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How to clean a burnt pan: easy and effective tips from Mumsnetters

As one of the most essential tools in the kitchen, pans can take a battering. So how do you get them looking new again? Check out our guide to cleaning a burnt pan, including tried-and-tested tips from Mumsnetters.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Aug 16, 2023

Pan on hob

It happens to even the best of cooks. You’re whipping up a masterpiece in the kitchen, and you take your eyes off your food for a few seconds only to find your dinner has welded itself to your best frying pan, wok or saucepan. Unfortunately, no matter how much soaking in hot water you do to clean a burnt pan, it can seem impossible to get the marks off.

So how do you clean a burnt pan? They are one of the most well-loved cooking tools, used for boiling, frying, stewing, simmering, and sautéing, so you don’t want to have to chuck them in the bin every time you get burnt food and oil on one of your pans.

We’ve put together this handy guide for cleaning a burnt pan, making sure to consider different types and methods. As always, we consulted our Mumsnet forums for tips and recommendations. With over seven million visitors per month, we know our users will have tried and tested all the different techniques and know which ones are the most effective. 

So, without further ado, here is our round up of the best tips for cleaning a burnt pan.

How can I clean a burnt pan?

Do a quick Google search and it will throw up loads of different methods and products for cleaning a burnt pan. However, some of the best ones use up items you may already have in your cupboard – and fridge! Read on for five simple methods for removing stubborn burn marks, including ways approved by savvy Mumsnetters.

A word of caution though, before getting started, we'd always recommend checking the manufacturer's guidance to ensure you don't damage the pan or void the warranty. This is particularly important with non-stick pans, as abrasive cleaning methods and products can damage the coating.

Related: The best knife sharpeners to add to your kitchen

How to clean a burnt pan with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar

Bacon in a burnt pan

“Simmer some water in it [the pan] with bicarbonate of soda for 10 minutes. Will all come off.” PrayingandHoping

Bicarb and vinegar or a Steradent tablet will clean the pan.” Londonmummy66

It’s an ingredient that comes up time and time again for cleaning tasks around the home, so it’s worth having some bicarbonate of soda in your cupboard for occasions just like this. For cleaning a burnt pan, add some white vinegar to it, which creates a fizzing effect to help remove welded-on food. Be warned though, it can leave a strong smell.

  1. Remove as much food as you can from the pan.

  2. Fill your pan with a solution made of half vinegar, half water, before turning your hob on high to boil the solution.

  3. Turn the hob off. Add around 30g (or two tablespoons) of bicarbonate of soda to the pan – a pair of kitchen scales can help with this. Beware – the mixture will fizz up when you add this! Or alternatively, as one Mumsnetter suggests, use a Steradent tablet.

  4. Leave for 10 minutes or so until the fizzing stops.

  5. If this doesn’t lift all the stains, repeat the process, and leave it to soak for around 15 minutes. 

  6. Pour away the liquid solution from the pan, and then clean the pan using a sponge or scouring pad and washing up liquid to remove any remaining burnt-on bits.

How to clean a burnt pan with salt

Another product you’ll most likely own, table salt (sodium chloride) is a natural and cheap ingredient that can be used for scrubbing and cleaning.

  1. Using your salt and pepper grinder, add lots of salt to your dry pan.

  2. Wet a scourer or gentle sponge, and rub this against the base and sides of your pan, paying particular attention to any burnt patches.

  3. Leave it to set for a while.

  4. Clean the pan as you usually would with a sponge, washing up liquid and warm water.

How to clean a burnt pan with Coke

Cans of Coke in ice

Heat up Coke in the pan, a Kim and Aggie trick I saw once that definitely works.” BoswellsBollocks

If you like drinking Coke, then you can pour a can of your favourite drink into the pan and it works as an effective stain remover. The acid in Coke can help lift stubborn burn marks on pans, so if you’re sick of scrubbing, give this Mumsnetter-approved trick a try.

It's literally as easy as adding some Coke to your pan – full sugar is best for this – letting it soak for as long as you like, then dispose of the coke, and give your pan a good clean with a sponge, warm water and washing up liquid. Nice and easy.

Related: The best can openers for tricky tins

How to clean a burnt pan with lemons

While vinegar can give off a potent smell during cleaning, removing stains from pans with lemons will leave a much more pleasant odour. The citric acids and juices in lemons are antibacterial and are excellent at cleaning so consider using this fruit to bring your stained pans back to life.

