How to Rescue a Scorched Pan—Easy!

Scorched-Pan

I did it again. Yesterday morning I burned a layer of polenta to the bottom of my favorite saucepan. Again. Gotta stay away from the computer while food is on the stove!

This is a venerable, beloved, and very expensive pan. It must be saved. Luckily, I stumbled across an easy fix, one that requires almost no elbow grease.

It goes like this:

First, soak or rinse away the stuff that’s not burned on. Then drop a generous handful of baking soda into the pan.

Baking-Soda-in-Scorched-Pan

Fill the pan about halfway with water. Put the pan on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil. Do not wander off! Keep an eye out, because this stuff is likely to foam up and bubble over onto the stove. It’s easy to clean up, but who needs an extra mess to fiddle with?

Foaming-Baking-Soda

It WANTS to boil over!

As soon as the baking soda/water solution reaches a boil, turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Let it simmer for about twenty minutes—watch to be sure it won’t bubble over before going off to do something else. No two pansful of this stuff behave the same way.

After it’s simmered for a while, turn off the heat and let it cool. Once the pan and its contents have cooled to room temperature, you should be able to wash out the scorch easily. Because I was doing this at about 11:00 p.m. last night, I left it to soak until this morning.

Here’s the result:

Clean-scorched-pan

This was achieved with no scrubbing! The layer of scorch fell out of the pan like a piece of brown fruit leather and slithered down the garbage disposal. Then I used an ordinary sponge to wipe out the pan, without benefit of Barkeeper’s Helper.

Amazing, no? I’ve also had this work on a Dutch oven where the burnt carbon had annealed onto the stainless steel like enamel. After the baking soda treatment, a metal spatula scraped the stuff off pretty easily. In that case, I did have to apply a little scouring powder to finish the job, but still, surprisingly little effort was required, and a valued pan was rescued.

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frugalscholar May 26, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Funny! I posted a while back about how you can make polenta in a slowcooker. Try it. No chance of scorching.

funny May 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

That appeared here: http://frugalscholar.blogspot.com/2010/02/polenta-easier-than-easy.html

Great idea! Takes several hours, though. I wanted it for breakfast and was really hungry. My error was stumbling back to the office and plopping down in front of the computer, where I’m always pulled through the Looking Glass and utterly lose track of time.

Terri May 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

This was news to me and I can hardly wait to scorch a pan and try it!

susie May 28, 2010 at 5:29 pm

You can also just put some vinegar in the bottom and let it sit overnight.

funny May 28, 2010 at 5:34 pm

@ Susie: I’ve tried that. Doesn’t work as well — especially if the scorch is enameled to the pan.

caroline May 29, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Thanks! Very useful tip. Will definitely try the baking soda next time I scorch a pan.

Karen @ Abundance on a Dime June 1, 2010 at 8:07 am

You know, I’ve seen that tip about using baking soda for scorched pans quite a few times, but for some reason I’ve never tried it. After seeing how fantastic your results are, I know I’m going to use it on my next burnt pan :) I have a gas stove and a tendency not to pay as much attention as I should to simmering pots, so I end up with scorched pots more often than I’d care to admit!

Victoria Vella February 26, 2011 at 6:55 am

Instead of water, I mix the bicarbonate with brown vinegar, bring to the boil, lower heat and allow to simmer for about 15 mins – BRAND NEW POTS! and i’m an expert at burning pots coz with an infant and a toddler, i’ve got plenty on my plate!

funny February 26, 2011 at 8:00 am

@ Victoria: check out next Monday’s post (2/28) on various cleaning techniques using ordinary household staples.

Dianne February 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Great post! I am trying your tip now. Our new puppy distracted me and the pan is scorched.

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