend or oven spray. Remember to finish by rinsing and drying thoroughly.

With some elbow grease and the proper tools, even the most carbonized pan can be restored. Just be sure to take steps to prevent future burning and regular cleaning to keep pans looking like new.