How to Clean the (Burnt) Bottom of a Pot or Pan

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How do I clean burnt grease and scorch marks off the bottom of pots and pans?  This has been a popular question from the Clean My Space community, and clearly, one that needed some research and testing in our advanced cleaning laboratory (…our house).

So, we put your tough question to the test.  If you haven’t done so already, we highly recommend you check out our video and blog post on how to clean the inside of a burnt pot or pan…it’s fantastically easy and requires next to no effort on your part (praise the lord).

In the comments on that video and post, we’ve been asked an alarmingly high amount of times how to clean the bottoms of pots and pans…truth is, we never much thought about it and had no quick fix.  It required some research, but we managed to figure it out.  What we’ve done is investigated 4 popular methods on cleaning the bottom of pots and pans and put them to the test.

The two methods we chose not to use were: cleaning with oven cleaner (it can void your pan’s warranty and is usually pretty harsh, and the same results can be accomplished with other products), and the second is soaking in cola.  We tried this and the results weren’t exciting in the slightest, so we chose to omit it. Feel free to try it out if you have a few spare bottles kicking around though.

So what we did do, was test ketchup, cream of tartar, baking soda and Barkeeper’s Friend.  We used two types of pans, to give you an overview on how everything worked.  I used my Simply Calphalon stainless steel pans, and my Le Creuset cast iron enamelled pans.  This works on any kind of pan, however non-stick pans may be sensitive to Barkeeper’s Friend, so stick to the gentler methods.  Also, despite your deepest, darkest fantasies, please try to avoid placing your pots and pans in the dishwasher.  It can ruin them for good, especially cast iron and non-stick pans.  Always use a non-scratch sponge to do this, especially on the cast iron and non-stick pans!

The video demonstrates the effectiveness of each method.

Ketchup

I applied ketchup to the bottom of the pans, and left it for about 10 minutes.  Apparently this works extremely well on copper-bottom pans, and tomato paste can be used as well (great use for leftovers).  After 10 minutes, I scrubbed with a non-scratch sponge and the results on both pans were not good at all.  Scorch marks and build up were still there, although the stainless steel was a bit brighter.  The cast iron was impervious to the ketchup treatment.  No thanks, not doing this again.  Waste of an excellent condiment otherwise required for potatoes.

Cream of Tartar

I created a paste using about 3 parts cream of tartar to one part water.  The paste was applied to sections of the pan and left for 10 minutes.  Then, it was scrubbed with a  damp, non-scratching sponge.  Nada on the cast iron, and like the ketchup, a bit brighter on the bottom of the stainless steel pan but the scorches and stains were still abound.  Thanks but no thanks, c of t.

 Baking Soda

Well,  you know how much I love baking soda, so us testing it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.  I applied a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water, and left it on the bottom of the pan for about 10 minutes, then scrubbed with a non-scratch sponge.  Most marks came off and some elbow grease was required to do it, but the results were nice on both the stainless steel and cast iron pan bottoms.  I didn’t see the brightening effect on the stainless steel as I did with the cream of tartar and ketchup, but I am more concerned with the removal of marks so all is good in my hood with baking soda.

Barkeeper’s Friend

This stuff, this stuff…wow.  So, like everything else, I applied a paste of BKF to the bottom of the pan (1 part water, 3 parts BKF), and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Then, took the non-scratch sponge and without really even trying, scrubbed.  The stains lifted off beautifully.  I think I heard angels singing…may have been the cat upstairs, but also could have been an angel, really.  It worked swimmingly on both the stainless steel pan and the cast iron pan and required minimal effort.  This absolutely took the cake and is the winner in my eyes.  I was truly impressed.

The caveat to this whole blog post

If you have a roasted, toasted screwed-up pan bottom, please know that you can try all you like but there’s a good chance you won’t get it cleaned.  I purchased one from a thrift store to see how these methods worked and despite my best effort, no dice.  Some pans are just goners.  Now, these marks and stains don’t actually affect the cooking capabilities your cookware has, it’s more of an aesthetic thing.  With that, I don’t mind mine looking used, I mean, that’s what they are there for!  But, if you do like the look of beautiful pan bottoms, then do this on a regular basis to keep those marks and stains at bay.

Good luck and happy cleaning!

65 COMMENTS

  1. I cook and bake like the time, so I have a lot of opportunities for failures 😉. I use Barkeepers Friend and white vinegar (for its acidity) together. When washing dishes that cannot go in the dishwasher, I sprinkle Barkeepers Friend and spritz some white vinegar that I keep in a spray bottle in or on the pan. I scrub it with a non-scratch pad, then let it sit while I wash the other dishes. By the time I get to the pans, they come out clean and shiny. Test it to see if it works any better than your method. I’ll be interested in the results.

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