7+ Ways to Clean a Scorched Pan

Remedy your burnt kitchen pots and pans with these homemade cleaning solutions.

September 24, 2020

We've all done it — the recipe says to mix constantly at a boil, but you take a chance and step away. Just for a minute, you’ll be right back! Inevitably, the food burns. And the pan is a mess. Ugh, why did you do that?

When it's time to clean up the mess, the store-bought varieties such as Barkeeper's Friend, Bon Ami, Carbon Off are popular; however, in a pinch (and for less $$$) consider these easy solutions that use materials found around the home to clean your scorched pan. You might even find them more effective.

Cleaning a pan that is scorched or burnt with food.

How to Clean a Scorched Pan

Cleaning a pan that is scorched or burnt with food.

Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2016

Emily Fazio, 2016

Good Ol’ Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is a great multi-purpose cleaner. Use it as a disinfectant, a non-toxic glass cleaner, and yes, put it to use in the kitchen too.

  • Pour a small layer of equal parts water and white vinegar on the bottom of the pan.
  • Heat the diluted vinegar on the stovetop and allow it to come to a boil.
  • After it boils for a minute, remove it from the heat and drain the vinegar down the sink.
  • Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the empty pan (the point here isn’t to create a fizzy volcano by combining vinegar and baking soda, you want the two cleaning agents to operate independently). Baking soda is abrasive and will help to lift the staining. Use a scouring pad to massage the baking soda to combat any remaining burn marks on the bottom of the pan.
  • Rinse it clean.


Salt, especially coarse Kosher salt, is great for alleviating scorch marks in pans and is especially great for greasy messes. Try pairing it with Dawn dish detergent and hot water, or massaging it into the burnt pan with the juicy core of a cut lemon.

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Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar is an abrasive substitute for baking soda.

  • Mix a tablespoon of it in a cup of water and bring it to a boil in a scorched pan.
  • Allow the water to cool.
  • Scrub the pan to bring it back to a shine.
More Advice

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Dryer Sheet

Soak a burnt pan with soap and water, and add a dryer sheet into the mix. Allow it to sit for an hour. The dryer sheet (you can substitute a tablespoon of fabric softener) will loosen the burnt-on food and leave you with a shiny like-new pan.

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Take the sheet beyond the laundry room.


While the pan is still hot, pour soda (either club soda or an inexpensive store-brand soda) and coat the bottom of the pan. Allow the carbonation in the soda to loosen the burnt grime then wash the pan clean.

Use Soda to Clean Stains, Grout and Even Your Car

Use your favorite soft drink to help clean around the house.

Alka Seltzer

This common household effervescent will work just as well as club soda. Add 1-2 tablets to hot water in your pan, and allow it to sit and take action against stubborn burns.


While by itself it may not be acidic enough to remove heavy burns on pans, ketchup is popular for reviving dull and tarnished pots and pans. Coat the affected area with a thin layer of America’s favorite condiment and wipe clean after 15 minutes.

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