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Nov 7, 2005 08:39 AM

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.