We’ve all been through this. You’re in the middle of cooking, and you suddenly remembered that thing you have to check off your to-do list! You leave the pot on heat while you attend to whatever it is. After all, what could go wrong? It’s only going to be 3 minutes. Or so you thought.
Next thing you know, you find a burnt pot sitting on the stove, in place of your shiny one.
But if you had read this article, you would know that most of the time, you can easily restore its shiny glory in as little as 5 minutes. The best thing about it? You probably already have at home whatever is needed to pull this off!
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The Absolute Best Method: Wait, Aluminum Foil?
If you’re confused reading the section title, we don’t blame you. How can something so common be the ultimate answer to cleaning burnt pots?
Yet it is.
The method is simple. Pour some baking soda onto the cookware (yes, we’ve taken some cue from the popular ‘cleaning burnt pots with baking soda’ method), about 2 tablespoons, and add some water. This will create a thick consistency and almost makes it into a paste.
Then – this is where the secret comes in – scrunch a piece of aluminum foil, and start scrubbing away, just as you would with a scouring pad. Repeat this process for as many times as it takes for your pot to shine clean again. For us, the process took only about 5 minutes. It’s that easy to get it clean using this process!
This is the perfect method to employ if you’re looking for a way to clean a burnt pot without vinegar.
What About the Other Methods?
If you’ve been doing some reading up on the internet at all on this subject, you would’ve come across many other methods. Salt, sugar, even cream of tartar. But there is one to rule them all: cleaning a burnt pot with vinegar and baking soda.
In our experience, it is overrated. Not only do you have to repeat the process many times to see results, in the end you would probably do a good amount of scrubbing anyway.
There are actually a few other better ways to clean a burnt pot without using vinegar and baking soda. You might even prefer not to use aluminum foil if you’re cleaning a burnt non-stick pot, to avoid scratching the surface. We’ll list a few of our favorite ones.
Using a Dishwasher Tablet
Another simple, 5-minute lifehack would be to simply use a dishwasher tablet.
Fill your cookware with a little water and heat on low. Then, add the tablet in, and rub it on the burnt parts. Rinse, and repeat if needed.
This method is one that requires minimal abrasive scrubbing against your cookware. If you have a non-stick one or you just really pamper your cookware, this might be worth a try.
Just remember to rinse and wash thoroughly after. You don’t want dishwashing solutions in your food!
Lemons, You Say?
Because lemons are acidic, they actually help tremendously in removing stubborn grime.
This method takes longer, but is also less hands-on. Simply cut up lemons however you’d like (preferably in quarters), and toss it in the cookware with some water. Then, boil for around 10 minutes, and you should see some burnt pieces floating up to the surface.
Once the grime stops floating up, drain the water and use a scouring pad and clean off any leftover grime. In the case where it worked for you like it did for us, there would be almost none left!
If you’re short on lemon, you could try substituting with other acidic items, like lime juice or even ketchup.
Methods We Are Not Convinced
Although there are many other methods out there, like cleaning with apple cider vinegar, with salt, cream of tartar, or sugar, our experiences haven’t been magical with these.
Generally, they lack the chemical strength needed to properly react with the burnt parts and remove the grime. As many of these methods are non-abrasive as well, there is just not enough to remove a badly-burnt pan.
Note though we are writing based on our experiences. If you have had little success with our favorite methods, do try these out. Basically, the general idea of using these components is either filling the cookware with water and one of these and let it soak, or boil it.
How to Avoid Burning Pots
Good, we can fix burnt pots. But that doesn’t mean you should continue burning them! Here are some tips that we have compiled that should help you avoid more burnt pots in the future.
The number one mistake that many people do is turning up the heat too high. Except for some high-heat cooking techniques like searing or even sautéing, most other cooking styles don’t actually require you to go too high up the heat level. By using at most medium or medium-high heat, you’re able to exert more control over the cooking process.
Next, if your problem isn’t forgetting to turn off the stove, you should stir more frequently. If you constantly expose the same part of the food to the hottest of the cookware, its bottom, it will get burnt more easily.
Another related point is, if you have a cookware piece that has hot spots, e.g. cast iron or stainless steel that is not high quality, some parts of the cookware will get hotter than other parts. To combat this (apart from getting a better-built pot), is to move your cookware a little, time to time. This is especially useful if you’re using a gas stove, where heat distribution isn’t exactly even. This helps even out the heat being directed to those hot spots.
Unless you’re using a great non-stick pan, most cookware materials would require some oil to properly function. If you’re using something like cast iron or carbon steel without oil, the food gets into direct contact with the cooking surface and may slightly burn and stick. Using just a little oil before and let it preheat before you put in any food will help.
Final tip: if you can afford it, definitely go for high-quality cookware. These pieces are often built thicker and distribute heat more evenly. This helps to avoid burning your food too easily.
There you have it. Using aluminum foil as a scrubber with baking soda as a cleaning agent, in our experience, gets the job done in as little as 5 minutes. It’s also convenient, because most of us would already have these at home anyway.
If you’re avoiding scrubbing your pot, you can also try dissolving a dishwashing tablet over the burnt parts, or boiling lemon or other acidic fruits/condiments to get the grime off. While these require a little more time, you’re able to stay away from scouring your precious pot.
The other methods, including the popular one to boil vinegar and baking soda, did not work as well both in our testing, and real-world experience.