How to Clean Every Single Pot and Pan You Thought You Ruined

published Aug 12, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Picture this: You’re browning some onions. And then you get a text message, so you go to check it. It’s Janice with a funny meme about dogs! You laugh! You reply! You forward it to seven friends! You go back to your pot… to find that you have a burnt-on mess! Don’t worry, cookware is resilient and can almost always be saved. Sometimes, it’ll take a little bit of elbow grease, and other times, you can set it to clean itself or employ a quick and easy hack.

Here’s how to clean the pots and pans you probably thought were ruined for the rest of time.

Credit: Erika Tracy

1. Rusty Cast Iron

No matter how much rust is on your pan, it can be fixed! If your pan has a severe case of rust (it covers most of the cookware surface), take the piece to a machine shop to have it sandblasted and restored to raw cast iron, then season immediately. If it’s just a bit rusty (like in the photo above), you can fix it with some steel wool.

Credit: Cat Meschia

2. A Scorched Enamel Dutch Oven

Here’s where that onion example is bound to bite you in the butt! Not your $300-Dutch oven! When it’s time to clean the pot, just give it a quick simmer with water and — drumroll, please — a couple tablespoons of baking soda.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Scorched Stainless Steel

Marks like this can occur because of a single session over high heat or with use over time. While there are a few ways to clean it, you might want to start with the easiest: Boil water, dump it out, and then coat the bottom of the pan with baking soda or Bar Keepers Friend and scrub with a mesh dishcloth.

More Ways to Clean Scorched Stainless Steel

Credit: Erika Tracy

4. Tarnished Copper

Copper can be as high maintenance as it is gorgeous. If yours has started to tarnish, turn to two pantry ingredients: salt and lemons. Simply salt a halved lemon and scrub the pot surface with the fruit. If you’re short on lemons, you can substitute vinegar for the lemon juice, but lemons are going to be more effective.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

5. Browned Baking Sheets

Unless you’ve never used your baking sheet, it probably looks like this. (Or worse.) The good news is that a little baking soda and hydrogen peroxide will help it get back to its near original condition. The best part: You just let the mixture soak and the hard work is done for you.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. A Gooey Nonstick Pan

That pan that’s supposed to be nonstick but somehow has stuff, uh, stuck all over it? You can clean it! A bit of dish soap and a nonabrasive sponge should help get it off. The key to keeping it clean, though, is to season it — a lot like you would a cast iron skillet.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

7. Greasy Glass Baking Dishes

No matter how hard you clean your glass baking dish, you may still find that these yellow grease stains remain. We’ve found that a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is one of the most effective tools when it comes to fully removing them.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. A Gunky Slow Cooker Crock

Your slow cooker crock will inevitably get a ring of crusty, baked-on food from time to time. The best way to combat it? Fill the pot with water and some baking soda, and turn the slow cooker on.

9. Sticky Pots You Used for Caramel

If you make chewy caramels or caramel sauce, you know this is a big one. Your pot is bound to get shellacked with sugar residue! Once again, the key here is to make the pot clean itself. Simmer a pot of water and wait.