Baking and cooking come with their fair share of messes. Anytime you're cooking with oil and heat, you're running the risk of baking grease onto your cookware. Generally, rinsing and soaking baking and cooking pans after use will reduce the amount of baked-on grease that clings to the surfaces. However, sometimes time gets away from you and baked-on grease stays longer than you'd like. Fortunately, there are ways to remove it.
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How to Get Burnt Food Off Stainless Steel
Whether it's burnt on food or burnt on grease, stainless steel that's coated with food remnants can be troublesome to clean. For one thing, it's dirty! It prevents you from getting your pans and pots fully clean, and it makes it difficult for you to use them. Storing pans becomes more complicated because there is burnt food or grease that could get adjacent cookware dirty or even attract bugs.
Burnt food on stainless steel also looks unsightly. Often home cooks like to display their cookware, and burnt-on grease stainless steel simply look ugly and unpresentable. There is also the added worry of the grease from previous dishes retaining the flavors of your earlier cooking and contaminating the food you're cooking now.
All of these reasons may make you feel like you need to invest in a commercial-grade stainless steel cleaner. But the truth is that you can remove baked-on grease with simple household products. You just need plenty of water, the correct supplies and some elbow grease.
Homemade Alternatives to Stainless Steel Cleaner
Although you can go to a home improvement or hardware store and pick up a stainless steel cleaner that will remove grease and baked-on food, you don't need to incur the expense. It is possible to get burnt food off of stainless steel with nothing but items that you probably already have in the house.
The first thing to do is to fill the sink with hot water, and add a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid. Mix to create suds, then soak the cookware that has baked-on grease in the sudsy water for at least 20 minutes, or as long as overnight. The hot water plus the degreasing properties of the dishwashing liquid will help to loosen the hold of the grease to the pan.
After soaking the cookware, use hot water and a sponge outfitted with a scrub-pad to remove the remainder of the baked-on grease. If this doesn't work and there is still baked-on grease on your cookware, spray the cookware with a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts warm water. The acid in the vinegar should help break the bonds between the grease and the pan.
Abrasive Agents to Clean Baked-on Grease
If the vinegar and hot water still don't remove all the baked-on grease from your pan, it is a good idea to move on to an abrasive cleansing agent. Abrasive cleaning agents can be too delicate for glassware or certain ceramic or natural stone surfaces, but for stainless steel, they are often the perfect agent for removing baked-on grease.
Sprinkle baking soda generously across the surface of the areas coated with baked-on grease. Top it with enough hot water to create a paste. Allow the paste to sit on the surface of the grease for about 20 minutes. The alkaline properties in the baking soda will begin to break up the grease bonds. Then, dip a sturdy soft cloth in clean hot water, and begin rubbing the grease stains in a circular motion across the surface of the pan.
Repeat this until the grease stains have come off. If baking soda isn't sufficient, try Barkeeper's Friend, an abrasive agent designed to cut grease. After you've removed all the baked-on grease, clean the stainless steel pan with soap and hot water, and then give it a final spray of vinegar solution before drying it and putting it away.
Ashley Friedman is a freelance writer with experience working in the home, design and interiors space.