Cleaning Burnt Pans

You’ve forgotten to set the timer and come back to the stove to find dark black cement at the bottom of your pan. Sometimes so bad you contemplate throwing the thing away – but never fear, there are ways to clean up burned on food out of a stainless steel pan! I wish I could say I didn’t have first hand experience with this, yet being in the kitchen so often, I’m bound to make a few mistakes.

For awhile this past fall I was a bit more forgetful than normal. I’m going to blame it on the adrenals………… But alas, I burnt my lunch twice in the matter of only one week. One day in particular I was re-heating soup, went downstairs and completely forgot I left it on the stove. An hour (or so) later I was just thankful I didn’t start a fire!

Luckily I had learned just a couple of days before how to remove such a mess.

clean burned pan

Placing just a few inches of water in the bottom of the pan and adding in a cup or so of vinegar helped to peel off this stuck on mess. Don’t get me wrong – it’s gonna take a bit of waiting, but it will come off! You bring it to a boil, turn off the flame and let it cool. Repeating as often as needed to remove the burnt cement.

burnt stainless steel

Now if someone can just tell me if my stainless steel pot that I started an actual fire in can be saved………

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Donielle,

    I really appreciate this tip, though I don’t want to admit how many times I have done the same thing. I had no idea about the vinegar so I am going to have to try it. I was always just soaking with water or boiling with plain water and scrubbing. One thing that has helped me to loosed the “gunk” at the bottom of a pan, though, is a nylon pan scraper. When it seems nothing else is going to loosen the mess it seems to have just the right leverage to get things moving. I have mine from my old days as a Pampered Chef consultant, but they have them on Amazon as well.

  2. Another option is to coat the burnt part of the pan in dish soap (no water, just soap) and then leave it for a few hours. The burnt part literally slides right off. (Although vinegar is probably the more natural option, I’ll have to try it the next time I burn something…)

    As for the pan you started a fire in, I have found (from experience) that after thorough scrubbing the pan will remain permanently discoloured, but still useable. Although I guess it might depend on how big the fire was….

  3. You’ll love this. I don’t think I’ve ever burnt food onto my stainless steel pans that bad…… but I was boiling water for tea and forgot about. Turns out that if you turn the burner on high, walk away for 20 or 30 minutes, and come back, not only will the water have evaporated, but the metal on the bottom will melt!! I did this at our old apartment and didn’t realize it would melt, so I picked up the pan to investigate, and melted metal spilled all over, melting the linoleum and splashing onto my foot (ouch).

    The second time I did this (yes, there was a second time), I knew better than to pick it up, so I splashed cold water on it (as I watched the pan mutate) and then let it sit on the burner for a couple days before I threw it in the garbage.

    And would you believe that out of all the time I’ve been pregnant, these incidences happened very recently (one in August and one in January), when I WASN’T pregnant??

    So a few weeks ago I finally got replacement pots for the ones I melted. I also invested in a whistling tea pot so that when the water boils, instead of evaporating and melting the pan, it will scream at me. Hopefully that will be the end of my pot-melting adventures! :)

  4. I boil some water and baking soda in my stainless steel. Works great!

  5. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done just what you’re describing. Usually I just let it soak in hot water and dish liquid, then give it a good scrubbing with an SOS pad. Next time I’ll try your tip because it sounds a bit easier!

  6. Another trick that has worked for me is tomato sauce. It’s something about the acid in the tomatos that gets it off the pot. You definitely have to let it sit for a while but it did work for me a couple times.


  1. […] Cleaning Burnt Pans | Naturally Knocked UpMar 8, 2011 … We’ve all burnt something in the kitchen a time or two (or three) and yet getting a burnt on mess off of a stainless steel pan may prove difficult, … […]