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How to Rescue a Scorched Pan—Easy!


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.


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?

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:


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.

12 thoughts on “How to Rescue a Scorched Pan—Easy!”

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

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