  1. Using a chopping board and a kitchen knife, slice up a few lemons, more if it’s a big pan, and add them to your dry burnt pan.

  2. Add water, enough to cover the lemons. Turn the hob on high, and leave until the the water is bubbling. Then turn the hob down, so the water is simmering.

  3. Wait for 15 minutes while the lemon water simmers.

  4. Remove from the heat and empty the pan.

  5. Rinse with hot water and clean as usual.

How to clean a burnt pan with a dishwashing tablet

Not sure if it would work in caramel, but I had an awfully burnt pan and in the end got it clean by boiling a dishwasher tablet in it (it stank the house out though!).” littlestrawby

Cold water and put a dishwasher tablet in, then bring to the boil and leave simmering. Might have to do it a couple of times but it always saves my burnt pans.” IHopeYouStepOnALegoPiece 

Maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, a dishwasher tablet or capsule can clean away stubborn stains and grime. Used to scrub the pan, the tablet can effectively break down the food to get your pans sparkling again, although it will be pricier than using other methods on our list.

  1. Add a very small amount of boiled water to your pan

  2. Use the dishwasher tablet to scrub at the stains. Not sure which one is most effective? See our guide to the best dishwasher tablets to see the tabs Mumsnetters rate the most.

  3. If it doesn’t remove all the burnt-on food, use another tablet.

  4. Give the pan a rinse out with water, and then clean the pan thoroughly.

Other methods you can try

If you’ve attempted all of these and your pan is still looking a bit worse for wear, try these more unconventional methods recommended by Mumsnet users before it’s time to give up and throw it in the bin.

Biological washing tablet plus boiling water from the kettle - leave for 24 hours and repeat as necessary.” LushAlice

“Tomato sauce in a burnt pan on a low heat. It worked!ParkheadParadise

Why does burnt food stick to pans?


When cooking, if you don’t use any butter, oil or sauce to add moisture to the pan, then food can stick to the bottom of it. This can also occur if food isn't stirred regularly or is left on the hob for long periods of time. Even a slow-cooked bolognese sauce that you leave simmering for hours will need a gentle stir every now and then with a spatula to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom.

If you don’t clean it properly after each use either, more food will continue to build up and you may find that it affects the taste of your cooking or doesn’t work as effectively. Food can also stick to the pan due to the quality of the material, or if you're early in the process of building up a natural non-stick patina on cast iron through regular seasoning.

Is it safe to use a burnt pan? 

If you’re using a burnt stainless steel pan, then it should be safe to continue cooking from it as long as you have thoroughly cleaned it. However, it is safer and better to try to remove the stains as soon as possible. 

If you are using a pan with a non-stick coating, cooking with it when it is burnt can increase the chance of chemicals transferring to your food as parts of the coating may come off with the burnt food. While it’s not thought to be toxic, it’s probably time to get rid of the pan if this happens.

Related: Discover the best baking trays for your oven

What is the best way to clean a burnt pan?


We’ve shared a range of options you can try for getting burnt food and oil off your pan. One of the best and most effective natural methods involves mixing bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and water together. However, other good methods include soaking the pan in Coke or using a dishwasher tablet to scrub the pan. 

Remember, stainless steel pans can scratch easily, so try not to scrub too hard with abrasive products or scourers.

Cast iron skillets

Cast iron skillets will need cleaning a bit differently to other pans. We'd recommend checking the manufacturer's instructions, so you can ensure you don't damage the pan or reverse the effects of your efforts seasoning it.

Avoid using anything acidic, such as vinegar or lemon juice as they can cause rusting. You can usually use a bicarbonate of soda and water mixture as a mild solution to help lift stains, using a non-abrasive, soft sponge to scrub away the burnt areas. 

Rinse and dry thoroughly, then heat the skillet gently to remove any excess moisture. Finally, coat the surface with a small amount of oil.

Non-stick or ceramic pans

As the pans will be lined with a non-stick coating, you can’t use anything abrasive like scrubbing pads without potentially harming the surface. Natural methods such as bicarbonate soda, white vinegar and water can help to lift burn stains. 

Frying pans

For both stainless steel and non-stick pans, a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar should help remove those stubborn stains. If that doesn’t work, you can try soaking it in Coke, which is acidic enough to tackle burnt pans without damaging any non-stick coatings.

Read next: The best cake tins for even bakes every time