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Best Way to Clean a Burned Stainless Pot?

  • n

I spaced out yesterday while sitting here posting, and ironically, neglected what I was cooking on the stove. So regarding stainless, besides soaking in water, and using steel wool and a gritty cleanser like Bon Ami, any hints for getting the carbonized black crust off my pot?

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    1. re: FlyFish

      Yes, oven cleaner or Dawn Power Dissolver. Stainless scratches very easily so you want to avoid cleaning techniques that will do that so no steel wool or grity cleansers. Sctarching the surface will make it more likely to stick.

      1. re: Candy

        I thought stainless DOESN'T scratch easily, and that is one of the main reasons for using it in the first place? Am I wrong?

        1. re: Two Forks

          yes, sorry, it does scratch very easily which is why non-stick is so popular

          1. re: Candy

            Now I am REALLY confused. I thought non-stick was popular for its ease of use and cleaning, stainless steel for its durability. So, you are telling me stainless steel isn't durable because it scratches, so that's why people use non-stick?
            My SS has no scratches on it, but my non-stick does. Maybe I am doing something wrong?

            1. re: Two Forks

              Any surface can be scratched so the less abrasive the cleaning approach the better. For burnt stainless steel pots or ones with deposits I've simmered a half and half mixture of water and white vinegar with the pot covered. After heating for about 10 minutes. Let it sit overnight. Then try using a mild solution of Bar Keepers Friend powder and a soft sponge. Another approach I've used is to cook a tomato sauce, the acid does a great job and won't hurt the pot. Don't try this with aluminum.

              1. re: BluPlateSpec

                My new stainless-clad pots came with a recommendation to use BarKeeper's friend (which, if you look at the label, is a mild acid). If it's really crusty, you can get some of the crust off by filling the pot (above the crust level) with a weak vinegar-water solution, bringing it to a boil and letting it simmer for a while -- the heating of the metal and the mild bubbling action helps some of the crust release from the pan surface.

                Stainless doesn't scratch easily, but one thing to remember is that anything will scratch if you use something as hard or harder than it is -- thus, steel wool will potentially scratch.

                1. re: BluPlateSpec

                  I joined chow just to thank BluPlateSpec for the advice to "simmer a half and half mixture of water and white vinegar with the pot covered." I upped the percentage of white vinegar (after all, it is a dilute solution to begin with) and after a little scraping with a wooden spoon the pot was back to new. Amidst the cacophony of speculation and unseasoned (no pun intended) advice on the internet, I found this invaluable.

                2. re: Two Forks

                  If your non-stick is scratched, it should definitely be thrown out immediately. Teflon is a known carcinogen. It's reasonably stable if the surface is not scratched, but highly toxic if it is.

                  1. re: ballulah

                    Teflon itself is not a carcinogen, but perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which is a known carcinogen, is used in the manufacturing process for Teflon-based coatings and can remain in trace amounts in the final product. There is no evidence that the amount of PFOA remaining in Teflon coatings is hazardous to individuals cooking in Teflon-lined cookware, but of course (as the saying goes) absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Manufacturers are currently changing their processes to greatly reduce releases of PFOA during the manufacturing process and to reduce the amount of PFOA in the final Teflon coating by 95%. I doubt that scratching the surface makes any difference one way or the other, but if you can refer me to a responsible source indicating otherwise I'd be interested.

                    1. re: FlyFish

                      You know, it's funny, my responsible source is my mom! After reading your much more thorough summary of the situation, I feel rather silly. "My mommy told me!" My mother has always said that Teflon was pretty much poison in a pan, and I've always taken it as gospel. I'll go looking for the info though, because after hearing since childhood that scratching Teflon was pretty much a death warrant (my mother is guilty of hyberbole), I had some non-alarmist friends with kids recently throw out all their old Teflon pots because of something they read. That was dangerous info for me, because it reinforced the "my mommy said so!" evidence!

                      Well, she was right to a degree about not cooking acidic foods in aluminium!

                      1. re: FlyFish

                        flyfish>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>"There is no evidence that the amount of PFOA remaining in Teflon coatings is hazardous to individuals cooking in Teflon-lined cookware,">>>>>>>>...........There is an abundance of evidence that Teflon coatings is extremely harmful to individuals>>>>>>>>>>>>>Do you live on another planet?

