It Happens: Here's Everything You Need to Know to Clean a Burnt Pot

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Dine x Design

Even the best home cooks have experienced a scorched pot from time to time. Whether it happened as an accident or simply from the nature of your latest recipe, sometimes pots and pans get burnt—and there's nothing your dishwasher can do to help. Thankfully, if your glistening pot currently looks like a tarnished mess, there are a few simple ways to bring it back to life.

Depending on how bad your stain is, the task can require a bit of trial and error, but it should only take about 30 minutes to complete. Even if you're a few hours away from hosting your next dinner party, your favorite pot can be ready to take on the job in a pinch.

Below, learn how to clean a burnt pot with household items or commercial cleaners to bring the shine back to your best cookware.

How Often Should You Clean Pots?

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How often your pots and pans need to be deep cleaned depends on how often you use them. When it comes to removing burn stains, it's important to clean scorched sections as soon as possible to prevent them from setting in over time. If your favorite recipes are likely to burn—like melting chocolate or cooking with fats—plan to budget some time for deep cleaning after each use.

Things You'll Need

You won't need to use all of the following cleaning materials, depending on the severity of the burn. Choose the method that best suits the type of stain you're tackling. Here are a few items you'll need to get started:

  • Wire sponge or standard scrubbing sponge
  • Clean washcloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Bar Keepers Friend (optional)
  • Distilled white vinegar (optional)
  • Baking soda (optional)
  • Aluminum foil (optional)
  • Dishwasher tablet (optional)

How to Clean Burnt Pots With Vinegar and Baking Soda

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Step 1: Mix Vinegar and Water

For light to medium burns, try an easy DIY method by reaching for one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen: a cup of vinegar. Mix one part distilled white vinegar to one part water in your pot (using enough to fully submerge the burn). For stubborn stains, use only vinegar by doubling the amount.

Step 2: Bring to a Boil

Bring the mixture to a boil on your stovetop. After boiling for a few minutes, remove the pot from the heat and add two tablespoons of baking soda. The reaction will begin to fizz, so it's helpful to place your pot in the sink during this step.

Step 3: Scrub the Stain

Dump the liquid and use a wire sponge or standard scrubbing sponge to remove the bits and debris on the surface. Rinse the pot in hot water and dry it with a clean washcloth.

Left with grime? Make a paste with the baking soda and vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing to remove any remaining particles.

How to Clean Burnt Pots With a Dishwasher Tablet

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Step 1: Add Water

If you're short on time, scrubbing with a sturdy dishwasher tablet is one of the quickest ways to remove burn stains from your favorite cookware. You can generally tackle medium to heavy burns in under 10 minutes with this cleaning method. To start, fill your pot with about an inch of water and place it on the stovetop over low heat.

Step 2: Scrub the Stain

Once the water in the pot is just slightly warm, remove it from the stove and put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands. Using a dishwasher tablet, scrape the bottom of the pan (think of the tablet as a heavy-duty sponge). If the tablet has a wrapper, remove it and use the cleaner directly on the surface. Rinse the pot under hot water once the stain has lifted.

How to Clean Burnt Pots With Aluminum Foil

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Step 1: Create a Baking Soda Paste

If you've tried other options that haven't quite worked, aluminum foil might be the best cleaning method to remove stubborn stains. To start, cover the burnt spot with baking soda and add enough water to create a paste.

Step 2: Scrub the Stain

Using a handful of aluminum foil, scrub the tarnished area until you start to dissolve the particles. Within a few minutes, you should begin to see the burnt pieces break away. While you do have to scrub thoroughly, you shouldn't have to apply too much pressure—just enough to dislodge any remaining debris.

Step 3: Rinse With Soap

Once you've removed all of the stains, rinse your pot clean with warm water and soap to remove the excess baking soda. Dry it with a clean washcloth.

How to Clean Burnt Pots With Commercial Cleaners

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Step 1: Prepare Your Cleaner

A heavy-duty cleaning product like Bar Keepers Friend offers a simple, one-step solution to many burns and stains. This cookware cleaner can be used on materials such as stainless steel, copper, and porcelain by pulling up set-in stains. To start, sprinkle the cleaner over the burnt areas of your pot, then add water to create a paste.

A cleaner such as Bar Keepers Friend can easily handle burns, but it can also tackle other difficult stains such as hard water blemishes and mold.

Step 2: Scrub the Stain

Scrub the cleaning solution into the stains with a wire sponge or standard scrubbing sponge. Use a circular motion to loosen the stains from all sides.

Step 3: Rinse With Soap

Once the debris is removed, clean your pot with soap and water before drying it with a clean washcloth.

Tips to Keep Pots Clean Longer

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If your pots and pans burn often, there may be a few specific areas that are likely to form hot spots. Note the places where your pot gets the hottest, then prevent burns by stirring or shaking the ingredients to ensure food doesn't linger while cooking. This will not only allow for a more evenly cooked meal, but it will help prevent those scorched pans in the first place.

It's also helpful to fully preheat your cookware before adding ingredients to recipes that involve cooking with fats. Use a cooking spray or natural non-stick solutions like vegetable oil when sautéing or frying meals. After each use, thoroughly clean your pots to remove any excess food or debris that may build up on the surface.