5 Smart Tips for Cleaning Your Favorite Cookware

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

Whether you stick with stainless steel, can’t get enough of enameled pans, swear by cast iron, or are devoted to copper cookware, one thing is certain: sometimes soap and water just don’t get the job done. Maybe it’s burnt-on stains, maybe a layer of food that just won’t budge, or perhaps it’s tarnished from years of putting meals on your table — getting your cookware clean, and keeping it that way, is tough work.

For those times when you need something stronger than hot water, dish soap, and a sponge, these five tips are all you need to get your favorite cookware looking like new.

1. Baking soda and a wooden spoon will clean burnt stains from enameled cookware.

I love this method for how little elbow grease is involved. After bringing water to a boil, add a few tablespoons of baking soda, and give everything a good stir. After a few minutes of simmering, use a wooden spoon (keep metal away from that enamel surface, please!) to nudge off the burnt-on bits. It’s as simple as that.

2. Keep stainless steel cookware clean and shiny with Bar Keepers Friend.

Over time it’s common for stainless steel cookware to acquire brown spots and discolored areas that won’t go away with routine washing. But no matter how stained your pot is, there is a super cheap and easy way to get it looking shiny and new again. All it takes is some Bar Keepers Friend and a little elbow grease.

3. Remove tough burnt-on stains from stainless steel pots with boiling water and vinegar.

Every so often, a cooking disaster leaves stainless steel pots and pans with nasty burnt-on stains that just don’t want to budge. It’s happened to all of us. The best solution is filling the pot with water and letting it boil on the stove for a while. If the stains don’t loosen, try again and include white vinegar with the water.

4. Lemons and salt work wonders to revive tarnished copper cookware.

Two common kitchen staples are all you need to clean and polish tarnished copper pots and pans. It’s as simple as adding salt to a halved lemon, then scrubbing the pot’s surface with the lemon. If you’re worried about scratching a more delicate piece, squeeze the lemon into a bowl and mix with the salt to form a less-coarse paste.

5. A coarse mixture of kosher salt and water is the best way to clean your cast iron pan.

When it comes to washing your cast iron skillet, all you need is warm water and a soft sponge (keep the dish soap and steel wool far away). Bonus points if you can clean it while the pan is still warm. And for stuck-on food, make a paste of warm water and coarse salt and scrub with a stiff brush. Don’t forget to completely dry the pan and coat it with a thin layer of vegetable oil after.