                    2. re: Two Forks

                      I just stumbled across your remark more than eight years later, and had to tell you that the reason we switched to SS was that at the time there were a few correlations between cooking in aluminum and getting Alzheimer's. I don't recall that they ever amounted to anything, but once I'd switched to my Revere Ware there was simply no going back to aluminum. However, when silicone bakeware appeared . . .

                  2. re: Two Forks

                    There are many different types of stainless with different hardnesses, but generally it's considered to be a hard metal, which is why most stainless steels make poor knives (impossible to resharpen at home). The high-end knife manufacturers - e.g., Wusthof - are using a stainless formulation that's soft enough to allow resharpening.

                    My experience has been that steel wool won't really scratch the stainless that's used for pots and pans, but the more aggressive cleansers, which I believe use a silica abrasive, can. Bon Ami, which uses feldspar instead of silica, won't. The green-backed "scratchy" sponges are very aggressive and will leave huge scratches.

                    If you're patient with the oven cleaner and are prepared to use multiple applications you can just about rinse off the burned-on crud without any rubbing at all.

                    1. re: FlyFish

                      As I found out when a nanny/housekeeper cleaned the SS backsplash of my pride and joy Wolf Range with a green-backed "scratchy" sponge. I've been looking at those swirl patterns for a decade! Grrrrr!

                      1. re: sel

                        Ouch! But think of the same patrtern at the bottom of a clean pan versus looking at burned on stuff. The pattern would be a lot more acceptable than the crust. Sorry about the backsplash.

                        1. re: sel

                          I have a 48" Thermador with a SS high back, and had a similar problem, though in a much smaller area. I was able to more-or-less restore the original brushed finish by careful rubbing with a 320-grit 3M foam-backed sanding pad, which is available in paint or hardware stores. The trick is to go slow and (this is the tough part) keep the pad moving in a straight line, parallel to the original brushed finish. Even if you can't fix the whole backsplash it's a good thing to know for touching up minor dings and scratches.

                            1. re: FlyFish

                              I have considered the product that I have linked to below although you suggestion is deffinately more economical!


                            2. re: sel

                              Maybe you are still looking at your scratched SS back splash.

                              You can fix this and make it look much better with a straight edge and some 000 steel wool or emery cloth. I have done it and made a few high end pro stoves look amazing. Just make sure to use the abrasive materials with great care and a light touch. Just a few passes in the same direction with the straight edge as a horizontal guide and working your way down the surface. You'll gt a uniform looking surface that won't actually look all bright and shiny like the new stuff, but it will have a 'not worn' look and will soothe your frustration every time you look at it..
                              Good luck.

                              1. re: rolffz

                                Thanks rolffz, might just try your suggestion!

                            3. re: FlyFish

                              Stainless steel is soft, look at the scratchs in your stainless steel sink. Most things in the kitchen is made with a 400 series alloy of stainless, thats why it is magnetic and if it does rust, it is just a surface rust. The 300 series stainless steel is non-magnetic and is also soft. You could make knife at home from both of these series.
                              Problem with the 300 non-magnetic it would never stay sharp, too soft.
                              440C: A high-chromium stainless steel with a terrific balance of good hardness and corrosion resistance. 440C takes a nice edge and is fairly easy to resharpen.
                              I worked 40 yrs in a Machine Shop, made lots of things out stainless.
                              If a person wants something that would make a heck of a knife, use Stellite.
                              There is several versions of this, it won't rust, is hard and tough. But this would be hard to sharpen.

                            4. re: Two Forks

                              I am either blind or have no muscle tone because I have used steel wool on my Farberware P&P's for 25+ years and they are not smooth as a baby's bottom any longer but I would not called them scratched either. And I have no sticking problems that would follow scratched. Remember these are early 1980's vintage and I do not know which brand you refer to but the surface has worn like iron.

                              BTW - To the OP. Do not feel bad about what you did. You have many of us who have been caught up in threads and lost track of the stove. Welcome to the club.

                          1. re: FlyFish

                            Say, what exactly is oven cleaner, anyway? (I know it's in a spray can, but what it actually is?)

                            1. re: Cinnamon

                              Most oven cleaners were originally based on caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, sometimes potassium hydroxide), and many still are. Caustic soda is relatively inoccuous environmentally, but can be a strong skin and eye irritant if used improperly. Some newer formulations are based on ethanolamine and/or ethylene glycol esters, both of which can also be irritating, and the latter at least has been linked (arguably) with other health issues. Caustic soda-based cleaners, which I prefer, are strong chemicals and should be used with reasonable caution but present no unusual health problems, as long as you keep them off your skin and out of your eyes, and avoid inhaling any overspray. That requires some small amount of care when you use them to actually clean an oven, but shouldn't be too difficult in the case of cleaning burnt-on crud off the bottom of a pot.

