Getting Burnt-On Food Off Non-Stick Pans

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Joined Nov 9, 2020
There does not seem to be a forum for cleaning and maintenance of equipment, just reviews. But I see some cleaning-related posts here so...

I wish I had a solution to this widespread problem, but I don't. I just want to know how.

I have tried various combinations of baking soda, vinegar, and water, and nothing works...at all.

One basic method is to boil water and vinegar in the affected non-stick pan for 10 minutes, then let it cool. When it is cool enough you are supposed to be able to practically just wipe off any burnt on food. This does not work.

There are variations on that theme involving different ratios of vinegar to water. Usually 1/2 to 3/4 the amount of vinegar as water used.

An upgrade to this is using baking soda. A few methods have just baking soda and water, but most have vinegar with it which causes the mixture to foam up when the acid hits the base. That reaction us supposed to have a cleansing effect on the burnt-on food. It does not.

Mainly, just a small amount of baking soda in the boiled water is supposed to have a dramatic effect on cleaning it. The dramatic effect I have found is that absolutely nothing happens.

I have tried everything from the basic mix of 1/2 amount of vinegar to the water amount and only a couple of TBSP of baking soda, which is supposed to be enough to do the trick. That has no effect. I have gone so far as to load my 12" Calphalon non-stick skillet with four boxes of baking soda and pouring from my gallon of white vinegar just loading it up until the foaming mass reached its peak. That alone does nothing. I've tried various different ratios of everything in between without success, and have used heavily salted water as well.

Boiling all of that for 10 minutes without water and another try with water (both fresh and salted) still does nothing.

Then while the apparently unaffected burnt on food might possibly have been weakened by these processes, I have added a little baking soda to the rinsed out pan and with a non scratch scrubbing sheet have scrubbed that for 10 minutes.

I can't say that absolutely nothing happens, since after 10 minutes of scrubbing the baking soda soapy water mixture does turn a little brown, but looking at the "cleaned" pan afterwards there seems to be no difference; no apparent reduction of the burnt on area.

Does anyone have a tried and true method of removing burnt-on food from non-stick pans?

It would be great of there was a product that disintegrated all of the burnt-on food but did not damage the non-stick coating. I do not know of one, so I got a gallon of white vinegar and numerous boxes of baking soda thinking that I would be able to, at least, make some gradual progress. It does not appear that I have made any progress at all.

I have one 12" pan that has a larger burnt on patch and a 10" pan that has an even larger burnt on patch. There is a good chance that I will "retire" these pans and replace them with stainless steel. But I would like to have, at least, a couple of backup pans that are non-stick. If I cannot restore these, then I doubt that I will get two more non-stick replacement, and just go with stainless steel all the way.

Regardless of what I end up doing there, it would be very useful to still know how to get burnt-on food off a non-stick pan.

Does someone have the trick they can share?
 
4,283
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It sounds like you’ve tried all of the old tricks. I can’t offer any other option but it seems that introspection on how the pans got in such poor condition is in order. There might be some technique changes that will avoid future recurrences.
 
2,486
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Not sure, looks like you tried a lot.
My go to method is boiling with dishwasher. Give it a try.
I would think you need to replace your pans :(
But we need to help you preventing this from happening with your new ones!
As far as I know (maybe some are old wives tales, hoping for input from people that use non-stick on a regular base)
Non stick pans cannot handle the same heat as something like cast iron
You shouldn't heat an empty pan
Use only wooden or soft utensils, not metal
????
 
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Does anyone have a tried and true method of removing burnt-on food from non-stick pans?
Throw it away and get a new one. Once they get in that condition they are done. I would also look at how you are using them. Burning food that badly is not something you want to do in the first place.

-Hal
 

phatch

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I've always had good success with boiling water with baking soda for a few minutes on burned on food on stainless. If you're talking the carbonized oil splatters, that's somewhat different and harder to remove. But burned on food on the non-stick surface itself will wipe out unless the non-stick itself is damaged. And in that case you just as well acknowledge that non-stick is a disposable purchase (though ideally recyclable) and buy another non-stick pan.
 
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A pic is worth 1,000 words.
Try not to bring any coated non-stick pan over 400/425F.
If it's blackened, it's probably going to have a short life.
When one gets blackened "spots", it's usually because the teflon/coating has disappeared on that spot, which in turn, begets more black spots..
Careful with NaOH based oven cleaner on any exposed aluminum ...can be used, but watch it like a hawk ..or it'll corrode like nobody's business.
 
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Thanks for the advice. It is all what I was hoping not to hear, yet was expecting. One of the first, and most important, practices for me to change is allowing my pans to be used by others.

For many years I have lived in shared housing, which has its pros and cons. A major con is when people use your things and don't treat them as well as you do. Their idea of good treatment is typically not good enough.

Before I lived here one of my housemates was a professional chef (the one who categorized me as a Hobby Chef). Even he was abusive to his equipment, including his knives which surprised me. HIs father was also a pro chef. He had all top grade stainless steel pans. He never really touched my non-stick pans, and actually, neither did I. We always used his pans. mainly his 10" and 12" sauté pans.

