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How to Remove Burnt-on Food Residue From Pots and Pans

Before you reach for steel wool, try these effective and mild methods of removing persistent food residue from pots and pans. And don’t get us wrong, steel wool is effective for burnt-on food, but it's also very harsh. Any metal scrubber or brush is, especially for fragile non-stick pans or cast iron pans. Instead, we can offer 5 excellent ways to clean any type of pot or pan. These methods utilize household staples like baking soda, dishwasher tabs, and even Alka-Seltzer, so no shopping is needed!

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans dirty frying pan

A mixture of baking soda and white vinegar is used to clean a wide variety of surfaces, and a dirty frying pan is certainly one of them. This method helps loosen any burnt-on food and scorch marks, even if your pan is badly burned.

This is a powerful cleaning solution that unites abrasion and a chemical reaction created by alkaline baking soda and acidic vinegar. This method is suitable for all types of frying pans.

For this method you’ll need:

  • Warm water
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda.
How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans cleaning a pan

1. Bring a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar in a frying pan to a boil. This step will help loosen the burned-on particles.

2. Remove the frying pan from the heat and empty it. Then sprinkle baking soda on any burned areas. Let the pan cool to barely warm but not too hot to handle. 

3. Add more baking soda and gently scrub the pan in circular motions using a sponge, plastic brush, or plastic scraper. Avoid using metal scrapers, as these are too abrasive and will damage the pan.

4. Pour a little bit of vinegar; the fizzing can further loosen any burnt-on bits. Continue working the product into the trouble areas of the pan. Then rinse and dry with a clean towel. 

The pan should look completely clean at this point. If you see any especially persistent burns, you can repeat these steps again until the pan is completely clean. You can also use one of the other methods listed below.

Related article: 9 Methods For Stain Removal around the House

Baking Soda and Dish Detergent

How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans Baking Soda

Another effective solution for baked-on food is a mixture of baking soda and dish soap. Baking soda adds a scrubbing element, dishwashing dissolves grease and loosens grime, and hot water helps soak the baked-on stains.

This method is suitable for stainless steel, aluminum, enamel, and copper pans, but it’s a bit too strong for cast-iron and nonstick pans.

For this method you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dish detergent.
How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans dirty frying pan
1. Combine all the ingredients in the dirty pan and let the frying pan soak for around an hour.
2. If you’re dealing with especially stubborn burnt-on stains, you can heat the cleaning mixture in the dirty pan. Bring it to a boil, and gently loosen any stuck-on bits using a wooden or silicone spatula.
3. Remove the frying pan from the heat and empty it. Let it cool down until you can handle it.
4. Scrub the pan with a sponge or scrubber, and add a bit more dish soap. Then rinse and dry using a towel. Voila, the frying pan should be spotlessly clean, and shiny!


Yes, you read that right. The same Alka-Seltzer that can relieve hangovers and indigestion is helpful for cleaning a surprisingly wide variety of items around the house. And your dirty pans are no exception. Like the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar, the citric acid in Alka-Selter creates a fizzing action that can help dissolve burnt-on food residue.
How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans woman scrubbing a pan

This cleaning trick can work for any type of frying pan, but please avoid cast-iron pans to preserve the seasoning.

For this method you’ll need:

  • 6 Alka-Seltzer tablets
  • Hot water.

1. Fill a dirty pan with hot water and add the Alka-Seltzer tablets. Let the mixture sit and work for 1 hour.

2. Empty the pan and use a sponge or plastic scrubber with some dish soap to clean away any stuck-on residue.

3. Thoroughly rinse the pan, dry it with a clean towel, and you should be all done.

Related article: 9 Tips to Remove the Most Stubborn Of Oil Stains

Lemon and Baking Soda

In this method, we’ll show you how to use a real lemon cut in half as a scrubber. This method works for any type of frying pan, and in our experience, it’s especially effective for stainless steel pans, as it gives the metal a polish and shine, along with loosening the burnt-on food particles.
How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans Lemon and Baking Soda

For this method you’ll need:

  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • Baking soda.

1. Clean the frying pan using dishwashing soap and a plastic scrubber. Remove as much grime and grease from the pan as you can. Rinse the pan.

2. With some water still in the pan, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the surface of the frying pan.

3. You can use one half of a lemon as a scrubber. The lemon juice and baking soda will react and start fizzing to loosen the burnt-on food.

4. Rinse, then repeat if necessary with more baking soda and the other half of the lemon. Then give the pan one final rinse, and it should be shiny and clean.

Dishwasher Tabs

How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans Dishwasher Tabs

Dishwasher tabs have strong grease-dissolving ingredients that can clean off leftover food particles. All you’ve got to do is presoak the dishwasher tab with some hot water in the frying pan. Note that this method may be too abrasive for non-stick pans.

For this method you’ll need:

  • 1 dishwasher tab
  • Hot water.

1. Bring water to a boil in the dirty frying pan. Then dissolve a dishwasher tab in the water.

2. Let the water boil for 2-3 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and let it cool down.

3. Use a brush with plastic bristles to scrub and clean away the burnt-on residue in the pan.

4. Empty the pan and rinse it with warm water. Dry the pan with a clean dish towel.

How to protect a frying pan from burnt-on food residue

How to Remove Burnt Frying Pans breaking egg frying pan

1. Add plenty of oil and let the pan heat up thoroughly before putting food in it. Pan-frying food in a dry or cold vessel will make food stick.

2. When pan-frying food, let the food brown thoroughly before moving or flipping it. Shifting food prematurely can make the crispy skin stick and tear.

3. Clean the stovetop before putting a pan on it. Otherwise, grease and dirt from the stovetop can transfer to the bottom of the pan. The heat will make it stick to the pan and make it very difficult to remove.

4. Wipe down a frying pan while it’s still warm with a paper towel. The burnt-on bits will come off more easily while the pan is still warm.

5. Avoid overwashing your frying pans. Scrubbing too much can remove the non-stick coating or seasoning from a pan, so just wipe down the pan with paper towels whenever you can. This will also extend the life of your pots and pans.

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