                          2. An ex of mine's mother once told me how to deal with this. Perhaps one of the better things to come out of the relationship. Boil water with about 1/4-1/2c of baking soda in the pot until the burned stuff comes off. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't entirely...but worth a shot and you're not using chemicals...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: fresser

                              Baking soda, water, soak overnight, is what I do. How well it works depends on the degree of burn.

                              By the way, If it was rice you were cooking, it became Zen Rice -- cooked until it became one with the pan...

                              1. re: fresser

                                I'll second this - I've used the boiled baking soda trick quit successfully. On the rare occasion when it doesn't suffice then I do the dishwasher detergent thing someone mentioned below, or use oven cleaner.

                                1. re: fresser

                                  Yup, my mother uses this trick all the time. It usually works at least well enough to reduce any subsequent work you might need to do to get the burnt scum off, sometimes it works perfectly and the burn is gone.

                                2. 1) set pot in sink
                                  2) pour in dish washer detergent to cover stain
                                  3) add 1 in boiling water
                                  4) soak overnight
                                  5) wash away stain in morning

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Hungry Girl

                                    I agree. I learned this technique a year or two ago and it is really effective. In the worst case you may have to repeat to get the last of the burned-on goo.

                                    1. re: GretchenS

                                      I agree wholeheartedly with this. My pots always come out just fine.
                                      All these dramatic and long suggestions ... I'd rather buy a new pot!

                                    2. re: Hungry Girl

                                      Someone here recommended a variation of this: making a paste of dishwasher powder. I couldn't believe how miraculously it worked!

                                    3. m
                                      Michele Cindy

                                      Once you have cleaned away the grime, if you see any cloudy residue, try white vinegar. It will remove the residue. Just soak, then rub and rinse. The mfg of my stainless rec. this.

                                      1. PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) by 5 Star Chemicals works well on scorched stainless. Available at a lot of homebrew shops.

                                        1. I always take some soap, water and actually heat the pot over the stovetop. You've find that the heat itself will take that crust right off, or at least most of it.

                                          I too have stainless pans and have found that using Barkeepers Friend powder after washing it keeps the residual cloudiness and markings off and reverts the look back to brand new.

                                          1. i've left a copper bottom lined stainless steel pot of boiling water on for 3 hours, the water boiled dry and the copper has burned away (gray and faded orange on the bottom that's easily wiped off) and the bottom inside of the pot has rings and spirals of gray/black that seem to be permanently discolored (I tried leaving baking soda and water soaked overnight- no difference) and when i wipe the inside bottom w/a paper towel the color is still grayish brownish.

                                            At this point would it be unsafe and toxic to re-use the pot for boiling water/cooking any food?

                                            1. photo attached. note brownish color off napkin

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: whathavei

                                                Wow, that's hard core. What happened when you soaked it in vinegar overnight?

                                              2. Chor-Boy copper wool pads are nice, and will get rid of almost any offending substance if you soak the pan (eg. with some detergent) while you're eating dinner or overnight. If that doesn't do the trick, there is always Barkeeper's Friend.

                                                Stainless is not nearly as hard as a lot of people think it is, so it pays to use a softer metal for de-crusting pans that you have (purposely or in the course of deglazing) burnt things onto.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: ttriche

                                                  there's not really any substance at the inside bottom, it's only used for boiling water, just discoloration, and I'm just paranoid that I'll be ingesting toxic metal if I re-use the kettle. I can scrub for ages, nothing would come off but the grayish brownish color.

                                                  1. Some homebrew shops sell PBW -- Powdered Brewery Wash. It really goes after scorched malted barley on stainless. Seems like I have heard that Oxy Clean containe a similar active compound.

                                                    1. I've always been told that household ammonia, in a weak solution will restore and clean stainless steel to a like-new condition.
                                                      I searched this on the net:
                                                      It's worth a try.
                                                      Da Cook

                                                      1. I have had great success with a loose slurry of cream of tartar and water, Let the mixture sit overnight and wash in the morning.

                                                        1. I actually went to the supermarket and found that powder cleanser "BarKeeper's Friend" hidden away at the bottom shelf. I scrubbed for almost half an hour (got a good workout) and it really made a difference! Though I can still see the stains, it's 80% better.

