It’s easy to burn a pan that is cooking on top of the stove or in the oven or broiler. The phone rings, someone comes to the door, or a child needs homework help, and in a matter of moments, today’s dinner turns into tonight’s scrubbing job. Many types of cookware are burn-resistant, but there are times where you may need to scrub an overheated pan.
Since pots and pans are often inexpensive, it may be tempting to throw out a burned pan or a baking dish with caked-on residue. But before doing that, try a few simple cleaning tricks that may restore your pan’s use for future meals.
- Put the pan to soak. First, scrape out all loose food or debris. Then fill the pan half to two-thirds full with hot, soapy water and let it sit on the counter or stove-top for an hour or two. Cookers, saucepans, baking dishes, and even broiling pans can be addressed in this way. A significant amount of baked-on crust means the pan may have to sit overnight. Be prepared for a slight stench in the morning.
- Depending on the pan’s material, scrub loose any remaining residue. Teflon-coated pans, or others with special synthetic finishes, may need special treatment, as using a wire brush or steel wool may damage the coating and render the pan unusable. Other pans without special finishes can be scrubbed with an implement, perhaps even plastic bristles or netting, to remove stubborn traces of the former meal.
- Empty the cleaning water and inspect the pan. Use a washcloth to wipe away smudges orbits of clingy leftovers that the initial scrub left behind. If you find more persistent spots, use the brush or other scrubbing implement to tackle these, or try the soaking step again. This time, however, make sure the water covers the resistant areas. Wait a few hours and repeat the scrubbing process to remove the final bits of dirt.
- For especially charred, overflowing, or charred food remains, fill the pan half-way with water and add a dash of liquid dish soap. Bring to a boil on top of the stove for about two or three minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pan’s water to cool. Or carefully empty it into the sink, handling it with potholders, taking care not to get burned. Use your kitchen scrub utensils to rub off the loosened food.
- It is helpful to soak messy pans right after removing the food that was cooked in them. Soaking promptly allows for quick clean-up later. Letting residual food dry out for an hour or two will make it harder to remove.
Remember to cook foods at their recommended temperatures. Avoid overheating them, and keep an eye on the stove or other cooking appliances at all times. When a pan contains food that is burned on or has charred black, you may decide to discard it, since it may prove difficult to clean and could retain a burned food taste afterward.