How to clean the bottom of a fry pan that’s . . . seen some things

They’ll be display-worthy again in no time!

Published November 25, 2022 11:00AM (EST)

 (Julia Gartland / Food52)
(Julia Gartland / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

You just installed the pot rack or peg board of your dreams and are ready to make all your Julia Child fantasies come to life, azel! The problem? You need to clean the bottom of the fry pans. When it comes time to hang all of your trusty cookware, you might notice that the underside of your favorite pans (which are usually relegated to the bottom cabinet) have been scorched and stained within an inch of their lives.

There's good news: you can likely remove a lot — if not all — of this gunk with one or more of the below methods, which apply to stainless steel, nonstick (which usually have an aluminum or steel base), copper, and most cast iron pans. Patience is key here — since the marks on the bottom of your pan are likely ones that have been heated and reheated, they'll be stubborn. But don't give up hope until you've tried scrubbing 'em clean, and if they still have some scuffs? Consider it a testament to a love of cooking. We sure do!

Bar Keeper's Friend

Ah, the holy grail of stainless steel polishing, Bar Keeper's Friend. You've probably seen the magic it works on sinks, appliances, and hardware, so of course, it's one of the best ways to clean the bottom of a pan, too. Melissa Maker of Clean My Space, recommends letting a paste of three parts BKF and one part water sit for about 10 minutes, then scrub in circular motions with a non-abrasive sponge. "The stains lift off beautifully," she says, "I think I heard angels singing . . . may have been the cat upstairs, but also could have been an angel, really."

Ketchup . . . Yes, ketchup

Ketchup is probably best known for its ability to get copper and sterling silver back to their original shine, thanks to its acidity. If your copper or stainless steel pan is in need of a clean or a shine (and you don't have a lemon and kosher salt on hand), this is a great hack for using the common condiment. Bear in mind that this won't remove super stuck-on stains, but it will impart a slight sheen. Spread the ketchup around on the affected area, let it sit for about 10-20 minutes, and give it a good scrub with a cloth or sponge.

Baking soda paste

According to Maker, a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water is all you really need to get the bottom of your pan cleaned. Apply this paste and let it sit for 10-20 minutes, then scrub away with a non-scratch sponge. "Some elbow grease was required to do it," she says, but "most marks came off, and the results are nice on both stainless steel and cast iron pan bottoms." Just know that you'll likely need to reseason non-enameled cast iron after a deep clean like this.

A dryer sheet?

This method is technically intended for the inside of a pan with burnt-up bits leftover from an overzealous sear, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to try on the outside of a pan. Food52 contributor Karen Lo swears by this dryer sheet hack; instead of putting the dryer sheet inside the pan with water, fill your sink up with enough warm water to cover the pan, add a dryer sheet, and let it soak. "Depending on the level of destruction," Lo says, "you can go for as little as 15 to 20 minutes, or let it hang out overnight, but by the time you return, you'll be able to sponge that scorched mess right off!"

Boil with hydrogen peroxide

Food52 contributor Camryn Rabideau actually found this suggestion from a reader. It's easy to do when the stains are on the inside of the pan, however, if you're trying to clean the bottom of a small skillet, submerge it in a large stockpot or deep skillet and fill with as much hydrogen peroxide as needed to reach the stains. Place it on the stove over high heat to boil. "You'll probably want to open a window," Rabideau suggests, "as this can start to smell. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 minutes, and the stains should come off with minimal effort."

By Caroline Mullen

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