                                                          1. fill the pot with water, dish soap and white vinegar and put it on the burner with the black stuff covered with the 'solution'. As it boils, the black dried on stuff will start flaking off of the pan.

                                                            1. I recently googled "how to get the burnt stuff off the bottom of the pot". Hoping for a new or old but different way to get the burnt stuff off the bottom of the pot lol., I scoured a few websites and saw mostly the same old scour it oven cleaner it baking sodaa powder it and vinegar it. I have previously tried all off these methods (embarrassing but true). So when I saw to put in bleach and water and leave standing overnight I had to try it. By the next morning i could tell it was working but the following morning the burnt stuff was gone. Well i thought that was pretty cool and wanted to post it. So ... happy cooking. And don't forget the POWER OF BLEACH! :)

                                                              1. I cook cider vinegar to dissolve the crusty crap. Sure, your house will smell a bit like burned vomit for a while, but your pan will be clean ;)

                                                                1. I've always used baking soda;a large amount with water to cover the burned part, boiled for quite a while. This works for most things, like the lye in oven cleaner it is an alkaline solution, but not as strong. Boiling vinegar also works well, but is kind of expensive and reeks to high heaven. If I ever find anything that will take off burned potato starch, I'll let you know.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: oldunc

                                                                    Except anodized aluminum, like Calphalon. Baking soda will absolutely destroy the finish. Don't ask me how I know.

                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                      Unfortunately, I have a pretty good idea how you know, but the question was about stainless steel.

                                                                  2. I realize this in an ancient thread, but I recently did about the same thing as the OP. I had a 5 quart stainless steel kettle going (what was in it I do not now recall) went downstairs and nobody, I repeat nobocy smelled the smoke coming from the kitchen. I stll don't understand that one. Anyway, I thought I was going to have to toss the pot.


                                                                    I soaked it in plain hot water first for about an hour then used a plastic scraper and got most of it off then scrubbed it with Bar Keeper's Friend and steel wool. The bottom on the kettle looks just fine although there is one little ding in the bottom that I have no idea how it got there. I highly recommend this kettle from Ikea. It is cheap and this is the only time ANYTHING has ever burned in it. But if left alone long enough, any kettle will burn something. This is also our go to kettle for popcorn. After picking up this pot I gave away the Whirly Bird popcorn maker that burned the popcorn all the time, was impossible to wash clean and was a uni-tasker.

                                                                    1. Here is the real deal...

                                                                      I use this to clean my stainless stell pots that have food stuck on them. I once had a stainless steel pan that had food burned onto it and it set like that for about a year. This is what my mother told me to do...place a couple drop of dish soap and enough warm water to cover the stuck on mess. Place it on a burner over medium low heat until it comes to a gental boil, remove from heat and start to scrub. It really works!

                                                                      1. Wow this is a really old thread but i found it just now while searching for a remedy. After reading the many informative and amusing replies, it dawned on me that nobody suggested what i just tried: degazing the pot! Now, my little pot accident was really quite a doozy, i was making simple syrup for my iced tea and completely spaced it until it was a giant black tar blob, complete with charcoal innards and billowing smoke. I first poured some lysol in it and let it sit for about 20 mins, but my patience got the better of me, so maybe that helped a little. Anyway, i rinsed it, then heated some oil in the charcoaly mess...stirred for about 5 mins, then "deglazed" it with white vinegar, 'scraping up all the(blackened) bits' with a wooden spoon. Now i'm letting it sit in it's juices for a few stubborn spots. Workiing well so far!

                                                                        1. This is sorta off-topic, but I didn't want to look like a boob and make a new topic about something so similar. So, I was wondering if my current method of cleaning my AA or "treated" pots and pans are good for cleaning and good for the cookware or not. When I'm done with a pan, I deglaze with water, empty out the water, and then scrub with minimal pressure with a damp dishrag or a scrubber for more stubborn food stuffs like egg bits. I do this while the pan is on a high flame, so you can guess why I use minimal pressure. If I'm cleaning a pan that's been dirty for more than a few hours, I clean the pan normally with soap and water afterwards.

                                                                          So, is this okay?

                                                                          1. Sometimes I get in a hurry to bring milk to 180 (yogurt) or boil the beans or whatever. I hate it when I burn the bottoms of my stainless steel pots.

