How to Clean Burnt Food from a Saucepan


Donna asked: How can I clean a saucepan with burnt milk and cheese? I made macaroni and cheese and it burnt onto the inside of my Farberware saucepan. It’s been soaking for two days and has not loosened. Thanks for any help you can give. It’s a good pan, and I hope not to throw it away.

When food burns to the bottom of the pan, you could have a real cleaning challenge. Of course, try to salvage the food first and then use one of these methods to remove the burnt remains.

Salt Method

You Will Need:

  • Salt
  • Water
  • Plastic scrubber
  • Plastic or wooden scraper

Steps to Remove the Burnt On Food:

  1. Place the bottom of the pan in cold water immediately to stop the cooking/burning.
  2. Fill the pan with water. You want the water to cover the burnt areas. If the entire pan is burnt, you can choose to soak the entire pan or work on the bottom and then go for a second round to get the sides.
  3. Add a good amount of salt to the water.
  4. Allow the burnt on residue to soak in the salt water for an hour.
  5. Use a plastic or wooden scraper to remove as much of the loosened food as possible.
  6. If the burnt-on residue is not coming loose, bring the water to a boil.
  7. Turn off the heat and allow the pan to soak with the saltwater in it for an additional 12 hours.
  8. Bring to a boil a second time to loosen the food further.
  9. Use a plastic scraper or wooden spoon to remove as much as possible.
  10. Wash as normal.

Fabric Softener Method

You Will Need:

  • Fabric softener sheets
  • Water
  • Plastic or wooden scraper

Steps to Remove the Burnt On Food:

  1. Fill the pan with hot water.
  2. Place a fabric softener sheet in the water.
  3. Allow the pan to soak for several hours to overnight.
  4. Use a plastic scraper to remove the loosened food debris.
  5. Wash as normal.

Lemon Method

You Will Need:

  • 2-3 Lemons
  • Water
  • Plastic or wooden scraper

Steps to Remove the Burnt On Food:

  1. Begin by filling the pan with water.
  2. Cut a few lemons in half and place them in the pan.
  3. Bring the water and lemons to a boil.
  4. Allow the mixture to boil for several minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool.
  6. The burnt on food should be released and softened so that it can be removed with a plastic or wooden scraper.
  7. Wash as normal.

Coca Cola Method

You Will Need:

  • Coca Cola
  • Plastic scrubber
  • Plastic or wooden scraper

Steps to Remove the Burnt On Food:

  1. Fill the pan with Coca-Cola.
  2. Allow it to set in the pan for several hours, or until the food is loosened.
  3. Use a scraper to remove as much of the residue as possible, then clean with a plastic scrubber to scrub away the rest.
  4. Wash as usual.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners or scrubbers, especially with non-stick pans, as it can ruin the coating.
  • Never use washing soda on aluminum pans. It can lead to corrosion and damage the pans.
  • If you have a glass pan, try soaking it in water with denture cleaner. The cleaner will loosen the burnt on food.
  • If there is just a thin film of burnt on residue remaining, sprinkle it with baking soda and scrub it away with a moist cloth or plastic scrubber. The baking soda acts as a minor abrasive and will aid in removing that final layer.


  1. Rosalind says:

    How can I remove burnt-on food from a teflon skillet? I have already soaked it with dishwasher powder, but there is still a crust that remains in some places.

  2. Melanie says:

    If you have already tried using salt, you can try soaking a cloth with white vinegar and laying the cloth on the stain for an hour.
    Baking soda is another option; sprinkle baking soda on the stain and soak the pan in water overnight.

    Source: TLC – How to Get Burnt Food Off Pots

  3. Dawn says:

    Orange hand cleaner your husband uses after working on the car is great on glass stove tops and in the oven, a small amount on a wet sponge will get burned food off. Add more and let sit for a few minutes for stuck on food.

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