Till Dust Do Us Part

10 Ways to Save a Scorched Pot

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Cooked the rice over too high a flame? So spoiled by microwave popcorn that you forgot how temperamental the stuff can be when you make it on the stovetop? Did that pot of chili simmer just a bit too long?

We’ve all been there, staring dejectedly at a badly scorched pot covered in stuck-on food. It’s one thing when it happens when we’re home alone, but oh man, having to face your significant other after burning food onto the bottom of the good pan. And it’s always the good pan, isn’t it?

The good news is this: A scorched pot needn’t be cause for a giant fight. And actually, even if I weren’t here to tell you 10 ways to salvage a badly burned pan, thus saving you from a giant fight, it bears noting that a scorched pot isn’t really something you should be blowing your lid over. It’s a mistake, and mistakes happen. (If that particular mistake happens often, though, then maybe you have my permission to speak in stern tones about mindfulness and kitchen safety.) If your partner is the type to frequently lose his or her temper over stuff like a burned pan, maybe it’s time to consider how nice life can be as a single person can be. Just a thought!

But back to those pots and pans! The next time you find yourself staring dejectedly at a badly scorched pot covered in stuck-on food, give one of these 10 methods a try!

Baking Soda

Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda all over the bottom of the pan, cover with water, and bring the mixture to a boil. Remove it from the heat, and allow it to cool before washing with hot, soapy water. A Dobie Pad or scrub sponge may also be helpful during the washing portion of things, in that they can aid the scouring-off process. But really, you’ll be very surprised at how well good old baking soda and boiling water treats you!

Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar works similarly to baking soda — though it’s less commonly found around the house. To use it to clean a burnt pot, combine two tablespoons of cream of tartar and about a cup of water, bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and allow to cool before washing with hot, soapy water.

Lemon & Salt

The combination of lemon and salt is a great one for removing stains and smells from plastic and wood cutting boards, and can also be used to scour pots and pans. This is an especially good technique to use on baking sheets, since it’s fairly easy to scrub a flat surface with the cut half of a lemon sprinkled with salt.

Denture Tablets

Denture tablets are great cleaning agents — just drop one or two into whatever it is that needs cleaning, cover with hot water, and let the fizzing do the work for you. The only problem is explaining why you’re coming home with denture tablets to your confused partner.

Dobie Pads

Dobie Pads will allow you to scour pots and pans without causing scratching, which means they’re safe on non-stick (Teflon) pans, stainless steel, and cast iron. For really bad burns, combine the Dobie Pad with a cleaning agent that’s a bit tougher than regular dish soap, like Bon Ami or Bar Keepers Friend.

Bon Ami & Bar Keepers Friend

Bon Ami and Bar Keepers Friend are gentle scouring powders (both brands also offer a cream cleanser in addition to the powder) that will help to remove badly stuck-on food from pots and pans. They also work particularly well when it comes to the general care and keeping of enameled cast iron and stainless steel.

Dishwasher Detergent

You may not think to use dishwasher detergent outside of the dishwasher, but it’s actually a great soaking agent — combine a small amount with hot water and allow the mixture to sit in the pot for 15-30 minutes before washing out using a sponge and hot water.


Good old household ammonia has a ton of uses in the kitchen, including providing a hands-off method for cleaning badly burned pots and pans. Place a scorched pan in a plastic garbage bag with one cup of ammonia and allow it to sit overnight. The next day the offending crud should come right off. Whenever you work with ammonia, it’s important to remember to open a window and don a pair of rubber gloves to protect yourself from what can be a fairly harsh chemical.

Oven Cleaner

It makes sense, right? If oven cleaner can remove burnt-on food from your oven, why not from pots and pans? Just be sure to wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, and don’t use it on any cookware that has a non-stick or other kind of protective coating, as the oven cleaner will take that right off.


Yes, really! WD-40 is amazing at removing stuck-on food from your cookware — just spray a small amount on and wipe the debris away with a paper towel or a sponge. Then wash with hot, soapy water to remove the WD-40 residue.

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and the author of My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha.