How To Clean Burnt Utensil?

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Internet is filled with misinformation. If you want to find proof of it, go no further than googling for methods to clean a burnt utensil. From onion peels to aluminium foil and the omnipresent baking soda+vinegar combo, you find numerous so-called hacks to help you clean a burnt pot.

In a bid to bust the hacks, we tried 6 of the top tips recommended by leading online publications in India to clean burnt utensils. And this is how it went.

The Test

The first step to testing various methods was burning food in the utensil in such a way that we would be able to recreate it six times. We tried various methods on my Stahl 3 ply stainless steel pan which has served me well for the past 2 years. 

How the pan originally looked.

First, we switched on the kitchen chimney and opened all the windows so that the fumes wouldn’t cause any health hazards. Then, we tried burning an egg. But it didn’t prove to be challenging enough. Next, we burnt milk and it created the perfect mess. The burnt residue was so stuck that it wouldn’t budge with normal scrubbing. And it was easier to recreate with minimal wastage of food.

We rated all methods on the basis of the effort needed and their effectiveness. The one that required the most effort and gave the least result was rated 1/5 and the one that took the least effort and gave the best result was rated 5/5.

Note that the methods are not given in the chronological order in which we tried them. Instead, we have rated them from the worst to the best.

Related reading: 8 Things At Your Home You Should Be Cleaning More Often

Method 1: Ketchup

Cleaning experts claim that ketchup is an effective method because it has acetic acid in it which breaks down the burnt food. So, it would be easy to clean it up.

The method calls for applying a layer of ketchup on the burnt residues and leaving it overnight. The next day, clean the pan by scrubbing it with a scouring pad and voila, you have a clean pan that looks brand new. Or do you?

How It Went?

We followed the instruction to the T and the next day morning when we tried scrubbing the burnt pan with a Scotchbrite, it simply did not work. We had to apply a lot of force and scrub it vigorously. But even then, the result was so poor. If at all anything budged, it was due to the sheer force we put into cleaning the pan and not due to the magic of the ketchup.

It hardly made any sense to pursue it further. So, we dropped it.

We have seen many videos where people have found it effective on milder burnt residues. But, ketchup doesn’t really cut through stubborn stains.

Time: 12 hours ( only 15 minutes out of it was active. The rest was passive.)

Rating: 1/5

Method 2: Boiling Onion Peel

Before you judge us for trying such a hack, it was one of the options recommended by Times Of India. But not just them, if you google, ” clean burnt utensil with onion peel”, you will be bombarded with numerous blogs that recommend this method.

We don’t know exactly the science behind how onion peel cleans. But, we could see articles claiming that onion works wonderfully for cleaning grills, removing stains and even deodorizing ( don’t know how that works!)

The method calls for filling the utensil with water till the burnt residue is completely submerged and then adding 5-6 onion peels. Then, cover with a lid and boil it for 20-30 minutes. After that, throw away the peels and water. Then, scrub it with a scouring pad and dishwashing liquid.

How It Went?

We boiled the onion peel water for 20 minutes and by that time, the water was almost completely evaporated. In between, we tried scrapping the burnt residue with a spatula to give it the maximum chance of working right. We noticed very little burnt residue coming off and floating on the water.

how to clean burnt utensil- onion peel method
Before and after cleaning with onion peels.

After 20 minutes of boiling, we let it rest till it was cool enough to handle. Then, poured away the water and scoured it. Some of the burnt residues did come off. But then, most of it was still stubbornly stuck.

Time: 30-35 minutes

Rating: 2/5

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Method 3: Boiling Aerated Drinks

The method calls for pouring aerated drinks like Coca-cola or Pepsi into the pan so that the burnt residue is completely immersed. Then boil it and scrape off the burnt residue with a wooden spatula.

How It Went?

The top layer of the burnt residue was coming off when we tried scraping the pan with a spatula. And we really thought that it would be an effective method. However, the majority of stubbornly stuck residue was simply not budging. We then poured the coca-cola into the sink and scrubbed the pan. A lot of residues did budge. But the stubbornly stuck parts were not coming off.

how to clean burnt utensil- aerated drinks
Before and after cleaning with aerated drink ( coca-cola)

People tend to believe that this hack would work because Coca-cola is considered to be strong enough to dissolve teeth. But that myth was busted long back. Coca Cola isn’t that acidic to dissolve anything, let alone a tooth.

So trying to clean a burnt utensil with Coca-cola is a fail. You would rather feel happy drinking it instead!

Time: 20 minutes.

Rating: 2/5

Method 4: Baking soda and aluminium foil

After spreading a paste of baking powder, we scrubbed the burnt pan with aluminium foil

The method calls for applying a paste of baking soda on the burnt pan and leaving it for 10-15 minutes. Then, crumple an aluminium foil into a ball and scrub the pan.

This is a method recommended by The Kitchn. They actually tried and tested this method with many others and ranked it as the best.

How It Went?

This method again calls for a lot of elbow grease. You have to actually put in a lot of effort to scrub and clean the pan. And honestly, ten minutes into it, my hands started aching and I had to ask someone else to take over. After our combined effort, we were able to clear some of the burnt residues, but not completely.

how to clean burnt utensil- baking powder and aluminium foil
Washed pan after scrubbing with aluminum foil and baking soda paste.

