How to clean a burnt stainless steel pan – homes remedies experts swear by

Stainless steel pans are a popular choice for many home cooks. They are durable, non-stick, and easy to clean – most of the time. However, even the best stainless steel pans can get burnt and discolored from time to time, especially if you cook at high heat or let food sit in the pan for too long.

While burnt pans may seem destined for the trash, don’t give up hope! With a little elbow grease and some homemade remedies, you can often restore them to a like-new condition. This guide will walk you through several DIY methods for how to clean a burnt stainless steel pan and bring back its original shine.

Why Stainless Steel Pans Get Burnt and Discolored

Before jumping into the cleaning techniques, let’s look at some of the common causes of burnt stainless steel pans:

  • Overheating – Stainless steel can tolerate high heat, but if you burn food in the pan or leave an empty pan to overheat, it can start to turn various shades of yellow, brown, or blue. This is oxidation of the steel itself.
  • Baked-on food – Foods that are high in sugar, fat, and starch like pancakes, cheese, tomatoes, or oils can carbonize and bake onto the surface of the pan when overheated. This leaves behind hardened burnt bits.
  • Mineral deposits – Hard water or deglazing acidic foods in the pan allows mineral deposits from water or food to bake onto the surface. This leaves cloudy discoloration or dots.
  • Poor quality steel – Lower grades of stainless steel with less chromium and nickel can discolor more easily from heat damage and corrosion. Higher quality pans resist discoloration better.

While cosmetic in nature, these changes affect the pan’s aesthetics and non-stick performance. Luckily, it is possible to restore the original appearance of your stainless steel cookware with some work.

How to Tell if Your Pan is Damaged vs. Discolored

Before attempting to scrub away at stuck-on grime, check to see if your pan is truly damaged or just suffering from cosmetic issues:

Discoloration signs:

  • Yellow, brown, blue, or rainbow colored tones across parts of the surface
  • Cloudy blotches or dots clustered in spots
  • Areas of darker greasy buildup, especially on the bottom

True damage signs:

  • Deep extensive pitting, corrosion, cracks, or holes in the steel
  • Peeling or flaking of the metal surface
  • Deformation like warping or bubbles in the pan walls or base

While heavy discoloration can somewhat harm performance, true damage necessitates replacing the cookware. For purely cosmetic staining or minor corrosion, roll up your sleeves and try these homemade solutions for how to clean a burnt stainless steel pan.

How to Clean a Burnt Stainless Steel Pan – Home Remedies Experts Swear By

1. Baking Soda and Water Paste

Baking soda is mildly abrasive and alkaline, which helps lift staining and also neutralizes acidic compounds that can discolor steel. Mix it with some water to create a paste:

You’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Soft cloth or sponge


  1. Add 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda to a small amount of water and stir to form a thick paste.
  2. Coat the affected areas of the pan with the paste. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Gently scrub stained and discolored areas with a soft cloth, sponge, or plastic scrubbing pad. Apply more baking soda paste as needed.
  4. Once the pan looks cleaner, rinse thoroughly with hot water. Make sure to get all the baking soda off.
  5. Dry the pan well with a towel.

Repeat if needed for stubborn spots. The baking soda should help lift off burned food residues and restore the stainless steel’s original shine.

2. Lemon or Lime Juice

The citric acid in lemon or lime juice helps dissolve mineral deposits, break down grime, andbrighten dull steel. Squeeze some juice straight onto burnt areas.

You’ll need:

  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Soft cloth


  1. Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice directly onto stained or discolored parts of the pan.
  2. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing. The acid will help loosen deposits.
  3. Wipe and scrub the pan with a soft cloth. Apply more juice and let it soak if needed.
  4. Once clean, rinse thoroughly and dry the pan.

Regular use of lemon or lime juice helps maintain your stainless steel cookware’s shine and prevent mineral buildup.

3. Vinegar

Like lemon juice, vinegar’s acetic acid properties help dissolve baked-on grease and food residue. Both white and apple cider vinegar work.

You’ll need:

  • White or apple cider vinegar
  • Soft cloth, nylon scrub pad, or old toothbrush


  1. Pour a small amount of vinegar directly onto stained areas of the pan.
  2. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing.
  3. Gently scrub with a soft cloth, nylon scrubbing pad, or an old toothbrush.
  4. Use more vinegar as needed and continue scrubbing to removestubborn spots.
  5. Rinse thoroughly after cleaning and dry with a towel.

Repeat for tough burnt spots. Don’t use vinegar on damaged pans, as it could worsen pitting and corrosion.

4. Boiling Water

For light discoloration or surface stains, something as simple as boiling water can help lift deposits and clean the pan.

You’ll need:

  • Water
  • Soft cloth or nylon scrub pad


  1. Fill the pan with enough water to cover stained areas and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, turn off heat and let the pan soak for 10-15 minutes. The hot water will loosen residues.
  3. Drain the water and wipe the pan clean while still warm with a soft cloth or nylon scrubbing pad.
  4. Give a final rinse with hot water and dry thoroughly with a towel.

