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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Clean a Scorched Stainless Steel Pan



Sometimes, stainless steel needs a little help staying stainless!
Sometimes, stainless steel needs a little help staying stainless!

Stainless steel cookware and appliances fit any style of kitchen. The iconic and classic look is understated and sophisticated. This material is also long lasting and durable, so it makes for a particularly beneficial investment. A quality set of stainless steel pots and pans will last you a lifetime.

This is not to say, however, that stainless steel pots and pans do not need to be cared for. Heat and hard water can leave marks on the surface and ruin their looks. So, what’s the most effective way to clean a scorched stainless steel pan?

Stainless steel is not actually stainless.

Despite its name, stainless steel can and will become marked, or stained, over time unless it is cleaned regularly. Stainless steel has a chromium film that makes it more resistant to rust and general tarnish. This film needs protection though. By using non-abrasive cleaning products, you should manage to preserve the quality of your stainless steel pans.

Are you concerned about the health effects of aluminum cookware? See this post to read about stainless steel cookware that does not contain this potentially dangerous metal.

Many would suggest that soaking your pan in water overnight is the best way to clean it. However, each metal has its own properties and need to be looked at individually. As noted already, stainless steel can become marked by heat and hard water. Soaking your pan in hard water over night won’t really do the job if it’s scorched.

General cleaning tips.

When you go to clean your pan, you should rinse it and remove any burnt-on food. Don’t use a steel wool sponge on it. This will wear off the chromium film, ultimately ruining your pan. If the food doesn’t come off with a soft sponge, hot water, and dish soap, you can leave it to soak overnight. The suds will lift the some of the food residue.

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Leaving your pan to soak overnight does not signal the end of the job. The next morning, you’ll need to return to the task. Rinse the pan again under the warm tap. Dry it right away with a cloth to prevent water spots.

If you leave the pan to air dry, you may find water spots on the surface. To rid the pan of these spots, dab a paper towel or cloth in some vinegar. Gently polish the pan with the rag, rubbing with the grain of the steel. The water spots will vanish immediately. Once they are gone, rinse the pan in water and dry immediately to ensure they don’t come back.

Cleaning scorched stainless steel.

Avoid using abrasive sponges on your stainless cookware.
Avoid using abrasive sponges on your stainless cookware.

For a pan that has been scorched on the bottom, you’ll need to take another approach. As I already mentioned, you should never use steel wool sponges on stainless steel pans. In order to remove stubborn burnt residue from the base of your pan, you fill the bottom of the pan with a layer of water. Add a cup of vinegar to the water and bring it to the boil on the stove.

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Read about the best sponges for cleaning your stainless steel pots and pans.

At this point the pan should already be looking a little cleaner. Remove the pan from the heat and add two tablespoons of baking soda. This will fizz quite a bit due to the vinegar, so be careful if the vinegar-water mix is still hot. Baking soda is a safe, but very effective, cleaning product for kitchen appliances. You can even use baking soda to clean your oven.

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Empty the pan and scrub it with hot soapy water and a sponge. If the surface is still a little scorched, add some extra baking soda and rub vigorously. If you still find the surface dirty, make a paste with the baking soda and a amount of water. Leave this paste on the surface of the pan for a couple of hours while you get on with the rest of your life. Come back and rinse it off under hot water. By now, the scorch marks should be history.

Generally you shouldn’t have to go all the way to the paste method but, if you do, it’s definitely going to eliminate those scorch marks once and for all.

Sparkling and stain-free once again!

Try to keep an eye on your pans and avoid scorching them. But, if you are a little distracted and find you’ve burnt them, these easy steps should do the trick.

You can also wash your stainless steel cookware in the dishwasher. Learn more about the best dishwasher for stainless steel pots and pans.

See my recommendations for utensils to protect your stainless steel cookware.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Brock Yates

Because Brock is the tallest member of the team at 6 foot 5 inches, when he’s not thinking about food, he’s eating his favorites: pizza, burgers, tacos and burritos. He's always experimenting with the latest kitchen gadgets and exploring new techniques in the kitchen.

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