But here, where I live now, people use my stuff, then they go watch TV and forget about what they're doing in the kitchen. Over the 3 years I've been here my pans and other equipment has suffered. I don't let anyone else use my 6 qt KitchenAid lift mixer or other "special" equipment. I thought it would be too much to not let people use my pots and pans, but that has bitten me in the butt.

I mainly got my nonstick pans for omelets and quick things. But with all of the burned on crud that has appeared and I have not been able to get off, makes it useless for even simple things. I was hoping I could restore them, but it looks like I will be going back to steel again next.

Consulting with you all was a last shot before turning to questionable cleaning methods such as Bar Keeper's Friend liquid, which is supposed to have great results as long as you don't let it actually contact the nonstick surface. I would think that oven cleaner has the same type of issues.

That caveat has held me back from trying it. Evidently you have to pour it into the center of the burnt patch and carefully spread it out to the edge of the patch without touching the nonstick surface. Wait 30 seconds or so then rinse it off and scrub away normally with soapy water.

That seemed a bit risky. I have to think that is will not be good for the pan, especially, if I fail to keep the BKF off the nonstick surface, especially now, where the burnt patch is splotchy and not a solid mass edge to edge.

But if nothing else cleans it off, the pan is of little use. So it looks like it might be time to try that. I've been putting off the purchase of any replacement pans as I am trying to negotiate for a custom set of stainless steel cookware which isn't materializing overnight.

Calphalon is not the best cookware; but also not the cheapest. Now, saving the pans is a matter of principle at this point; and is an opportunity to experiment on what actually works to accomplish this feat. I'll let you know how well it survives the BKF chemicals. At this point I'm not that hopeful.
 
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Good luck!
As you said, in your situation, stainless might be best. Then get yourself a nice non-stick and hide it!!!!
 
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For whatever reason, the site won't let me post on the other pot cleaning thread. My 2 cents: I have use BKF, Bon Ami, which are fine for normal clean up, but Easy-Off 'Blue' (no NaOH - lye) sprayed on and left to work for a couple hours cleans up everything without trashing non-stick, stainless, or anodized aluminum. It will even get varnish off the outside of pans - with a little BKF assist. I have All-Clad stainless and non-stick, original Calphalon anodized, Calphalon non-stick. I tried a couple ceramic pans and got rid of them. I also have some enameled Le Creuset, and a couple carbon steel and cast iron pans. The carbon steel and cast iron I don't let anybody else touch, and would never use anything harsher than Bon Ami on them.
 

phatch

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Hope this is where you wanted it to appear. I think your problem was not in replying to the thread so much as it was being your first few posts that require moderator approval.
 
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If you mean Easy Off Fume Free, I have a can of that right now. I was really close to trying BKF, but decided to get in touch with Easy Off first to get their take.

So, I have just been in communication back and forth a few times with Easy Off. They have a couple of products that suggest the possibility of being usable on non-stick, but they say definitely not to use it on any nonstick coating. I'm thinking they just don't want to risk getting sued if they give a green light and something goes wrong.

They say only to use it as stated on the label and they don't recommend it for use on anything they have not tested. How can they NOT have tested it on non-stick cookware, but OK. I would have liked it better of they had said they had tested it and it destroys the surface.

So you think I would have some success with Easy Off Fume Free? Well, I have it handy, and now I am especially tempted to give it a try. A couple of hours sounds like too much exposure, but considering how long it takes to work in the oven, that makes sense.

The fact that you have actually used it and had good results make my trying it a likelihood. Thanks.
 
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I didn't read through all the good advice in this thread. So, if I repeat someone's suggestion, please forgive me.

If I have burnt stuff sticking to my pan, which is rare, and I can't scrub it because of a non-stick coating, I'll fill the pan with equal parts water and distilled vinegar, bring it a rolling boil and let it go until the liquid reduces to about 1/4 of the original volume. This usually softens the burnt crud to the point where it can be scrubbed off with the scrubber side of a sponge. For really tough stickers, I use a plastic scraper.

For stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron, I use barkeeper's friend. This stuff is pure magic. I also use it to clean the carbon build up around the burners on my gas stove.

Here's some tips to help prevent blackened build up on your pans.

1. Turn down the heat. If you're using gas burners, reduce the setting you would normally use by half to start. For example, if you typically use med-high, reduce it to medium low. If you use medium, reduce to low. Work from there. Burnt food in your pans is a tell tale sign that the heat you're using is too high.

2. Cold food out of the fridge will stick to any pan, even non-stick pans. Whenever possible, bring those foods up to room temperature before putting them in the pan. For eggs, just put them in a warm water bath for a few minutes if you don't have time or don't want to wait to let them come up to room temp on their own. You can do this for just about any protein...beef, pork, chicken, fish etc. Just place them in a plastic bag, remove as much air as you can before placing them in a warm water bath. If the water turns cold before the protein comes up to room temperature, just add more warm water. With this said, you may want to look into the sous vide technique.

3. Use fat/oil that has a high smoke point, especially if you're searing. Low smoke point fats and oils like EVOO and butter have a low smoke point and can result in burnt gunk in your pan. While EVOO and butter are great fats to use and provide excellent flavor, they're best used with gentle temperatures.

