A person standing in front of a refrigerator

Easiest Way to Remove Burned-On Mess in a Pot, Pan or Casserole

I consider myself an expert on today’s topic. I have the unique talent of creating horrible burned-on messes in casserole dishes, skillets, pots—even a Le Creuset dutch oven. I can do this on the stovetop, in the oven, outdoor grill, and microwave, too! 

A person standing in front of a refrigerator

I did it again just the other night. I returned a stainless steel frying pan to the burner set to medium after I’d plated most of its contents and walked away.

We had a lovely meal of Shrimp Scampi Bowls (thank you Home Chef) while that pan sat there and created yet another opportunity for me to demonstrate my unique skill. It was bad.

Dumb me, I didn’t think to snap a photo to show you the “Before” until that mess was halfway through cleaning itself. Here is a semi-Before and After comparison.

cooking pans

There are multiple ways to deal with this kind of kitchen challenge—most of which will work to some degree, eventually. But as far as I am concerned, there is only one method that is totally amazing because it’s pretty much automatic and works in an hour—more or less—depending on the severity of the situation.

But first, let me summarize the methods that do not work for me because honestly, I don’t want to have to expend the effort required to make them work:

Baking soda

The directive is to fill the vessel with water, dump in a 1/2 cup or so of baking soda, heat to boiling and then allow to simmer for a while. This will definitely loosen the mess. But this must be followed with a lot of elbow grease to scrub (and scrub) away the final remains.

Baking soda and dish soap

It works. Eventually. But will more than likely require using a wooden spoon to pry and scrape. And scrub and tear up your fingernails.


This has never worked for me, but I may be too impatient. And vinegar, being an acid, can damage the clear coat finish on enameled cast iron pots from Lodge and Le Creuset and others, which tells me there’s at least some level of risk involved. 

Hydrogen peroxide/baking soda 

I’m pleading ignorance here because I have not tried this. A quick search, however, leads me to believe that a few people have found this combination plus water heated in the messy pot on the stove to be effective. 

Dryer sheet

It does work to fill the pot or pan with warm water and drop in a dryer sheet. However, it takes time to work. Like overnight, which means you’ll be leaving that ugly mess in the sink to greet you in the morning. After enough time, the contents of that pan will slide out quite easily. But still, overnight at least.

Another challenge with dry sheets: Lots of us no longer use laundry softening products, so we don’t happen to have a dryer sheet handy.

So, enough about what doesn’t work well enough for me to consider worth writing about.

Automatic dishwashing detergent

This is it, an amazingly magical method that is fast, effective and totally worth writing about.

Take another look at the “before” picture—and trust me this was one ugly, smoking, black,  burned-on mess that appeared that it may have melted the pan in its wake!

I filled that stainless steel skillet with very hot water and dropped in an automatic dishwasher detergent pod (Kirkland brand from Costco because that’s what I use, but any automatic dishwasher detergent pod, gel or powder will do the same awesome job). I took this photo about 20 minutes later. 

If you look closely, you can see the bottom of the pan begins to emerge from the burned on mess as the contents soften and begin to almost liquify.

By the time I’d loaded the dishwasher and cleaned up the kitchen, the pan was ready to be cleaned up, too. 

I poured the contents of the pan down the drain (kinda’ love watching all that crud slide right out ) and used the scrubby side of a blue Scotch Brite Non-Scratch scrub sponge to wipe away the remains of the mess. It took less than a minute. I rinsed the pan, dried it with a bar mop and snapped the After photo. 

RELATED: 11 Money Savers That Will Pay for Themselves Over and Again

This method is not only quick and easy, but you can also confidently use it on any dishwasher safe dish, pot or pan—that means stainless steel, non-stick (ha!),  glass, porcelain and enameled cast iron like Lodge’s enameled and Le Creuset’s Dutch ovens.

Caution: Do not subject either cast iron or aluminum to automatic dishwasher detergent. Neither of these types of cooking vessels is considered “dishwasher safe.”


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3 replies
  1. Jule barta says:

    I found this was the pest way to clean my electric tea pot and kettles. I fill it with water, add a dishwasher pod and turn it on to brew a pot of tea. everything comes out shiny and clean, especially the hard to reach posts. I will then pour the water in my sink and use it to scrub and clean my sink after doing the rest of the dishes.

  2. kat89 says:

    My mother always told me to use a tablespoon of cream of tartar and water, bring to a boil & let it cool before scrubbing. Takes just about everything right off.

  3. W David Samuelsen says:

    I got rid of all pots after I got copper-fused pots. Those copper-fused pots don’t burn easy and can cook at lower temps just fine.


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