Pot Boiled Dry? How to Salvage Your Stainless Steel Pot.

updated Oct 9, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

It happens to the best of us — at least, that’s what I told myself that one time when I let a stainless steel pot boil dry. Ugh. I set some water on the stove, got distracted, and … sniff, sniff, what’s that burning smell? First, I sighed with relief when I realized that the kitchen hadn’t gone up in flames, and then I turned my attention to one very discolored piece of cookware. The pot had burned completely dry, turning shades of black, brown, blue with a chalky black residue on the interior. Was it salvageable?

I needed to take action. To address to residue, I boiled a mixture of half vinegar and half water in the pot for 10 minutes (I stayed close by this time!). After letting it cool and sit for several hours, I was able to scrub away some of the residue. Needing something more, however, I turned to Bar Keepers Friend, a mild abrasive. It required a fair amount of elbow grease in addition to the Bar Keepers Friend, but I was finally able to get the pot clean. The pot is still discolored on the outside, but it’s usable. Whew!

I’ve also read that you can boil salt water or water with a few drops of liquid dish soap. And that you can add baking soda to the vinegar and water mixture. And that a steel wood pad can help. My point? That your pot is almost certainly salvageable! You just need to put in a little bit effort. One more point: Timers are your friend. If you’re going to be doing something else, consider setting a timer to remind you to check on your stovetop.

More on Cleaning Cookware

Have you ever boiled a stainless steel pot dry? Were you able to bring it back?