Cleaning pans

Joined Oct 11, 2006
Well, I'm coming here to settle an argument, again...

After roasting a rump roast the other night, my perennial houseguest volunteered to 'clean up.'  An hour later, I found my roasting pan and v-rack out on the back porch filled with water.  When I asked, I was told that there was 'stuff burnt on' and they had to 'soak.'

I tried to explain that 'soaking' doesn't make burnt food/fond any easier to get off, just wetter.  However, when challenged, I couldn't explain why.

As a kid, my mom 'soaked' dishes after cooking, so did grandma.  Never seemed to do anything, but they did it anyway.  Why not?  What has chemically happened to food that gets 'burnt on' and why does dousing it in water not do much?
Joined Aug 13, 2006
As far as I've seen, water will soften some foods that get stuck, especially sugar-based stuck things (caramelized stuff, meaning anything with some sugar content) as long as it's not black burnt and completely carbonized.  But why would you soak something in just water, when hot water and detergent at least will get rid of the grease?  Water for sugars, but detergent for grease.  Most roasting pans are a mixture of both after roasting meat, potatoes, onions, etc. 

To get the really bad burnt stuff off, i use washing soda (It's called "washing soda"  not the same as bicarbonate of soda) and it's pretty miraculous. 
Joined Apr 3, 2008
There are certain dishes that do need to be soaked, for example a bowl of oatmeal or cereal, pasta bowls, rice bowls, and anything else that hardens up once dry.

I have found that the best way to clean a pan is to deglaze it with water while it's hot. I swish around a little boiling water right on the stove top and lift the burnt off bits with a rubber spatula. 

... I then throw the pan in the sink with water and soap and let it soak.  The reason this works is because it gets rid of the grease so that I can really focus on the burned up bits with the appropriate scrubbing tool, usually a scouring pad.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Some pots and dishes that have had  eggs served in them should be washed in cold water first as the heat from the water simply cooks the egg to the dish more. STEEL wool brillo or s.o.s type pads should never be uses and in fact in most states the health dept forbids them in commercial kitchens.1. They harbor bacteria and 2 . the threads of steel dislodge and get caught in and around pans near the rivet joints..

Don't put a hot pot in the sink and put in water as you only help pot to warp it.. People wonder why after a while their pots don't sit flat on stove top, this is why. Let the pot , when cool soak in water and wash later . If you really burn something put water and vinegar in pot and boil, the burn will come out then wash with soap and water.  Your moms and grandmas were right soak the pans . The water tends to penetrate whats on the pan and helps make the crusted on stuff softer and like anything wet expands it making it easier to remove
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Joined Jul 28, 2006
Dishwasher powder can be your very best friend for situations like this.  Keep some on hand, even if you don't have a a DW.  When I have an especially stubborn pan to clean,  I put some water in it,  bring it just to the boil on the stovetop, sprinkle in some powder and let it sit, either on the burner,  or sometimes I'll put it into the oven (hoping I won't forget it's in there).  I go about my other chores,  and at the end the pan is ready to come clean too.  For a final polish,  I might finish it off with BarKeepers Friend  (the powder, not the liquid). 
Joined Jul 28, 2006
Bluedogz, I've been wondering why you didn't deglaze the pan when the roasting was finished,  and use that delicious fond in pan gravy? 
Joined Oct 11, 2006
Good questions there... this was a cheap roast gotten on sale and prepared to slice up for sandwiches.  Ordinarily, I'd have been motivated to turn fond into gravy, but this wasn't really fond as much as 'burnt-on &^%$.'
Joined Feb 26, 2007
Ditto what Koukou and others have said.  Do it because it works.  Forget the chemistry of it.  Its a trick I leanrt from my sister when we were cleaning up ofter a dinner once - it reakky helps clean the pan/pot.

When I leave rice or a stew on too high on the flame and you get the inevitable burnt bits, put the not burnt bits into another pan then hot water straight into the burnt pan,  Simmer for few mins, use a spatula to help lift the burnt on bits.  Rinse out, repeat, leave to soak couple of hours or even overnight.  Easy to clean by then.

Mothers and grandmothers know best /img/vbsmilies/smilies/biggrin.gif
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