How to Clean a Burnt Pot: 5 Easy Ways That Work

updated Sep 16, 2022
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

It happens to the best of us: We get distracted (by a child, a Zoom call, a clove of garlic that needs mincing) and we end up with a scorched pan. It happens to the best pans, too — the beloved pot you’ve had since college, or even the high-end All-Clad you bought as a special treat to yourself. And so this post is for anyone who’s ever Googled “how to clean a burnt pot.” The good news: It can be done! You just need one of these tricks. There are five

Before you break out the big guns, keep this in mind: Depending on what your pan is made of (most of the ones on the market are made of stainless steel, enameled cast iron, or aluminum), you can damage it if you use a too-scratchy scrubber like steel wool or an ultra-strong cleanser. So start with the gentlest possible fix and work your way up to something stronger only if necessary. We also don’t recommend these methods for nonstick pans.

Here are a few different ways to clean a burnt pot.

Credit: Cat Meschia

1. Use hot water to deglaze it.

If you have a stainless steel or enamel pan, put it on the stovetop and turn on the heat. Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles on it, pour in a cup of water and let it simmer for a bit (add some dish soap or baking soda if you’d like). Then use a wooden spoon or nylon spatula to scrape away at the burnt areas while the water loosens it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Scrub the pot with a dishwasher tablet.

Turns out, those powder-y dishwasher tablets (not the liquid ones) are good for so much more than just the dishwasher. (We’ve been using Finish Powerball Tablets for all sorts of stuff.) In this case, just cover the bottom of the pan with a tiny bit of water and warm it up on low heat. Then, remove the pan from the heat and scrape the tablet across the burnt on bits. Rinse and wash with warm soapy water. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Soak a dryer sheet.

A fabric softener sheet can be a surprising miracle-worker for burnt bits — we’ve seen it in action! Fill the pan with warm water, add a dryer sheet (push it under the water to get it fully saturated), and wait a few hours before using the fabric softener sheet as a scrubber as you loosen the debris. We realize that this method may not be for everyone, as lots of people prefer to stay away from the chemicals in dryer sheets.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Boil some lemons.

Is there anything lemons can’t do? The idea here is that the acid from two or three quartered lemons is enough to loosen the burnt-on bits and require little to no follow-up scrubbing on your end. Let the lemons boil for 5-10 minutes in a few inches of water, then discard the water and lemons and rinse.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Scrub the pan with a ball of aluminum foil.

Fun fact: This method won the top place in our official battle to learn the best way to clean burnt pans. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the burnt-bits and add a bit of water to make a paste. Crumple up some aluminum foil and begin scrubbing it all around until all food bits and stained areas are clean. Rinse pan with warm soapy water. 

How do you salvage your burnt pans?