How to clean a burnt pan so it looks like new using items already in your kitchen

These easy cleaning hacks will banish stubborn stains and make your pans sparkle

kitchen with tiles wall and cabinet
(Image credit: Future PLC / Lizzie Orme)

Let's be honest, we put our pans through a lot. While we get to enjoy the tasty results of our culinary efforts, our pans end up looking a little worse for wear after every cooking venture. Sometimes the burnt bits just won't budge no matter how hard we scrub. Fortunately, we can learn how to clean a burnt pan and get it back to a gleaming state.

Even the best saucepan sets can fall prey to stubborn charred marks. All it takes is a simmering risotto to be left unattended for a few minutes, or too many veggies frying with not enough liquid, and boom, we're left with the need to learn how to clean a burnt pan, and fast.

The good news is that there are a few tried and tested methods that will lift the burnt remnants of last night's dinner from your pans. The natural cleaning hacks in our guide will show you how to clean a burnt pan with items you most likely already have lying around the kitchen, so there's no need to run to the shop and buy any special cleaning products. 

How to clean a burnt pan

'While high-quality, non-stick pans should withstand hot temperatures, taking your eye off the hob for a moment or forgetting to stir can easily result in a burnt mess at the bottom of your pan,' say the CookServeEnjoy experts. 'Thankfully, charred pans can be revived with a few simple steps without damaging them with harsh scrubbers or chemicals.'

So you can increase the lifespan of your beloved pots and pans, we've asked the experts how to clean anything from a copper pan to a cast iron one and compiled the most effective methods into this guide. 

kitchen with tiles wall and cabinet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

1. How to clean a burnt pan with frozen washing up liquid

You can learn how to clean a burnt pan using this popular TikTok hack - all you need is some washing up liquid, a mini muffin mould tray, and a freezer.

'If you want to achieve sparkling pots and pans without the super scrubbing, all you need to do is take your washing up liquid, add it into small muffin moulds, and freeze!' say the cleaning experts at Fabulosa.

'Simply pop a frozen cube into your pan, fill it with boiling water, and leave it to soak off the build-up of grime.'

Hob with silver saucepans and frying pan

(Image credit: ProCook)

Use whatever washing up liquid you have in the house, and if you don't have small muffin mould trays, an ice cube tray will work just fine. The combination of the washing up liquid, ice and boiling water will get rid of any stubborn remnants of last night's dinner from the pan.

2. How to clean a burnt pan with lemons

'Lemons are excellent cleaning tools due to their acidic and antibacterial properties', says Sarah. 'They're also able to leave a refreshing citrus scent behind.'

  • Chop around 3 – 4 lemons into quarters. Use more or less, depending on the size of the pan
  • Place the lemons in the pan with water and bring it to a boil
  • Reduce the heat and then leave the water and lemons to simmer for at least 10 minutes. The burnt food should come floating to the top during this time
  • Empty the pan and scrub the remaining burnt bits
  • Finally, rinse the pan.

3. How to clean a burnt pan with liquid soap and boiling water

Set of black saucepans and frying pans

(Image credit: STAUB)

'Cleaning a pan with liquid soap and boiling water is a straightforward technique and can work wonders when it comes to getting burnt food off the pan,' says Sarah Dempsey, Cleaning Expert, 'The increase in temperature can help to separate the burnt on food from the pan material.'

  • Place your pan on the stove and turn the heat on
  • When the pan is hot, pour in some water and a few drops of washing up liquid
  • Allow the water to soak and heat to boiling
  • Empty the water and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape any leftover burnt bits away from the pan
  • Before using the pan again, spray cooking oil over the surface to fill in the pores and create a smooth, non-stick surface.

4. How to clean a burnt pan with salt

'Using salt is not only one of the quickest ways to clean pots and pans, but it is also the cheapest method,' says Julian Hobday, Manager, PureSalt. 'Regular table salt, which you most likely already have in your cupboard is as cheap as 65p in supermarkets and is great for removing tough stains from kitchenware.'

As well as adding seasoning to your favourite meals, this bargain product can also bring a whole lot to your pan-cleaning repertoire. It works best with a pan that has light burn marks on the edges/bottom.

