How to Clean Severely Burned Stainless Steel Pots

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Scrap off as much of the burnt food from your stainless steel pots.
Image Credit: dreamtimestudio/iStock/GettyImages

Stainless steel pots offer a durable, nonreactive cookware option with an appealing polished gleam. But that shiny silver look fades quickly when your stainless steel pans get scorched. It doesn't take long for your dinner to go from perfectly done to completely burnt. Using food-safe cleaning options that won't damage the stainless steel surface helps your cookware last longer without contaminating future meals with harsh chemicals.


Remove Burnt Remnants

If you burn food onto the inside of the pan, start by scraping off as much of the food as possible. A wooden spoon works well to scrape the food off without damaging the pan. Dump out the food particles into the trash to remove as much debris as possible before you start scrubbing.


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Boil Water and Dish Soap

You can let your pan soak in warm, soapy water, but heating it up a little more often removes the burnt-on gunk faster. Add water and a few squirts of liquid dish detergent to the pot. Put it back on the stove and turn on the burner until the water simmers. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes.


At this point, the food should be much softer and easier to remove. Scrub at the burnt marks using a nonabrasive pad or sponge once the pan is cool enough to safely clean. Steel wool or overly abrasive scrubbers can damage the stainless steel surface.

Use Vinegar and Baking Soda

If the dishwashing liquid isn't enough to remove all of the gunk, vinegar and baking soda can help. Start with enough water in the pot to cover the bottom. Then add about 1 cup of white vinegar. Heat the pot until the vinegar mixture simmers. Let it simmer for five to 10 minutes before dumping it out.


Don't rinse the pot. Add a few tablespoons of baking soda evenly over the pot. Wait until the pan is cool enough to safely handle, then scrub it using a nonscratch scouring pad. You can add a little water to create a paste-like consistency with the baking soda. Continue scrubbing until all of the burnt marks are gone.

If the burn marks are on the outside, you can also use baking soda to scrub them away. Turn your pot upside down and sprinkle baking soda on it. Use a damp cloth to scrub the soda into the pan. The moisture from the cloth creates a paste to help clean the pot.


Combine Salt and Lime

Salt and lime might be the perfect combination for margaritas, but they can also work wonders on scorched stainless steel. The acidity in lime helps loosen the stuck-on food, and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to help remove the burn marks, according to Webstaurant. Since these are food items, you don't have to worry about toxicity in your pans.


Add a generous amount of lime juice into the pan and sprinkle a few teaspoons of salt. Wait 10 to 15 minutes before using a sponge or nonscratch scrubber to scour the burnt marks. You can add more salt if you need additional scrubbing help.

Rinse the Pan Well

All of the methods for cleaning stainless steel pans are food safe, but you still want to rinse your pot well after you're done cleaning. Rinsing helps remove any remaining food remnants and dirty water created during the cleaning process. It can also help prevent stains or marks from the cleaning ingredients being left on the metal. Rinse under warm, clean water until all traces of the burnt food and cleaning ingredients are gone.



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