4. When purchasing pans, be it non-stick or otherwise, make sure that the pan material is a good, heavy gauge metal. Thinner, cheaper pots and pans typically don't have enough material to distribute heat properly and scorching is often the result, especially if you're using a gas stove. There are times when a thinner pot/pan is desirable however, for general purposes, thicker material is better.

5. When choosing your pans, look for products that have an aluminum or copper core and are at least 3 ply. Aluminum and copper cores improve heat distribution and eliminates "hot spots" that can result in scorching. These types of pans are typically more expensive. But, in the long run, they're worth the extra money and will last quite awhile if taken care of properly.

6. Use the right pan for the job. If the pan is too big or too crowded, this could result in scorching or poor results regardless of the quality of the pan. For example, if you're making eggs-over-easy in a large fry pan, the fat that's not in contact with the eggs around the edges of the pan will often burn, especially if the heat is too high. A Using a small pan helps to concentrate the heat energy on your food. Remember, the pan is always going to be hotter in the places where the food isn't. So, using a pan that's just big enough to fit what you're cooking is important. On the other hand, if the pan is too small or too crowded, the food is likely to stick and/or not brown/cook properly or evenly. This is something that happens regardless if you're using a $45 dollar set of pans from WalMart or $4,000 set of Mauviel copper. If the pan is too crowded, the pan isn't going to work efficiently.

7. Lastly, take your time. Be patient. Lower cooking temps will take more time but, the end result is typically far superior. Remember, if the heat is too low, you can always increase it. But, if its too hot, you can't always cool down the pan and that's when the majority of problems happen.

I hope this helps. Good luck. :)
 
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Calophons, like most, do not hold up well, but their hard ceramic probably takes heat damage better than the softer coatings. The most durable NS pan I ever came across is the Kitchenaide. I don't know what kind of magical coating they use, but have an 8" I've been using daily for 4 years, got it from my mother actually and no idea how many years she used (and abused) it, and it's still like new. Heavy (like 1/4") formed aluminum pan with riveted stainless handle.

Never saw damage like you're describing, but small spots, when they finally started forming, I would scape with a plastic spatula. I have walked away from my stainless ware and had them heat up pretty hard and carburize, but neve let myself do that with NS.
 
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OK. I had to wait to do this because they had to be used, but I got at them this past evening. It does not look like the Easy Off Fume Free (Blue) had any effect on it.

I did a 2 hour soak. Took the During pics after they had soaked for about 20 minutes in. Wiped out the cleaner and saw that nothing had changed, so I immediately sprayed on a second round and let that soak for 2 hours.

Then I wiped out the cleaner and washed both with Dawn Blue, dried them with paper towels, then took the After pics. I didn't dry the 8" as completely as I should have, but you'll see that there essentially is no change.

The Easy Off after 2 hours had turned a little brown when I wiped out the pans, but had it been effective they would have turned a lot brown. As it is, after two back-to-back 2-hour cleaner soaks, the pans still look the same as before the cleaning started.

Here are pics of the ...

12" Before

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8" Before

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12" During

1638700598285.png



8" During

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12" After

1638700674166.png



8" After

1638700713765.png



Something MUST get that off. I might have to try BKF even though the company on their website says specifically not to use any of their varieties on non-stick cookware.
 
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Joined May 25, 2015
Looks to me like there is nothing to remove. The non-stick coating is GONE and what you are seeing is the bare metal. Wish you would have posted pictures sooner.
 
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Joined Nov 9, 2020
Well, no, it is not the bare metal. If you look at it in person, and having seen it accumulate over time, the non-stick coating is all there. It has never been scrubbed off at all, only food burned on. Only non-scratch scrubbers have ever been used on them and no metal utensils have been allowed near them. The dark patches all have a thickness that is clearly on top of the pan surface. It just doesn't come off.

But it does seem, at this point, after apparently all commonly known remedies to the problem have been tried, that it is time to get new pans. It has long been time to get new pans. I have been working on negotiating for a custom set of tri-clad SS cookware. But for now I was hoping to be able to satisfactorily restore my Calphalon non-stick pans in the interim.

Since the Easy Off Blue does turn a little brown after soaking for 2 hours on each of two sessions, it makes me wonder if this method is not, at least, somewhat on the right track. Inasmuch as I have enough oven cleaner, I will try really loading it up and letting it soak all day and see if that is an improvement. I'm thinking it will not be, but worth a try.

Meanwhile, I will still be looking into alternative carbon-disintegrating products that won't be damaging got the non-stick coating. Especially now, I am not expecting to ever be able to make any significant progress in such a restoration. It is more academic than anything. Can the toughest burned on food be removed from non-stick pans, and how? And in so doing, does that restore the non-stick coating at all?

The answer to the second question is dependent upon a successful answer to the first question, which I have yet to accomplish. Even after I get replacement pans, I will still be interested in trying to restore these if I don't destroy them in the process.

Thanks to everyone for your input.
 
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Have you contacted Calohalon and explored warranty? Their warranties tend to be rather long, between 10 years and lifetime. Might be limited warranty but might not hurt to ask.
 
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