Plus 2 bonus tips!
Stainless steel pots and pans are a solid choice. Why are they so great? Because typically they’re pretty good at resisting corrosion.
That said, even the best cooks have had to contend with a scorched stainless steel pot or the gradual ring of rust that occurs along its rim.
Don’t despair. Think of it this way, every imperfection is simply proof of your cookware’s valiant service to your stomach. The good news is that it’s completely possible to turn back the hands of time, revealing pots and pans that look good as new.
We know what you’re thinking: “Wait, can’t I just throw my stainless steel pots and pans in the dishwasher?” Sure, if you’ve just been boiling pasta or reheating some soup. But if you’ve been simmering stews, reducing sauces or deglazing, your pots and pans may require a more serious scrub down.
Whether you’ve got a burned pan or a pot that’s been neglected for years, we’ve got some easy tricks using just two household ingredients: water and baking soda. (Wait, is water even considered an ingredient?!) Buckle up, it’s time to make some cleaning magic.
Okay, so it might go without saying that the best way to clean your pot or pan is right after you’re done cooking, while the pan is still hot. It just makes sense, since heat more readily releases grease and baked-on bits. So, when your pan is still hot, mix into it a generous portion of baking powder and some water, then use the rough side of a sponge to scrub off any dirty food particles or leftover grease. Repeat this process several times until your pan is clean. If you need to, you can leave the paste in the pan overnight and scrub it out in the morning.
A slightly more ambitious technique for more aggressive stains involves pouring some baking soda and water into your hot pan and then bringing the mixture to a boil. Here’s how: add a small amount of baking soda to the center of the pan, then cover it with about ¼ cup of baking soda. Turn the burner on high and let the mixture boil. When the moisture is mostly evaporated, there will be a thin ring of leftover baking soda inside your pot. Use a sponge to scrub this and any leftover stains away.
Did you know you can actually boil your pot in another larger pot with some baking soda to get it back to new? Mind blown. It’s our favorite why didn’t I think of that tip. (To be sure, it does require a sense of humor because nothing is quite so bizarre as seeing your saucepan cooking in another saucepan, but it does do the trick.)
You’ll want to first find a vessel that’s bigger than the one that needs cleaning and boil enough water in so it’s mostly submerged. Once the water is at a gentle boil, pour plenty of baking soda inside—anywhere from ¼ cup to ½ cup. (Don’t be stingy!) Let your soiled pot or pan “cook” for up to half an hour. You’ll start to see burned on residue float to the surface. When it’s done, remove the pan and immediately pour some more baking soda and water inside to create an abrasive slurry. While you grip the handle with an oven mitt or dish towel, scrub off any leftover bits with a sponge.
A few tricks of the trade:
Don’t have any baking soda in the house? Not a problem. We’ve got two additional methods that can clean your stainless steel pots and pans just the same and both of them involve ingredients that are likely already in your kitchen.
Alternate Method #1: Vinegar
Our first method utilizes the natural cleaning power of vinegar to send grease buildup packing. Simply place your dirty pot on the burner, pour in ½ cup of white distilled vinegar inside, and then pour enough water in so that the dirty pot is mostly submerged. Bring everything to a boil for fifteen minutes as you use a wooden spoon to scrape off any dirty, crusted on bits. Pour the boiled liquid out and continue to scrub with a sponge, warm water and some quality liquid dish soap like Dawn. Dry with a towel and you’re done.
Alternate Method #2: Salt and Lime
While it sounds like a recipe for the perfect margarita, it’s actually the way to achieve totally revitalized cookware. Squeeze some lime into your pot and top it with a few tablespoons of kosher or sea salt. Mix them together to form an abrasive and let it sit for at least ten minutes. Finish by scrubbing the mixture vigorously with a sponge. Dry out and finito!
It’s nice to know that while so many things in life simply can’t rewind, the life of your stainless steel pots and pans can. Don’t put cleaning them off any longer! Take half an hour this weekend and return your cookware to its rightful and natural glory. It’s the least you can do for all the deliciousness they’ve served you.
And when you’re all done cleaning your pots and pans, maybe show that stovetop some love.