One of the more difficult, time consuming and least fun kitchen tasks we have to deal with is trying to clean burnt-on grease and food debris from frying pans and other cookware.
Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to rope someone into doing it for you, you basically have two choices – leave your dirty pan to soak for hours, then aggressively try to scrub off the grimy build up of food…only to find that it’s still almost impossible to remove… OR you could learn from the experience of others and take advantage of their wisdom to clean your pans with much less effort.
Being keen to make the most of our time in the kitchen and not spend hours scrubbing greasy pans, we decided to choose the second option and scoured (no pun intended!) the internet for the best hacks we could find.
Presented for you today are 8 simple methods to clean burnt on grease from your pans.
A Word of Warning Before you Begin
Before launching head-first into getting started with one of the methods we’ve listed below, be sure to consider the material the cookware you want to clean is made from.
For example enamelware, such as Le Creuset, is made from porcelain which can be easily scratched by any method that involves aggressive scrubbing. You should also avoid any method that exposes enameled cookware to prolonged contact with an acidic liquid, such as vinegar.
Similarly, whilst cast iron pans are tough you should steer clear of any method using acid as this can damage the protective layer created by seasoning. Cookware made from cast iron should also not be soaked in water for long periods of time as this increases the chances of rust.
The Spruce shared this solution using baking soda to remove any build up of burnt food from cookware:
- Fill the pan with water and place on the stove.
- Bring the water to boil on a medium heat.
- Add two tablespoons of baking soda and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Allow the mixture to simmer on the stove for several minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow the pan to cool.
- Drain the water and rinse, gently scrubbing off any remaining grease with a soft brush.
Use a wooden or silicone spoon with a flat edge to dislodge tough bits of grease, before using a soft brush to clean off the rest.
A staple in almost every kitchen cupboard, vinegar comes into its own when tackling stubborn grease stains. The acid in vinegar helps it to break down and soften up the worst of the burnt-on food, making it easier to scrub off what’s left without too much hard work. Caitlyn Uttley at How Stuff Works explains how to tackle grease with vinegar:
- Place the pan on the stove and gently heat for a few minutes.
- When the surface is hot, take the pan off the stove and apply vinegar directly to the stained areas of your pan.
- Allow to soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Rinse your pan and scrub with a brush or sponge – you should find that the grease comes away much easier.
As strange as it sounds, Ketchup can be a great tool to remove burned food from a pan. Lauren Cahn at Taste of Home outlines this very simple yet surprisingly effective method:
- Cover the affected areas of your cookware with ketchup.
- Allow to sit – depending on the severity of your stain you may want to leave it overnight.
- Rinse in warm water and gently scrub with a sponge.
Almost every kitchen has a bottle or can of cola lying around, and Misha over at Misha Makes It has some great advice for using it to clean burnt grease from stainless steel pans.
- Fill your pan with cola, being sure to submerge the entire affected area.
- Leave the cola to soak in the pan overnight. This allows it to loosen the burned grease and food.
- The next day, place the pan with the cola onto the stove. Turn on the heat and bring to the boil.
- Allow the cola to simmer for 30 minutes, adding more cola to replace any that evaporates.
- Whilst the cola boils, periodically use a spatula or scraper to gently scrape the pan and dislodge burned food from the surface.
- After simmering for 30 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to completely cool.
- Drain the pan and give it a gentle scrub with a sponge to clean off any leftover burn marks or food debris.
Hometalk have a simple way to use lemons and boiling water to clean burned food from the bottom of a pan:
- Take two lemons and chop up into eighths.
- Place the lemon pieces on the bottom of the pan and fill with enough water to submerge the burnt area. The lemons will float to the surface – don’t worry!
- Place the pan on the stove on a high heat and bring to a rolling boil. This will loosen a lot of grease, which you should see bubbling around.
- Leave to boil for a few minutes before turning off the heat and allowing to cool.
- Discard the lemons and drain the dirty water – at this point you should be left with a thin layer of grime on the bottom of the pan.
- Lightly scrub and to clear away any leftover grime and rinse.
Although it uses lemons, this method should be suitable for enamelled cookware as there is very little exposure to citric acid – most of the work is done by the boiling water. This method can also be used to clean burned grease from a properly seasoned cast iron pan as long as you thoroughly dry it immediately after cleaning.
Good Housekeeping shared a rather ingenious method for cleaning burnt food using dishwasher tablets. The method is simple, and should be done soon after cooking:
- Allow the pan to cool, then fill with water. Drop in a dishwasher tablet.
- Place the pan on the stove and bring to the boil.
- Allow the pan to simmer for 10 minutes and let it cool.
- Drain the water – the bits of burnt food and grease should lift away completely.
- If there are some stubborn stains remaining, repeat the process.
- Once finished, rinse and thoroughly wash the pan as normal.
We love this technique as dishwasher tablets are a common item in most kitchens, but not all pans are dishwasher safe. This technique enables you to use the grease-busting qualities of detergent without risking damage to your pan from the dishwasher itself.
This is a deceptively simple kitchen hack that can produce quick results. We learned about this method from Ayn-Monique Klahre over at The Kitchn, who outlines the process as follows:
- Add washing up liquid to the affected pan.
- Pour in a few inches of hot, not boiling, water – enough to fully submerge the stained areas of the pan.
- Take a dryer sheet and push it down into the water so that it is in direct contact with the burned on food.
- Leave for an hour.
- After an hour, remove the dryer sheet and run the pan under the tap. Most of the burnt bits should fall away.
- Use the dryer sheet to scrub away any residual bits of food/grease.
- Wash the pan thoroughly with warm soapy water.
Ayn-Monique suggests that this method is reserved for those really tough stains, as dryer sheets can’t be re-used and are more expensive than some of the other methods we’ve listed.
Nevertheless, this is a great trick to have in your arsenal to clean stubborn burnt grease from your pans!
Cream of Tartar
Cream of Tartar is likely to be one of your cupboard staples if you bake. It works as a method for cleaning because it is slightly abrasive, enabling it to loosen burned on food without damaging the surface of the pan. It is also slightly acidic which helps it to break down food, making it easier to scrub off.
Michelle Miley from Hunker describes how to create a paste from cream of tartar that removes grease from pans:
- First, use a plastic or silicone spatula or scraper to scrape as much burned food from the pan as possible.
- Mix cream of tartar and water together, until it thickens in to a spreadable paste.
- Apply the mixture to the bottom of the pan and leave overnight.
- In the morning, scrub the pan to remove the food/grease.