April 10

How to Clean a Burnt Pan – Stainless Steel, Ceramic and Nonstick

Written by: Nadia El-Yaouti


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Hot spots in your pan, not stirring the food regularly, and cooking on high heat using oils with low smoking points are all surefire ways to end up with a burnt pan.

What’s more frustrating than dealing with the cooked on mess? 

That's right, cleaning it.

Thankfully, it doesn't have to be all elbow grease. Whether you are cooking with stainless, ceramic, or nonstick, here is how to clean a burnt pan the easy way!

Let the right cleaning agent do the heavy lifting for you 

How to Clean a Burnt Stainless Steel Pan

Many cooks like using stainless steel cookware because the material does a fantastic job holding onto heat as you cook. 

The downside to using stainless steel cookware is that you will almost always end up with burnt food on the bottom of the pan IF you don't cook with it properly or if you cook using an oil with a low smoking point (again, not cooking with it properly:))

And when you do end up with a burnt on mess, it can be frustrating to clean it up.

Luckily, with stainless steel, the best way to clean off a burnt mess is by cooking it away. For this method of cleaning burnt on food off your stainless steel pan, you will need vinegar, baking soda, and water. 

  1. Start by pouring together equal parts water and white vinegar into your pan. How much mixture you use depends on the size of your pan, but for your average 10-inch diameter pan, mixing ½ a cup of distilled white vinegar and ½ cup of water should be enough.
  2. Heat your vinegar and water mixture until it comes to a boil (be prepared for the overpowering vinegar scent). After it has boiled for at least two minutes, you can bring it to a simmer and use a wooden spoon to scrape at the burn marks. This will help to lift the food up. Do this for a couple of minutes then pour the mixture out of the pan.
  3. Next, sprinkle about a tablespoon of baking soda into the pan. Use a scouring pad and work the baking soda into the burn marks. As you scrub the burnt food should lift away.  

Top Off with a Vinegar Baking Soda Paste

If you are still left with stubborn spots, you can mix together one part vinegar and one part baking soda to make a paste. Apply this paste onto stubborn spots and let it sit for a couple of minutes before you scrub at the spot again. 

When you have removed all the burnt spots on your stainless steel pot or pan, rinse it out with water and wipe it dry.

How to Clean a Burnt Ceramic Pan

Ceramic pans require their own type of care because of the way they are constructed. This misnomer of a pan is not actually made out of ceramic. Instead, a ceramic pan features a ceramic coating that bonds to the surface of the metal of the pan. 

Ceramic non-stick pans should ALWAYS be cleaned by hand, not in a dishwashing machine. Some dishwasher detergents contain citric acids and bleach. These ingredients can be too harsh on the ceramic coating and could ruin the finish. 

Although ceramic pans require a little bit more care than other pans, their ceramic coating can actually be helpful in removing cooked on food stains.

Here’s what you’ll need to do to remove burnt stains from a ceramic pan:

  1.  Start by adding one to two cups of water into the pan (the more you can fill the pan, the better)
  2. As the water boils, add in about a tablespoon of dish soap.  
  3. Use a wooden spoon to gently scrub any burnt food. Be sure that as you work, you ARE NOT too aggressive in your scrubbing so that you don’t accidentally scratch your pan’s surface. The heat and soap mixture will loosen up the burnt food stains so you can remove them without much effort. 
  4. You can turn down the heat and bring the water to a simmer if you need to continue scraping. 
  5. Once you have removed all the burn stains, take the pan off the heat and empty it. Use a soft rag to continue working at any remaining stains.
  6. Do a final rinse of the pan and dry it off. 

How to Clean a Burnt Copper Bottom Pan


Copper bottom pots and pans are a popular cookware type because of the even heat distribution the copper bottom provides. Throw in the fact that they are heavy duty and durable and you've got one of the best types of cookware to invest in. 

However, if you leave your copper bottom pan empty while it's cooking or if it catches fire, the copper bottom can be left scorched with burn marks.