Repeat as needed for stubborn spots. Avoid abrasive scouring pads which could damage the steel.

5. Baking Soda and Dish Soap

For an extra cleansing boost, mix baking soda with dish soap to form a scrubbing paste.

You’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Dish soap
  • Soft sponge or cloth


  1. Make a paste with about 2 tablespoons each baking soda and dish soap, plus 1-2 tablespoons water.
  2. Apply the paste to stained and burnt areas and let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Gently scrub with a soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge.
  4. Rinse thoroughly when clean and dry.

The dish soap adds extra grease-cutting power to lift off any grime or food buildup as you scrub.

6. Hydrogen Peroxide

The bubbling reaction of hydrogen peroxide can help lift burnt food residue. Make sure to use plain 3% hydrogen peroxide.

You’ll need:

  • 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
  • Soft scrubbing pad or toothbrush


  1. Apply peroxide directly to stained areas of the pan. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Gently scrub with a soft nylon scrub pad, toothbrush, or plastic scrubber as it bubbles.
  3. Use more peroxide and scrub stubborn spots as needed.
  4. Once clean, rinse thoroughly and dry the pan well.

Note: Avoid using peroxide if your pan has damage. The bubbling action could worsen pitting or cracks.

7. Salt

For quick cleaning of minor stains, plain table salt acts as a mild abrasive.

You’ll need:

  • Table salt
  • Soft cloth


  1. Sprinkle salt directly onto stained areas of the pan.
  2. Use a damp soft cloth to gently rub the salt over stains.
  3. Once stained areas look cleaner, rinse the pan and dry thoroughly.

While less powerful on heavy grime, salt is a handy trick for quick removal of discoloration.

8. Stainless Steel Cleaner or Polish

Specialized stainless steel cleaners help remove burnt-on food, grease, calcified mineral deposits, and discoloration:

  • Bar Keepers Friend – Oxalic acid-based powder formula activates with water to lift stains.
  • Bon-Ami Powder Cleanser – Soft scrub with feldspar for non-scratch cleaning.
  • Zud Heavy Duty Cleanser – Contains oxalic and phosphoric acid to cut through burnt gunk.
  • Flitz Polish – Metal polish uses an oxide-removal formula to brighten steel.


  1. Apply your chosen cleaner to stained and discolored areas.
  2. Let it sit briefly before scrubbing if needed. Follow product directions.
  3. Buff gently with a soft cloth using small circular motions.
  4. Rinse and dry. Use sparingly at first on damaged pans.

Stainless steel cleaners offer a more powerful cleaning boost for badly burnt pans. Look for a formula suited to your pan’s level of staining.

9. Baking Soda and Aluminum Foil

For those really stubborn burnt spots and stains, this method really scrubs them out using baking soda and aluminum foil. The foil’s abrasive surface combined with the baking soda lifts off gunk.

You’ll need:

  • Baking soda
  • Aluminum foil


  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto stained areas.
  2. Place pieces of crumpled or balled up aluminum foil into the pan.
  3. Gently scrub the foil over the baking soda, applying some pressure. This abrades away grime.
  4. Once cleaned, rinse thoroughly and wipe dry.

Check that protective finish is intact after scrubbing. Baking soda and foil can both slightly scratch steel.

How to Prevent Stainless Steel Pans From Burning

Now that you know how to revive your burnt stainless steel pan, here are some tips to stop it happening again:

  • Don’t heat pans while empty. Food residue protects the metal.
  • Avoid cooking on too-high heat. Let oil get hot before adding food.
  • Deglaze pans after cooking highly acidic foods.
  • Soak pans after use. Burnt bits are easier to remove if you don’t let them dry and harden.
  • Use lower heat and plenty of fat when cooking sugary foods like jam.
  • Immediately soak or scrub after foods splatter or spill.
  • Clean regularly and scrub off any minor staining to prevent buildup.
  • Season stainless steel occasionally by applying a thin oil coat and heating gently to absorb.
  • Choose quality 18/10 stainless steel pans which resist corrosion.

A bit of care will maintain your stainless steel pans beautifully and help avoid burnt on messes in the future. With some elbow grease and a homemade remedy, you can often erase even the toughest burnt pan stains.

Common Questions about Cleaning Burnt Stainless Steel Pans

Still worried about your burnt pan? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Is it possible to fully restore a burnt stainless steel pan?

Yes, it’s usually possible to remove discoloration and restore the original shiny surface, unless the pan is deeply scored or damaged. Staining and oxidation is only superficial. Scrubbing with abrasives and using acidic cleaners lifts off the burnt deposits and scrapes away oxidation.

How do you clean really stubborn burnt food that is stuck to stainless steel?

