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How To Clean A Burnt Stainless Steel And Nonstick Pan

Clean a burnt stainless steel pan and nonstick pan
Clean a burnt stainless steel pan and nonstick pan

There aren’t many things so discouraging as to have a delicious meal and afterwards realize it’s time to clean that burnt pan.

And as luck usually has it, the nicer the meal, the more burnt the pan is.

I guess it’s Kitchens Murphy at work.

But don’t despair, all is not lost.

In this article I will reveal how to handle those burnt pans without much of a hassle.

To show Kitchen Murphy how it’s done, just keep on reading!

In this article I will discuss:


In an earlier article I looked at why cookware gets burned and how you can avoid it.

I also went over nonstick coatings on cookware and laid out why it helps prevent burning.

I recommended that if you need to sear something, you shouldn’t use nonstick cookware.

The reason for this is because nonstick coatings aren’t able to handle extreme heat.

Therefore you should rather use something like a stainless steel pan.

Unfortunately stainless steel pans are more prone to burning.

You can still minimize it, as I will explain later. But chances are there is going to be some burning.

However, that is not the end of the world.

A recap why pans and food burn

After my previous articles you know this by now, but I will repeat it once more because it’s such an important principle.

Food, as well as cookware, burns when you have an excess buildup of heat in a certain area.

That is usually at the the bottom of the pot or pan.

Due to a lack of moisture and an excess of heat, the heat can’t be conducted away from the base quickly enough and you burn whatever you are cooking.

You can prevent, or at least minimize this, by reducing the heat and seeing to it that there’s sufficient liquid, like cooking oil, to conduct the heat away more efficiently.

You can also move food around in the pan to make sure the liquids are circulated and also ensure better contact of food with the base of the pan for more effective heat conduction.

Doing this will prevent food from starting to stick and thus burn.

This is where nonstick cookware comes in.

Because it prevents sticking, it minimizes the chances of burning.

The reason food sticks to the base of the pan, and also struggles to stick to nonstick pans, is because of the slipperiness of the pan surface.

The more slippery, or smooth, the surface, the less likely food will start sticking.

How to clean a burnt stainless steel pan

If, however, you ended up with a burnt stainless steel pan, there are still ways to get it cleaned.

It is important to note that you should never fill a pan with water while it is still very hot.

When you add cold water to a hot pan you can warp it.

Warm water and dishwashing liquid

The first method is the easiest to try.

If you don’t have a pan of which the surface has already been damaged, this method will most likely get your pan clean.

After you have used the pan, wait for it to cool down a bit and then add lukewarm water with some dishwashing liquid.

Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then gently wash the pan using a soft non-abrasive dishwashing sponge.

Vinegar and baking soda

If the previous method didn’t work, or if you see from the start that mild cleaning isn’t going to cut it, use this method.

Add water to the pan until it covers the bottom surface.

Then add a cup of vinegar and bring the pan to a boil, whereafter you remove it again from the heat.

Add a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and let it react.

After it seems to have settled down, rinse the pan and wash it as per normal with a dishwashing sponge and some dishwashing liquid.

For stubborn marks and stains you can use a paste of baking soda and water.

Cover the spots with the paste, let it sit for about half an hour and wash off.

Scrubbing with a dishwasher tablet

Another method that works really well is to scrub the stains with a dishwasher tablet.

Simply rinse your pan under warm water and then use a dishwasher tablet to scrub away the marks and stains.

If done properly, you would only need to give the pan a normal wash afterwards and it would look as good as new.

Bar Keepers Friend

If none of these methods work, it’s time to up the ante.

You can use a product like Bar Keepers Friend.

It is a mixture of oxalic acid and fine abrasive granules.

Just rinse the pan under hot water.

Make a paste by adding a couple of tablespoons of Bar Keepers Friend to the water left over in the pan.

Cover the burnt areas with the paste and let it sit for a minute.

Rinse out the pan and give it a quick normal wash.

If there are some stubborn stains left, just repeat the process.

This method, as well as the others already covered, should be able to remove most burn stains.

If, however, you still have some stains left, you will need to kick it up a notch.

Tin foil and baking soda

This method falls in the more abrasive category and should preferably only be used when the other methods fail.

Make a paste with baking soda and water and use a crumpled up ball of aluminum foil to scrub the burnt areas.

This will most likely remove any stains left.

Take note, though, that with this method you could scratch the bottom of the pan and risk quicker burning in the future.

If, however, the burning occured due to the pan already having a scratched surface, this would probably be your go-to method of cleaning.

Cleaning nonstick pans

To clean a nonstick pan is a bit of a different game.

They scratch much easier and do not stand up to extreme heat as well as their non-coated counterparts.

Normal cleaning

Under normal circumstances it is better to hand wash nonstick pans before they have fully cooled down after cooking.

I know, that is not preferable since right after you have cooked a meal, you probably want to eat.

So the advice there is to judge as to what degree food in the pan was either burnt or is sticking.

If it doesn’t seem that major, just wait for the pan to cool down, put it in the sink and fill it up with a bit of warm water.

This will prevent stains from drying out and give you time to finish your meal first before properly washing the pan.

If, on the other hand, it seems to be a bit more serious, it is highly recommended that you wash the pan right after using it.

Just wait for it to cool down from hot to warm, and use warm water to wash it using a non-abrasive sponge and dishwashing liquid.

This will most likely clean off stains and burnt food.

When this does not work, your pan’s surface might be damaged.

When the nonstick coating is damaged

I just have to emphasise again, never use any sort of abrasive or hard scratchy cleaning devices on the nonstick coating.

You are very likely going to scratch and damage it and this will cause food to stick and burn much easier.

In the case where there is food stuck on the surface to a degree that the normal cleaning method above does not clean it, you should use either the baking soda and water, or the baking soda and vinegar methods above.

If that still doesn’t work, I fear that your non-stick pan has a damaged surface.

It is most likely that food will keep on sticking.

In cases where the coating gets damaged badly, it will start to flake off as well.

This is a sign to get rid of it and buy a new one.


Burns in pots and pans are not the end of the world.

With proper care, your cookware should not only last a long time, but also retain their smooth cooking surfaces which in turn will minimise food sticking to it and getting burned.

If, however, these surfaces were scratched and damaged, you can still clean and maintain them using some of the methods described here.

It may take a bit more work, but it surely doesn’t mean your pot or pan has reached the end of its life.

Happy cooking!