Here’s what you need to do to reverse the damage: 

  1. Start by removing as much stuck on food as you can.
  2.  Next, add in a couple of drops of dishwashing soap to the burn spot and add in enough hot water that the burn marks are completely covered. Lastly, add in about two tablespoons of baking powder.
  3.  Stir the mixture until the baking soda has dissolved and let the mixture sit for at least two hours or overnight.
  4.  After the mixture has had time to loosen the burnt on food, scrub it using a soft sponge. The burnt food should lift away along with any burn spots. Wash, rinse, and dry the pan before you start working on the outside bottom.
  5.  Flip the pan over and spread an even layer of tomato ketchup on the outer base. Allow the ketchup to sit for about two hours. The acid in the tomato ketchup will lift away the scorch marks.
  6. After two hours, use a soft sponge and rub the ketchup into the copper before you rinse it clean. 

How to Clean a Burnt Nonstick Pan

Despite their name, nonstick pans can still fall victim to burnt on food as well. Much like ceramic pans, Nonstick pans are coated with a material called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).

PTFE is a synthetic material composed of carbon and fluorine atoms. This synthetic material is most recognizable as Teflon.

While nonstick pans are known for their no-mess cooking and easy cleaning afterwards, they are also known for needing extra care when cooking with.

The non-stick layers can be easily scratched if you use a metal utensil while cooking. Scratches result in a loss of the nonstick layer. If you cook at a high temperature or cook with a pan that has scratches you can be left dealing with burnt on messes. 

Because nonstick pans are easy to scratch, the best way to clean burnt on messes is by letting your nonstick pan soak in a cleaning solution. Here’s what you’ll need to to clean burnt on food off of your nonstick pan:

  1.  Start by sprinkling a generous amount of baking soda directly over the burnt surface of your pan.
  2.  Next, add about ⅓ cup to ½ cup of water and stir the mixture so that the baking soda dissolves.
  3.  Let the mixture sit for at least two hours or overnight for stubborn stains.
  4.  After the mixture has had some time to loosen up the food, it's time to scrub. Using a gentle cloth or soft sponge, gently apply pressure to the burnt-on food. It should lift off rather easily.
  5. Rinse the pan, and use a baking soda paste (1 part baking soda, 1 part vinegar) to work out any leftover burnt on food.  

How to Clean the Outside Bottom of a Burnt Pan

The underside of any pot or pan will start to collect a layer of burnt on grime overtime. No matter how stubborn the burn marks on, you can almost always lift them away using Bar Keepers Friend.

This non-abrasive scouring powder uses the active ingredient oxalic acid to gently fit away even years old stains. Here’s how to clean the outside bottom of your burnt pan with it. 

  1.  Start by applying a generous amount of Bar Keepers Friend to the bottom of your burnt pot or pan.
  2.  Using small circular motions, rub the powder into the pan with a scouring pad. 
  3.  Work in small sections until you have cleaned the whole base.

How to Clean a Burnt Pan with a Dryer Sheet

It's a bit unorthodox, but this method can be used to clean all types of pans. The conditioning properties of a dryer sheet work to break apart grease making it easier than ever to remove stuck on food.

The best part...

this method works on all types of cookware. Here's what you'll need to do: 

  1. Start by filling up your pan with hot (not scalding) water.
  2. Place a dryer sheet in the center of your pan. 
  3. Allow the dryer sheet to sit for at least two hours or overnight for really caked on messes.
  4. After the dryer sheet has had time to work its magic, the baked on food should rinse right off. Use a gentle sponge to scrub away any leftover residue.  

Prevention is Key

No matter your skill level in the kitchen, you’ll undoubtably have to deal with a burnt pan at one point or another. However, there are things you can do to prevent having a burnt pan.

  • Use soft utensils when cooking with nonstick pans. Metal utensils can scratch the surface, removing the nonstick layer. This increases your chance of having burnt-on food.
  • Heat your stainless steel pans for 2-3 minutes before you add your oil.
  • Don't overheat your pan.
  • Clean burnt on messes as soon as your pan cools down.  
  • Dry your pan after you clean it. Not doing so can cause minerals from the water to ruin the finish of your pan overtime.


Pans and pots (no matter the material) are notorious for accumulating burn spots. Even for those of us who take all the precautionary measures, it's usually inevitable.

With that said, as long as you get ahead of it, the work to remove them should be relatively easy. Use the chemicals and techniques we recommend and...

let chemicals and time do the heavy lifting 🙂

Have a unique way you clean your burn marks? Lets us know in the comment sections below !




About the author

Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and three kids. When she's not exploring new and improved ways of cleaning and organizing the kitchen on a budget, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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