For really stubborn burnt-on messes, make a baking soda and dish soap paste. Apply to the pan and let sit for 15-30 minutes, then scrub with a plastic scraper or ball up aluminum foil and use this to abrade the gunk off. Repeat if needed.

Why does my stainless steel pan turn blue or rainbow colors when burnt?

Those colorful hues are caused by oxidation of the steel itself at very high temperatures. The heat causes the chromium in steel to form oxides that show up as yellows, blues, purples, and grays. A good scrubbing removes the oxidized layer. Avoid overheating empty pans.

Can you use an abrasive scrub on stainless steel?

Yes, but avoid very harsh scouring pads. Soft plastic scrubbers, nylon pads, copper pads, or balled up aluminum foil are safe options. Test delicate pans first. Baking soda, Bon Ami, or Bar Keepers Friend also offer gentle abrasion.

How do I clean minerial deposits or hard water stains from stainless steel?

Mineral buildup comes right off with acidic ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar, or oxalic acid cleaners. Soak burnt areas, then scrub stains away. Prevent deposits by always rinsing pans well after washing.

Will burnt stainless steel pans rust?

Quality stainless steel doesn’t readily rust or corrode since it contains chromium oxide which provides corrosion resistance. But very extensive burning can allow more iron to leach out. Avoid scouring burnt pans which removes this protective layer entirely.


Don’t despair if you’ve got burnt, stained stainless steel cookware. While it may look hopeless, a bit of cleaning elbow grease and the right homemade solution can often restore pans to a like-new condition. Give baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, boiling water, or other remedies a try to safely lift away grime. With some care to prevent overheating and burning in future, your stainless steel pans will maintain their shiny, durable finish for many meals to come.

How to Remove Burnt Food from Stainless Steel Pans

What Causes Food to Burn in Stainless Steel Pans

There are a few common culprits that can lead to burnt, stuck-on messes in stainless steel pans:

  • High heat – Letting a pan get too hot before adding oil and food can cause burning. Stainless steel can take high heat but it still has limits.
  • Sugary foods – Foods with natural sugars like tomatoes, milk, and jam blacken easily if overheated. The sugar chars and sticks.
  • Starchy foods – Starches from pasta, oatmeal, or potatoes can bake onto the pan at high heat and carbonize.
  • Fatty foods – Greasy oils and meats leave behind sticky residues if overheated and burnt.
  • Acidic foods – Ingredients like lemon, vinegar, and wine allow mineral deposits to bake on when deglazing.
  • Forgetting pans – Burnt food happens fast if you forget a pan on the stove and walk away.

With care, stainless steel can avoid most burning. But minor mishaps still occur. Here’s how to tackle cleanup.

How to Remove Light Burnt Residue

For light staining and sticky burnt bits that are still somewhat fresh, try these approaches:

– Soak in hot water

Letting pans soak helps soften and loosen burnt food so it doesn’t harden and stick as tightly.

– Use baking soda and dish soap

Make a paste with these two kitchen staples. The baking soda scrubs while dish soap cuts grease.

– Boil water in the pan

Boiling hot water softens food residue so you can wipe it away easily.

– Use an oven cleaner spray

Spray on cleaners designed for oven grime work well on stainless pans too.

– Try lemon juice

The citric acid helps dissolve burnt-on stains. Let it soak before scrubbing.

With prompt cleanup while food is still fresh, stainless steel pans should clean up nicely.

How to Remove Heavily Burnt, Stuck-On Food

For thicker residues, darker stains, and really stubborn burnt food that’s baked on, you’ll need to bring in the heavy artillery. Here are tips:

– Make a baking soda paste

Combine baking soda with just a bit of water to make an abrasive paste. Spread on burnt areas and let sit before scrubbing.

– Use Bar Keepers Friend

This oxalic acid powder cleanser activates with water to bust through burnt gunk.

– Soak in vinegar

Good old white vinegar is great for dissolving all kinds of baked-on grime and deposits.

– Try stainless steel cleaner

Look for a stainless steel polish made for burnt pans. Apply and let sit before scrubbing clean.

– Use a plastic scraper

For really thick, carbonized food, a plastic pan scraper helps scrape it away after soaking.

– Ball up aluminum foil

The abrasive surface of aluminum foil loosens stuck food residue when used with baking soda.

With a good long soak and some scrubbing, even the most stuck-on burnt messes usually release from quality stainless steel pans.

How to Prevent Food From Burning in the First Place

Prevention is always easier than scrubbing away burnt pans. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t heat pans when dry – Always add a bit of oil first.
  • Use medium heat – Only use very high heat with plenty of liquid.
  • Stir foods regularly – Don’t leave high starch or sugary foods sitting.
  • Deglaze pan – After cooking acidic foods, deglaze the pan to prevent staining.
  • Soak after use – It’s easier to remove fresh food than dried on residue.

With care and proper heating, your stainless steel cookware will be spared from difficult scrubbing sessions!

How to Clean Burnt Food Out of Stainless Steel