Cleaning burned pans
September 8, 2005 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Best way to clean/restore good-quality copper/stainless sauce pans that have been burned on the stove-top, have heavy, rock-hard encrustations of charcoal-ized food inside and blackened bottoms? Several heavy soaking/scrubbing sessions haven’t done it.
posted by dpcoffin to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I give up if an SOS pad won't clean a stainless pan.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2005

Scotchbrite. Elbow grease. Maybe some citrus solvent.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2005

Oven cleaner spray?
posted by bcwinters at 12:59 PM on September 8, 2005

Simmer dish soap and water for hours. Let cool, go at it with a scrubby. Repeat if you are making progress. If that doesn't work, I retire them to the garage for strange mutant non-food projects.

I have used the oven cleaner spray method, with major rinsing. It works, except that the pans seem to become very prone to burning food and themselves afterwards. I no longer use this method.
posted by QIbHom at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2005

Ovencleaner works really well for burnt food residue. Spray the inside, cover and leave overnight. Really baked-on food may take a couple of applications, but will eventually getback to bare shiny metal.

Lye-based oven cleaners are almost magic for cleaning metal. The sprays are much more effective than soaps, and acids, like lemon juice and vinegar, won't touch carbonized food---the chemistry is wrong.

The outsides you spray as well, but a good steel-wool abrasive, as others have said, is probably what you need.
posted by bonehead at 1:15 PM on September 8, 2005

This totally works: simmer a mix of water and dishwasher liquid like Cascade for about 20 mins. It works like a charm.
posted by CunningLinguist at 1:16 PM on September 8, 2005


"Another tip came from a stainless steel cookware sales rep. When food sticks to a stainless steel pan (uncoated) clean the pan as much as possible without using anything caustic like scouring powder or SOS pads and:

- Wipe the inside of the pan dry with a paper towel
- Cover the bottom of the pan with lemon juice (fresh or bottled) and wipe the inside pan wall with lemon juice
- Let the juice soak in for at least thirty minutes or overnight if you really burned something onto the bottom of the pan.
- Wash the pan, the stuck-on food should wipe out with soap and water.

Enough of the lemon juice for now, let's try catsup or ketchup or whatever you call it... the red stuff.

For discolored copper bottom pans or brass, spread a good amount of catsup or ketchup (here I go again) on the dry metal surface, rub gently with a paper towel after a few minutes and then wash with soap and water and dry. Leave the window open when you are getting ready to try this, the chemical reaction can get a bit rough."

other responses here
posted by phearlez at 1:16 PM on September 8, 2005

Try the lemon juice process above, then follow up the next day (with the lemon juice still in the pan) by liberally sprinking about half a cup of Baking soda on the encrusted stuff. Add 2-3 cups of hot water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer for 30 minutes.

This really works to dissolve and loosen the blackened bits, but you still have to go at it with steel wool and elbow grease to dislodge the stubborn parts.
posted by Miko at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

Barkeeper's Friend. It wails, is cheap, and is recommended by All-Clad for their stainless pots. I've successfully used it to remove a bunch of melted plastic from my GF's stainless Caphalon frypan as well as all manner of burned-on crap and heat discoloration.

For All-Clad's copper line, they recommend a "brass/copper cleaner."
posted by stet at 1:22 PM on September 8, 2005

I second the dishwasher soap. Wear rubber gloves when using it though - Madge definitely doesn't want you soaking your fingers in it.
posted by caddis at 1:30 PM on September 8, 2005

I second Barkeeper's Friend. That stuff works magic.
posted by geeky at 1:50 PM on September 8, 2005

Might try using a combination of lemon juice and salt on the copper, if the blackened areas are not too thick the blackening will melt away with a bit of elbow grease.
posted by squeak at 2:06 PM on September 8, 2005

Throw a handful (or one tablet, or a capful, depending on what type you use) of biological laundry detergent into the pan, add very hot or boiling water, leave it to soak overnight, in a large bowl or sink of water which also contains biological detergent and hot water. Rinse thoroughly in cold water.

The biological detergent should remove the stains from inside and outside the pans.
posted by essexjan at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2005

I've always cleaned scorched pans by pouring a layer of salt into the (wet) pan, then letting it sit for a while... then using good old-fashioned elbow grease to get the scorch out.
posted by elisabeth r at 3:04 PM on September 8, 2005

Soak off as much of the crud as you can using the methods above and when you're down to the last layer of blackness get the pan warm, spray with oven cleaner, cover, put OUTSIDE [stuff smells nasty] and wait a day or two. I've rarely had to do the oven cleaner step twice, and never three times.
posted by jessamyn at 3:11 PM on September 8, 2005

Oven cleaner seconded.

However, I regard it as a last resort.

I find scrubbing with baking soda works very well in all but the most desperate cases.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2005

Someone tell me if I'm doing anything bad to my pans, but this is what I do: put the dirty pan on a high stove until it's hot enough to sear a steak. Then, pour in the juice of one lemon mixed with a teaspoon of salt. It should steam, like, a lot. Then, I use a wooden spoon to scrub the black bits out of the hot ass pan filled with lemon juice. When sparkleness is achieved, pan goes in super hot water in the sink and gets a washing.
posted by plexiwatt at 4:08 PM on September 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

^^ Oh, and stainless pans only.
posted by plexiwatt at 4:09 PM on September 8, 2005

Vinegar and salt works like magic on copper.
No scrubbing--just wipe.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:18 PM on September 8, 2005

A paste of lemon juice and cream of tartar will work extremely well. A bit expensive, but it works.
posted by sanko at 4:26 PM on September 8, 2005

I prefer a mechanical alternative to the chemical approaches suggested so far. For a couple of bucks, buy one of those rotating brushes with plastic bristles that you can attach to your electric drill. Vrooom!
posted by randomstriker at 4:27 PM on September 8, 2005

Lemon juice and salt is the traditional way to clean copper, but any mild acid will suffice.

I use Barkeeper's Friend on my stainless All-Clad, but I don't know if it would get real tough crud off.

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. You may not get your pan clean.
posted by briank at 5:49 PM on September 8, 2005

plexiwatt, don't keep us waiting any longer: We want a recipe for your citron-noir glace.
posted by rob511 at 6:21 PM on September 8, 2005

Ant hill.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 7:24 PM on September 8, 2005

I recently went through this myself. I started with baking soda and enough water to cover the grimy bits and simmered it for about an hour, then let it sit overnight. Next day, a lot of the stuff could be gotten off just with a little scrubbing. I tried repeating the baking soda/water again, that night, but it didn't seem to do any good on the REALLY thick and crusty areas. The next day I sprayed it lightly with Easy-Off Fume Free, let it sit for an hour (and if you put it outside, don't put it in the sun, it dries too fast and nothing gets accomplished - I learned that on the second one I worked on). After an hour, the crud almost completely wiped off with a paper towel, and the few spots left easily came clean with normal hand washing.
posted by Orb at 12:59 AM on September 9, 2005

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