Have you ever forgotten about a pan of potatoes or sauce cooking on your hob? Let’s face it, most of us have, and we all know how difficult the clean-up operation is afterwards.
Some people even throw away their pans because the black, carbonised food at the bottom looks like it’s permanently welded there. We even leave our burnt pans to soak in soapy water for days in the hope that the black coating will miraculously disappear.
The next time you burn something in a pan, follow one of these cleaning methods — it might just save your pan from the scrapheap.
1. Vinegar and heat
The next time you notice your famous chilli boiling over the sides of your pan, simply turn off the heat, and transfer the contents into a clean, heat-proof container. Rather than simply fill the burnt pan with water right away, let it cool down to just above room temperature.
Scrape off as much of the burnt, blackened food as possible. However, be careful not to scratch the pan, particularly if it’s non-stick. Use a spatula or a wood spoon for the best results.
Once you’ve removed what you can, soak the pan in white vinegar, and give it 20 minutes of contact time. Then pour in about an inch of vinegar, and place it on a low heat. When the vinegar reaches boiling point, turn the heat off and let it cool. Use a scourer and some hot, soapy water to remove what’s left of the burnt food.
2. Baking soda
Once cool, scrape out as much of the burnt food as you can. Half fill the pan with boiling water, then add four tablespoons of baking soda and mix it thoroughly. You’ll see the baking soda fizz and pop, which means it’s doing its job. Leave the pan to soak for 24 hours, and when you come back to it the majority of the black mess should be floating on top of the water — instead of stuck to your pan.
Empty the brown sludge from your pan, and then use a scourer and hot soapy water to remove what remains. Of course, if this hasn’t worked, you can either repeat the process or try the vinegar method.
3. The freezer
You don’t always need lots of elbow grease and cleaning agents to remove burnt food from pans. If you’re cleaning a stainless steel pan, for example, you might be able to remove the majority of the burnt food simply by freezing it. Place the pan in your freezer, and leave it there overnight. When you come back to it, chipping away at the burnt bits should be easier when they’re frozen solid.
4. Dishwashing liquid
While still hot, squirt some dishwashing liquid into your pan, and add water. Simmer for 30 minutes, then turn the heat off to allow the pan to soak. After about an hour, empty the pan and scrub away the burnt food with a scourer. Repeat these steps if you can’t remove the black coating.
Cleaning non-stick pans
If you’re cleaning a non-stick pan, you need to be careful that you don’t scrape and scratch the protective coating. This means brushes and scourers can’t be used. Instead, use the dishwashing liquid cleaning method, but don’t scrape the larger black bits beforehand. When it’s time to clean the pan, use a sponge. You need to fully soften the stuck-on food before you start scrubbing, so extra soaking time might be required.
The next time your favourite pasta sauce boils over, use one of these tried-and-tested methods to save it.