I have to imagine that anyone who has cooked regularly with stainless steel pots and pans has at one time or another attempted to clean burnt stainless steel pots and pans… Unfortunately in my experience, cleaning stainless steel burn marks does NOT work with regular soap and water scrubbing, regardless of how hard I try.
Luckily, there are a handful of great methods that effectively remove burn marks from stainless steel.
Why You Should Cook with Stainless Steel
If stainless steel is so difficult to clean, why bother cooking with it? Many choose stainless steel over non-stick alternatives like Teflon due to concerning links to cancer reported by the EPA.
How to Get Burn Marks Off Stainless Steel
There are a number of methods for removing burn marks from stainless steel. Below are four of my favorites:
- Baking Soda Scrub – For mild burn marks, sprinkle baking soda into the dampened pan and scrub with a sponge then wash with soap and hot water
- Vinegar Boil – For more serious burn marks, start by filling your burnt pan or pot with vinegar and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, and wash with soap and hot water. Add baking soda if you need more abrasive power.
- Soapy Water Boil – Similar concept as the vinegar boil. Bring soapy water to a boil in the burnt pot or pan. Remove from the heat then wash with soap and hot water – adding baking soda if more abrasive power is necessary.
- Bon Ami – Bon Ami is advertised as an all natural powder cleanser. It has been manufactured since the 1800s, is chemical-free, includes only 5 ingredients (limestone, feldspar, biodegradable detergent, soda ash, and baking soda) and is less likely to cause scratches than baking soda. You can use this on burnt pots and pans, a grimy sink, or bathtubs and showers.
How to Avoid Burning Stainless Steel Pans
The trick to avoid burning stainless steel cookware is to properly pre-heat your pans. You can best test the temperature of your pan by following the principles of Leidenfrost Effect. Observe a drop of water on your pan:
- If the droplet separates into multiple drops that move around, it is not hot enough yet.
- If the droplet evaporates immediately, it is still not hot enough.
- If the water stays in one drop and moves around slightly on the pan, then the temperature is perfect. This effect is caused when the pan reaches a temperature where the droplet “floats” on top of a layer of vapor.
Add oil only after the pan has been pre-heated properly! Make sure to coat the surface with a thin layer of oil before adding any food.
Lastly, if possible it’s worth it to invest in high quality stainless steel. Quality stainless steel will distribute heat more evenly than lower-quality options, making it less likely to burn. Below are a few favorites:
- All Clad – This is the set we use in our home. It is not cheap, but it does not burn nearly as easily as our old Emeril cookware set. Plus, if taken proper care of this set will last for over a lifetime. A worthy investment in our opinion!
- Cuisinart Multiclad Pro
- Cooks Standard Multi-ply Clad Cookware
- T-Fall Stainless Steel Cookware
Green Clean the Rest of Your Home
Now you know how to remove burn marks from stainless steel using gentle, natural products… why stop there?
You can clean your ENTIRE home using sustainable tools and natural cleaning ingredients. If you’re interested in converting to greener cleaning habits, you need to sign up for my free Green Cleaning Guide.
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