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Best Way to Clean a Burned Stainless Pot?

Niki Rothman Nov 7, 2005 08:39 AM

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?

  1. f
    FlyFish Nov 7, 2005 08:41 AM

    Oven cleaner

    24 Replies
    1. re: FlyFish
      Candy Nov 7, 2005 09:30 AM

      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
        Two Forks Nov 7, 2005 10:04 AM

        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
          Candy Nov 7, 2005 10:09 AM

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

          1. re: Candy
            Two Forks Nov 7, 2005 10:26 AM

            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
              BluPlateSpec Nov 7, 2005 01:08 PM

              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
                Ruth Lafler Nov 7, 2005 01:54 PM

                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
                  keutzer Feb 21, 2012 12:08 PM

                  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
                  ballulah Mar 23, 2007 10:15 AM

                  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
                    FlyFish Mar 23, 2007 10:57 AM

                    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
                      ballulah Mar 23, 2007 11:29 AM

                      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
                        mymy Jul 13, 2008 03:43 PM

                        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
                      SamMadHands Feb 8, 2014 12:54 AM

                      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
                    FlyFish Nov 7, 2005 10:27 AM

                    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
                      sel Mar 23, 2007 09:27 AM

                      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
                        jfood Mar 23, 2007 09:39 AM

                        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
                          FlyFish Mar 23, 2007 10:47 AM

                          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
                            jfood Mar 23, 2007 10:49 AM

                            Awesome idea. Thx.

                            1. re: FlyFish
                              sel Mar 23, 2007 11:19 AM

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


                            2. re: sel
                              rolffz Oct 16, 2011 03:19 PM

                              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
                                sel Oct 16, 2011 11:38 PM

                                Thanks rolffz, might just try your suggestion!

                            3. re: FlyFish
                              JohnBob Sep 6, 2010 05:50 AM

                              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
                              jfood Mar 23, 2007 04:57 AM

                              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.

                          2. re: FlyFish
                            Cinnamon Mar 22, 2007 10:02 PM

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

                            1. re: Cinnamon
                              FlyFish Mar 23, 2007 04:50 AM

                              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.

                          3. f
                            fresser Nov 7, 2005 09:17 AM

                            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
                              Anne H Mar 10, 2007 10:54 AM

                              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
                                AnnaEA Mar 10, 2007 03:13 PM

                                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
                                  ballulah Mar 23, 2007 10:18 AM

                                  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. h
                                  Hungry Girl Nov 7, 2005 10:20 AM

                                  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
                                    GretchenS Nov 7, 2005 10:31 AM

                                    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
                                      idia Sep 17, 2007 02:17 PM

                                      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
                                      Fida Nov 7, 2005 11:24 AM

                                      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 Nov 7, 2005 10:32 AM

                                      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. r
                                        rexmo Nov 7, 2005 11:45 AM

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

                                        1. k
                                          krispykremed Nov 10, 2005 07:13 PM

                                          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. w
                                            whathavei Mar 10, 2007 10:26 AM

                                            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. w
                                              whathavei Mar 10, 2007 10:49 AM

                                              photo attached. note brownish color off napkin

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: whathavei
                                                ttriche Mar 10, 2007 11:04 AM

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

                                              2. ttriche Mar 10, 2007 11:03 AM

                                                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
                                                  whathavei Mar 10, 2007 11:14 AM

                                                  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.

                                                2. IndyGirl Mar 10, 2007 12:02 PM

                                                  I use baking soda

                                                  1. r
                                                    rexmo Mar 10, 2007 03:04 PM

                                                    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. Da_Cook Mar 10, 2007 03:44 PM

                                                      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. k
                                                        Kelli2006 Mar 10, 2007 05:37 PM

                                                        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. w
                                                          whathavei Mar 18, 2007 08:25 AM

                                                          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. meadandale Jul 13, 2008 07:44 PM

                                                            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. j
                                                              JustaJarofClay Apr 10, 2010 05:30 PM

                                                              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. f
                                                                fatgaleats Apr 10, 2010 05:59 PM

                                                                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. o
                                                                  oldunc Sep 1, 2011 06:29 PM

                                                                  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
                                                                    acgold7 Sep 1, 2011 08:38 PM

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

                                                                    1. re: acgold7
                                                                      oldunc Sep 2, 2011 10:11 AM

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

                                                                  2. John E. Sep 1, 2011 08:00 PM

                                                                    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. whiteasianchef Sep 1, 2011 08:30 PM

                                                                      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. l
                                                                        LostArt Sep 2, 2011 09:53 AM

                                                                        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. s
                                                                          shezmu Feb 21, 2012 01:44 PM

                                                                          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. a
                                                                            Annisa Jul 20, 2013 04:49 PM

                                                                            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
                                                                              carter Jul 20, 2013 09:20 PM

                                                                              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
                                                                                John E. Jul 20, 2013 09:41 PM

                                                                                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
                                                                                John E. Jul 20, 2013 09:44 PM

                                                                                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. s
                                                                                SquirrellyOne Nov 29, 2013 03:45 AM

                                                                                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. s
                                                                                  sidneylane6 Mar 20, 2014 12:10 AM

                                                                                  so, what are answers

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: sidneylane6
                                                                                    sueatmo Mar 20, 2014 09:27 PM

                                                                                    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.

                                                                                  2. a
                                                                                    abklos about 20 hours ago

                                                                                    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.

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