                                                                            I've learned the best solution is to boil water for 10 minutes, drain it and run water to cool it off, and use a copper scrubbing pad and Bar Keepers Friend. Sometime boil water a second time, and repeat.

                                                                            Keeps my stock pot and other pots and pans looking like brand new stainless steel cookware.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Annisa

                                                                              Yes, Bar Keeper's Friend is the only scouring product to use, be it the liquid or the powder version.
                                                                              Your stainless will love you for it, and your aluminium will also in a different way.
                                                                              ps - it is also very good for the porcelain in your kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, tubs, etc.
                                                                              Probably one of the best products on the market, regardless of what the need.

                                                                              1. re: carter

                                                                                We started to use SS cookware almost exclusively almost 5 years ago. I don't know who first suggested BKF to me, but I used to loathe washing nonstick cookware and now I would not say I enjoy washing the SS pans, I do get a sense of accomplishment that I am cleaning them without harming the finish.

                                                                              2. re: Annisa

                                                                                A couple weeks ago I scorched some milk in a SS sauce pan. I expe ted a challenge. I put water in the kettle and ignored it for several hours. I still thought it would be a challenge. We have a plastic scraper thing and the scorched milk xame right off in a single, sort of weird skin. (Pudding Skin Singles anyone?)

                                                                              3. Reading some of these replies makes me chuckle. I just burned macaroni onto the bottom of a stainless steel stock pot (6 quart Emeril). I mean, there was a layer of black good coating the pot. The first thing I did was deglaze. This got off the looser bits. Then, I boiled water in the pot, poured it out, and scraped the bottom with a wooden spoon to remove bits. I then put in fresh water and boiled again, repeating the pour and scrape afterwards. After adding more water for a third boil, I scraped the spots I could see with the wooden spoon. Now, my kettle has no black spots stuck to the inside; and I did not use any detergents, vinegar, powders, bleaches, or ammonia. I used the simple power of boiling water. Once cooled, I will polish the kettle with baking soda, but I only do that to maintain the original appearance. It is not in need of any further scraping, just a regular washing.

                                                                                  1. re: sidneylane6

                                                                                    I think cold water on the burn as quick as you can might work, especially if the burn is not too bad. I had this very experience recently. I used cold water right in the pan, and then soaked it overnight. I scoured it clean easily the next day.

                                                                                    Other times, I've had quite a job scouring a burned pot. Soaking, scouring, soaking, scouring. If you dare, you can add some diswasher powder to water in the pan and heat it on the stove. Run the exhaust, and get all small children and animals out first. Let the water boil for just a bit then turn off stove top. When the pan is cool enough, continue scouring.

                                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                      Sue, if your pan is REALLY overheated, rinsing with cold water while hot can delaminate the layers. Better to set it outside (if still smoking outside for sure) or on another burner to cool down, then do your soaking, deglazing, scouring, etc. once it's cool enough so that it doesn't sizzle when touched with water. I speak from sad experience.

                                                                                      I'm really addressing scorching, not something stuck in the bottom of the pan. Deglazing usually works for the normal oops! stuff. It's the oh s--t!! stuff where I bring out the big guns, lol.

                                                                                  2. Boil a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water for 10 minutes and then turn it off and leave it to sit for several hours. This worked magnificently in my good, stainless steel pot. The burned mess that doesn't just lift off and dissolve will scrape off easily with a wooden spoon, leaving no scratches. The bottom will then clean up perfectly with a little Barkeepers Friend.

                                                                                    1. My SS pot boiled dry, was on the stove until about 3am this morning (yes we all do it, especially as we lose our memories) and is a mess. It's clean, but discolored. Any suggestions to remove the discoloration?

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: blaireso


                                                                                        Two things. First, a simple vinegar rinse. If the stain is in the bottom of the pot, pour in vinegar just to cover the stain, and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry.

                                                                                        If the vinegar doesn't work, BKF is your friend. Make a slurry, let it sit for about 30 minutes. Wash with soapy water and dry.

                                                                                      2. My wife destroyed the inside of a lagostina sauce pan. As a last resort for cleaning it I put a brass wire wheel in my drill and went to work. Sucess. The brass is softer than the stainless hence it doesn't scratch the stainless surface. A bit extreme but it worked.

                                                                                        1. I don't think I saw this but it really works. use CREAM OF TARTAR in water and boil. It may take a couple of treatments ( I left it over night ) Then you can reheat it in the morning , simmer. It worked wonders