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Feb 11, 2013 02:27 PM

Can onion smell be removed from a nonstick pan?

I caramelize onions a lot and almost always use the same pan. I've noticed that this pan basically always smells like onions now! I start to smell it as soon as the pan pre-heats.

So, of course, I haven't been using the pan for anything where the onion flavor might clash, but I really like this pan and would love to not have it relegated.

Am I out of luck?

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  1. Through many nonstick pans over decades of onion-intensive sauteeing, I have never noticed a lingering onion smell. Have you scoured the EXterior of the pan? You may have some cooked-on remnants on the outside.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Nope, nothing on the outside of the pan.

      Would anything happen to the finish if I tried simmering a bit of water & baking soda?

      1. re: greygarious

        Ditto. Non-stick finishes aren't porous. If you're washing the pan gently but thoroughly inside & out - including the handle - each time you use it, there shouldn't be any lingering odors.

      2. Try soaking the entire pan in white vinegar.

        1. It should be that difficult to remove the onion favor from a nonstick pan. I would try to wash the pan wash in baking soda solution and once in white distilled vinegar. This combination should cover all.

          Your simmering suggestion is better if you have the time for it.

          No, nothing bad will happen to the nonstick if you simmer with baking soda solution and then simmer in vinegar solution.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Okay, I'll try the vinegar and baking soda. The pan is clean as far as I can tell with a naked eye. Feels clean, too, inside and out.


            1. re: Violatp

              Assuming the onion fragrant is from the cooking surface (not the exterior surface), this means the onion residue is in the oil form and is attached to the nonstick surface. I think the heated baking solution should able to remove most of it, and the second part of white vinegar should remove whatever the rest.

              Keep in mind, there are many other places for the onion reside to hide. As others have mentioned, the exterior surface can be the source. In fact, it could be your stove too. Do you only use this stove for cooking onion?

              Good luck.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I do use the stove, yes, but it's also clean. I mean, I don't smell onion if I'm, say, boiling a pot of water on that same burner.

          2. Along with the other suggestions, find a sunny day and set it outside.

            1. I am very sensitive to those onion smells in pans, so I do understand your problem.

              I have been successful in removing such food odors with Softsoap, the kind you would use on your hands. I particularly like the thick and creamy Shea Butter:


              I put a generous amount on a sponge and rub it into the pan -- with very little water -- until it turns into a thick gooey covering. I let it sit for a few minutes and then rinse in hot water. This has been very effective for me.

              I suppose any Softsoap hand soap will do, but I find the thicker ones quite effective.

              2 Replies
              1. re: liu

                But since those products are meant to leave a film on your skin (even after rinsing), doesn't it also leave a film on the pan?

                1. re: Bacardi1

                  This is interesting, Bacardi1, but I have never been aware of any film left on the pan after rinsing well. How would we measure that?

                  Also, why are these hand wash soaps "...meant to leave a film on your skin?"