How to Clean Burnt Popcorn From a Pan

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If you have a stainless steel or enamel pan with burnt oil, you should be able to remove the oil easily.
Image Credit: Steve Cukrov / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

It's the middle of the night, and you're halfway through a day of Netflix binge-watching. You may not have moved for a couple of hours, and you finally decide it's time to make a snack. But as you become engrossed in your next episode, you forgot that you left the popcorn on the stove. Now, the popcorn and your pot are burned. You may feel super annoyed now, but there are many everyday household items that you can use to remove burnt popcorn from a pot.


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Get Burnt Oil Off Pan

If you have a stainless steel or enamel pan with burnt oil, you should be able to remove the oil easily. But if it's a nonstick pan, do not use this method. Instead, put the pan on the stovetop and turn on the heat to get burnt oil off the pan. When the pan gets hot enough that water sizzles on it, pour about 1 cup of water to the pan and let it sizzle. Using a wooden spoon or nylon spatula, scrape away the burnt areas while the hot water is loosening up the steel drum popcorn.

Soak With Soap

If water doesn't work, you can also add a bit of dish soap. Add a couple of drops of dish soap to the pan, add hot water and let it sit for a couple of hours. You can also let it sit overnight if the pan is badly burned. When you're ready to clean the pan, empty it, start running fresh warm water and use a nylon scrubber to chip away the burnt bits.


Use Vinegar to Deglaze

To deglaze a burnt pan, you can use white vinegar and a regular kitchen scrub. Pour just enough vinegar to cover the bottom of the pan and simmer it for a bit. The burnt oil should scrub right off, but if it doesn't, you can also substitute vinegar for fresh or bottled lemon juice.

Use a Dryer Sheet

Dryer sheets may sound like a weird thing to use on a burned pan, but they work in a pinch. If you have a couple of fabric softener sheets laying around, fill up your burnt pan with warm water and add in a dryer sheet. You want to make sure that you push the dryer sheet entirely underneath the water so that it gets fully saturated. Wait a couple of hours, then use the dryer sheet as a scrubber to loosen up the oil.


A Bit of Hydrogen Peroxide

Another random household trick is using hydrogen peroxide. You're going to add about a 1/2 inch of hydrogen peroxide to a pot and heat it until it starts to bubble. Wait about 10 minutes for it to simmer, and then use a scrub brush to remove the burnt oil. Hydrogen peroxide works well because it bonds to the carbon and lifts it from the pan. Although hydrogen peroxide will not damage your pans, it does smell when it starts to simmer and bubble, so turn on a vent or open up the window.

Additional Burnt Oil Tricks

Most of us have baking soda available right in our kitchen, and it works well with removing burnt oil from a pan. You're going to sprinkle about a cup or two of baking soda onto the scorched pan. Add a little bit of water on top of the baking soda. You don't want to add a whole lot, just enough to cover the baking soda.


Then, you're going to simmer the baking soda and water mixture for about 15 minutes up to a half-hour. During this time, most of the black burned crust will fall off, and you should be able to wipe the pan clean. But if it doesn't, you can repeat the steps, if necessary. If you don't have baking soda, regular table salt should work too.



Allanah Dykes is a freelance writer and her work has been featured on Elite Daily, Levo League, Popsugar, Complex, Gurl, The Kitchn, HelloGiggles, Revelist, and Food 52.