Overall, it takes too much effort to work. And we think it isn’t really that helpful. The Kitchn probably tried it on a pan that wasn’t as burnt as ours.

Time- 20-25 minutes

Rating- 3/5

Method 5: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Baking powder- vinegar mixture

I am hard-pressed to find a cleaning blog that doesn’t list vinegar and baking soda to clean practically anything in the house. To be fair, sometimes it works. We found vinegar to be the best option for cleaning hard water stains.

To clean the burnt pan, we need to pour 1 cup of water and vinegar and boil it for 10-15 minutes. Then, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and let it rest. After 15 minutes, scrub with a scouring pad.

How It Went?

When it comes to cleaning burnt utensils, the results were not all bad. While boiling the diluted vinegar solution, I used a spatula to scrape off the burnt residues. And the top layer came off pretty easily. But, the bottom layer that was really stuck refused to budge.

After 15 minutes, I added 2 Tablespoons of baking soda and let it rest for another 10 minutes. After that, I poured the solution away and scrubbed it with a Scotchbrite.

Well, I was able to clean the pan fairly well. But it did take a lot of effort to scrub off the burnt residue completely. More than the vinegar, it was elbow grease that worked.

how to clean burnt utensil- baking soda and vinegar

To be honest, it was effective. But not quite an efficient method as it was too intense.

Time consumed: 25 minutes
Rating: 3/5

Method 6: Boiling with Dishwashing soap

Pan filled with dishwashing liquid solution

The method calls for pouring a tsp of dishwashing liquid on the burnt utensil and filling it with water. Then, boil the water on the stovetop and gently scrape the burnt food particles using a wooden spatula. After 10-15 minutes, pour away the water and then scrub it with a scouring pad and dishwashing liquid.

How it went?

As mentioned earlier, the methods are not mentioned in chronological order. We have mentioned it from the worst to the best.

We did not burn a pan completely to test this method while taking the photo. Instead, we tested it on the pan we half-cleaned with the aerated drink method. In addition, we also tested it on the half-cleaned pan from the baking soda-aluminium foil method and the results were the same.

When the soapy water started simmering, there was no sign of any of the burnt residues dislodging or floating on top of the water. But, when we started scraping the burnt residue with the spatula, it was coming off like knife on soft butter. After scrapping all over the pan, we switched off the gas and let it cool. Then, we poured away the soapy water with the burnt residues.

Still, there was a bit of burnt residue stuck on the bottom. Using a Scotchbrite pad, we were able to remove those stuck-on bits with little effort.

Overall, we really prefer this method over the others as it had the best results and wasn’t too intense.

how to clean burnt utensil- dishwashing liquid
Before and after cleaning by boiling dishwashing liquid solution and scraping.

A few YouTube videos show a similar method. But instead of dishwashing liquid, they add detergent to it. And they show that it works pretty well. If you are not comfortable adding detergent to your cookware, you can use dishwashing liquid, which works equally well.

This method doesn’t have as much popularity as many of the so-called hacks with baking soda and vinegar. Probably this is because dishwashing liquid ‘just’ does the job that it is actually intended to do, albeit effectively. And the best part, it works on all types of materials like non-stick, cast iron and aluminium, without affecting the coating or its structural stability.

Time consumed: 15-20 minutes

Rating: 5/5.

Method 7: Baking Soda

When the director of All-Clad, the inventors of 3-ply stainless steel says baking soda can clean burnt cookware, it’s worth a try. Needless to say, it works!!! Contrary to the previous method where we boiled water with vinegar, this time, we did it with baking soda.

This method calls for spreading baking soda liberally on the burnt cookware and filling it with water so that the burnt part is completely immersed. Then, boil and scrape the residue. Then, scrub with a scouring pad and dishwashing soap.

How It Went?

Honestly, we are quite impressed with this method. We followed the method and started boiling the baking soda solution on medium heat.

After a few minutes, we started scraping the burnt parts with a wooden spatula. It slid off like butter. It requires minimal effort. And within just about 10 minutes, you can scrape off all the residues.

A few of the burnt parts remained. So, once the pan cooled down, we discarded the solution and scrubbed it with a Scotch-Brite pad. The remaining residues came off with minimal effort.

Overall, we really loved this method!!!

Time consumed: 10-15 minutes

Rating: 5/5

What To Keep In Mind While Cleaning Burnt Utensils

  • Act immediately when you find that you have burnt a utensil. This saves a lot of time and effort. Moreover, you have the best chance of success.
  • We tried all our tests on a 3 ply stainless steel pan from Stahl. As it was of pretty good quality, the pan itself didn’t burn. Only the food burnt. If the stainless steel itself burns and you end up with a blackish metal, the hacks mentioned above won’t work.
  • It is better to use a wooden spatula to scrape the burnt residue as you won’t end up with scratch marks on the surface.
  • When you find food has burnt, the first course of action often is to plunge the utensil in cold water, in a bid to save the food from scorching. But, this could warp the metal and cause the utensil to buldge at the centre. Instead, scrape off whatever food you can rescue from the top and then go to our method no. 6 to save your pan.
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals and bleach on the utensils as any residue could adversely affect your health.

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