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How to Clean Burnt Saucepans

It only takes a second and the next thing you know, you have a burnt-on mess in your favorite saucepan. And depending on what you are cooking, you may find that your usual cleaning method is just not going to work. You even walked away overnight to find the charred remains still holding tight.

There are many different methods on how to clean burnt saucepans. Some work well for some things, but you may need to try a few different methods to find the ones that work for your specific saucepan and the food you burn on it.

Burnt-on food requires a bit of scrubbing power to remove it from your cookware.
Grab your gloves and a scouring pad to remove burnt-on food from your saucepan.

What is a saucepan?

A saucepan is a deep pot designed for use on a stove. This piece of cookware looks like a combination of a skillet and a pot. It is designed to create the perfect cookware for cooking liquids.

The flat and often wide bottom resembles a saute pan or frying pan. It provides even heat distribution to a wide surface area.

The edges of a saucepan are deeper than a skillet, but not quite as deep as a pot. The straight sides keep liquid from spilling or boiling out.

Saucepans come in a variety of sizes, ranging from one quart up to seven quarts. You’ll find them in all types of materials, including copper, cast iron, and stainless. Most saucepans feature a domed glass lid with a small hole for venting.

Clean your cookware as quickly as possible to minimize the effort you need to clean it.
Cooking often leads to messes that need quick cleaning.

The joy of nonstick cookware

If your saucepan is nonstick, you are in luck. Burnt-on foods are no match for the slick surface of a nonstick pan. All you need to do is wait until the pan cools down and then soak it in warm, soapy water for at least fifteen minutes. You can then use a gentle brush or a sponge to wipe away the burnt food.

Make a fizz

The combination of vinegar and baking soda is known for creating a fizzy mixture. You can use the chemical reaction between the two to help lift the charred remains from your saucepan.

Fill your pan with equal parts of water and vinegar. Note that vinegar contains acetic acid. You want to completely cover the burned areas. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add two tablespoons of baking soda and remove the pan from the heat. Allow the mixture to sit in the pan for up to 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, drain the liquid and use a sponge or gently scouring pad to clean off the burnt-on bits. If any residue remains, create a paste of baking soda and water. Apply to the charred areas and allow it to sit for a few minutes before scrubbing again.

If life gives you lemons

Just like the vinegar solution above, lemons use the power of acid to loosen burnt-on bits of food from your saucepans. All you need to do is quickly cut up a few lemons and place them in your pan. Add enough water to cover all burned areas.

Bring the water and lemons to a boil. After five to ten minutes, you should see food particles begin to float to the surface. Remove the pan from the heat, throw away the lemons, and rinse the pan. You can then use a scouring pad to gently remove any remaining burnt pieces.

Use a scouring powder

Scouring powders, such as Bar Keepers Friend, are extremely effective at removing burnt-on food from saucepans. Because it is made of oxalic acid, it works in the same way that vinegar does. However, it is much stronger, so make sure you wear gloves while using it.

For the best results, rinse your saucepan under hot water with a light scrubbing to remove loose debris. Make a paste by combining scouring powder and water. Spread the paste inside your pan and let it sit for a few minutes at the most.

Then use a brush or scouring pad to scrub your pan. Small circular motions are often the most effective. Keep scrubbing until you’ve removed as much as possible. You can repeat the application process if necessary.

Reach for the foil

Have you seen the hack that involves cleaning your grill with aluminum foil? It turns out that you can also use aluminum foil to gently scour your cookware.

However, you are going to need a little extra help. After rinsing your saucepan in hot water, sprinkle it generously with baking soda. Add a bit of hot water to create a paste. Let the baking soda paste sit for a few minutes.

Then grab a piece of aluminum foil and crumble it into a small ball. Use it to scrub the pan clean. You may need to repeat the baking soda step or grab a new piece of foil if you are dealing with a severely coated pan.

Rob the dishwasher

Stealing a dishwasher tab from under the counter can be a very helpful solution to a burnt-on pan situation. You can use dishwasher tabs in two different ways.

In the first way, you simply add warm water to your saucepan and allow a dishwasher tab to slowly dissolve in it. The concentrated cleaning power of the dishwasher tab will loosen the burnt-on food. After 15 minutes, dump out the cleaning solution and scrub with a gentle scouring pad.

Or you can use the tab itself to do the work for you. Start by rinsing your pan with hot water. It may sound odd, but what you do is slip on a pair of gloves and use a dishwasher tab to scrub the pan while it is in warm water. The water will dissolve the tab, keeping it rough. While this is one of the more expensive cleaning solutions, it works so well that most experts feel that it is worth the added expense.

Look in the laundry

One of the strangest methods for removing burnt-on food from cookware involves the use of a dryer sheet. Rinse your pan in hot water and then add enough hot water to cover the burned areas. Add a few drops of dish soap and a new dryer sheet to the pan. Give it a quick stir.

Allow the pan to sit undisturbed for at least an hour. Remove the dryer sheet and scrub the pan using a scouring pan and more dish soap. This method works to release light amounts of burnt-on foods. If it doesn’t fully penetrate your mess, you may need to try a different method.

While it is easy to find yourself with a burnt saucepan, it can also be easy to find a cleaning solution that works. By gathering some unexpected items, you can remove the mess and restore your pan to its shining beauty.


Burnt-on food in your favorite saucepan doesn’t have to slow you down. By acting quickly and grabbing a few key items from your pantry, you can scour away any mess that comes your way.