How Do I Clean Burned Food From a Stainless Steel Pan?

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Clean off any burned food from stainless steel with ease.
Clean off any burned food from stainless steel with ease. (Image: onion fried with butter on a frying-pan image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

Stainless steel is generally easy to clean, provided you use nonabrasive detergents and sponges. But what if there is a burned-on mess in the bottom of a pan? How do you clean this off without using abrasives? Luckily there are a number of ways to clean off burned food from stainless steel pans without ruining the finish or scratching the grain. Just make sure you always finish off with a good buff to remove excess water and allow the stainless steel to reform its protective layer before putting the pan away.

Things You'll Need

  • Mild detergent
  • Plastic scraper
  • Nylon scourer
  • Paper towel/dish cloth
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar

Cover the burned-on food with warm water. Add a squirt of mild detergent and agitate. Leave for an hour to soak. Gently scrape off food that has lifted with a plastic scraper.

Place the pan on a medium heat for 15 minutes to boil off the burned food. Let it cool, then scrape out the lifted contents and remove the excess with a nylon scourer. If there is still burned-on food, soak for half an hour and boil on the stove again. Rinse and dry thoroughly with a paper towel or dish cloth.

Sprinkle baking soda onto burned-on food that still won’t come off. Cover all the burned parts with the soda then add vinegar. The mixture will foam and help lift the remaining stains. After five minutes, add some warm water and boil on the stove for another five minutes. Clean remaining stains with the nylon scourer.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can use lemon juice instead of vinegar to activate the baking soda and help cut through the burned food.
  • After cleaning off the burned food, polish with baking soda on a soft cloth to make the pan shine like new.
  • Do not use bleach, ammonia or steel wool to clean stainless steel. These products destroy the finish of the steel.

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