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10 tips from a professional pot washer

Burning pots and pans is easy. Cleaning them doesn’t have to be too hard with these secrets from a kitchen professional.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

how to clean stainless steel

The basics:

  1. Don’t burn yourself – let the pan cool down.

  2. Scrape the remains into the bin with a wooden spoon.

  3. Wear rubber gloves.

Burnt pots and pans are a fact of life in a restaurant kitchen. There’s no time to waste, so here’s what the pros do:

  1. Soak it: Fill the pot from the tap, squirt in some dishwashing detergent and then leave the water and detergent to do their work. When you return, wash as usual.

  2. Boil it: Put enough water in the pot or pan to cover its burnt base. Add 1 cup of white vinegar, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat, rinse and when cool, scour with Handy Andy Power Cream.

  3. Wok it: With seasoned – or oiled - ironware such as woks, dishwashing detergent will negate the seasoning. To preserve it, boil some water in the pan, scrape the burnt bits off with a wooden spoon, rinse, dry and rub another light coating of vegetable oil into the cooking surface. The oiling protects the ironware when you’re not using it.

  4. Enamel pans: Cover the burnt areas with sodium bicarbonate powder for a few minutes to absorb oils and acids. Then wash. If further treatment is required, put a litre of water with 2 teaspoons of bicarb in the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Then wash again.

  5. Teflon coated: We don’t use non-stick cookware in restaurant kitchens, but if you have them at home, then clean them carefully using a cloth or sponge and dishwashing detergent. Never use metal on non-stick surfaces as they are too delicate.

  6. Stuck to the non-stick surface: For stubborn and oily remains on pricey non-stick pans, half fill the pan with water, add ½ cup of white vinegar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully use a scrunched paper towel to absorb the oil on the surface, and then dispose of this. Use a slotted spoon to remove charcoal and debris and throw it in the bin. When the pan has cooled down, wash with dishwashing detergent.

  7. Copper bottoms: These can shine again with simple ingredients. Shake salt over the copper surface. Spray or pour on white vinegar and gently clean with a scourer, adding more salt and vinegar as necessary. Rinse with fresh water and buff dry.

  8. Copper interiors: Fill the pan with water, adding 100ml white vinegar and 50g salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Rinse. For stubborn stains, dip half a lemon in salt and rub the cut, salty side over the marks.

  9. Tough stuff: Mix powder laundry detergent and dishwashing detergent to make a paste. Use this to scour that burnt surface.

  10. The last resort: Steel wool. Only use this on old pans you don’t care about, as you may scratch through a few layers. If that doesn’t work, the best thing to do is to recycle the pan, as its burnt base can be a safety hazard.

If your chips turn into charcoal, simply soak the charred mess in water and a little dishwashing detergent.

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Originally published