  • Sprinkle a generous amount of salt into the centre of your pan
  • Use a wet sponge to work the salt into the affected areas
  • Wipe away any remaining burnt bits with a towel
  • Rinse the pan and repeat as needed

Another bizarre hack for burnt pans using salt has also proved a hit on the internet. It's said to be great for any burnt marks on pan sides, created as a result of sauce/stews/soups spilling over.

Simply grab a large potato, cut in half, pour salt on the cut side and rub it into the burn marks. And voilà, your pan should be gleaming.

kitchen with chopping board and pan

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Richard Gadsby)

5. How to clean a burnt pan with baking soda

You'll be amazed at the shine you can achieve using this tip. You may even be able to see your own reflection in your pan if all goes to plan! You'll also need some vinegar and a scourer to hand.

  • Fill your pan with water until the bottom is just covered
  • Add one cup of vinegar
  • Bring this solution to the boil and remove from the heat
  • Add 2 tbsp of baking soda and leave to work into the mixture for a few minutes until it starts to fizz
  • Wash the pan and use a scourer to scrub away any remaining burnt bits

tumble dryer with shelves and table

(Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole)

Cleaning with vinegar is a fail-safe way to lift stubborn stains, and when combined with baking soda, the burnt bits sticking to your pan don't stand a chance.

6. How to clean a burnt pan with a dryer sheet

Dryer sheets can do more than adding a pleasing scent and softness to your laundry. They're also just the thing to freshen up your burnt pan.

  • Add a few drops of washing-up liquid to the pan
  • Cover with a few inches of hot water
  • Place a dryer sheet over the water then press down so it is completely submerged
  • Leave to soak for an hour
  • Wash the pan out and as with no.2 scrub away any remaining burnt bits

7. How to clean a burnt pan with cola

Set of matching granite pans in kitchen

(Image credit: ProCook)

If you've got a spare can of Coke or two lying around – or maybe the dregs of a bottle that's gone flat – then why not crack it open and put it to use for cleaning? The carbonic acid in Cola is great for breaking down stubborn stains.

  • Pour the coca cola into the burnt pan and set this aside
  • Leave the burnt pan to sit for a few hours – ideally overnight
  • Pour out the cola and rinse the pan
  • Finally, clean it with dish soap as normal

Washing up kit

How do you clean a badly burnt stainless steel pan?

For how to clean a burnt pan made from stainless steel, a little more care should be taken. Excessive scrubbing can damage the steel and you'll end up with a scratched pan that doesn't work as well anymore.

'Remember that stainless steel can scratch easily when using harsh cleaning brushes like steel scourers, so baking soda may be the safest cleaning option to gently lift burnt bits without damaging your pan', says the CookServeEnjoy experts. 

Use a combination of baking soda and vinegar for best results. These two powerful agents will help lift the burnt bits stuck to your pan without damaging the stainless steel.

'For this method, add equal amounts of water and vinegar to your pan (just enough to ensure the bottom of it is completely covered)', advise the CookServeEnjoy experts. 'Bring your pan to a boil, then take off the heat before popping in two tablespoons of baking soda. Let it fizz for around five minutes before pouring the mixture away.'

How do you clean a badly burnt saucepan?

If your pan is badly burnt, you may need to try all the methods on our list to find one that works. Try the frozen washing-up liquid method first, as the combination of the freezing and boiling temperatures will activate the soap and help the charred stuff lift away. 

If this and none of the other methods from our guide are doing the trick, try using a dishwasher tablet if you have some. 'For more intense burnt areas, dishwasher tablets work excellently, as they are packed with enzymes that break down protein and starch in food,' say the CookServeEnjoy experts. 'Simply pour boiling water into your pan, pop in a dishwasher tablet, boil for around 10 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and wipe with a sponge or cloth.'

If you don't have a dishwasher, washing detergent works too. 'For burnt food that won't budge, fill the pot or pan with water, add a couple of tablespoons of detergent and start heating up the contents to a boil', says Joe Authbert, Buying Manager at ProCook. 'Use a plastic or wooden spoon or spatula to carefully scrape the food from the pot or pan. Wash the pot or pan like normal, and once it has dried, grease the pot or pan again.' 

With these top tips, you will have your pans sparkling in no time, ready for your next cooking venture.

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