Kitchen Nightmares: Cleaning Scorched and Burnt Food Off Pots and Pans

published Jul 24, 2008
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Has this ever happen to you?

We’d just finished enjoying a home-cooked meal and went back to the kitchen for cleanup to find this. Scorched food burnt to the bottom of the pan.


Whoops. We were searing something and took it a little too far, or we were making soup and didn’t realize the bottom burned until it was too late. It happens.

And when it does, here are a few things we try.

1. Deglaze the pan. If it’s a stainless steel or enamel pan (not nonstick), put the empty pot on the stove and crank the heat up to high. When a drop of water sizzles and evaporates immediately, pour in a cup of room-temperature water. After the steam cloud dissipates, scrape the pan mercilessly with a wooden spoon or spatula.

If that doesn’t work …

2. Soak and sit. Fill the pan with warm water and dish soap, and let it sit for a few hours. Use the rough side of a scrubbie and some elbow grease to work away the burnt food.

If that doesn’t work …

3. Simmer and soak. Fill the pot with water, add a healthy squirt of dish soap, and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Let the pot cool for 30 minutes and then use a scrubbie or a wooden spatula to scrape up the burnt residue.

If that doesn’t work …

We’ve also heard that baking soda works wonders, either made into a paste to soak the mess or dissolved into water and boiled.

How do you clean your worst burnt-on messes?