Have you ever burnt something on the stove so thoroughly that it more or less fused with the pan you were cooking in?
I have—more than once. In fact, I once spent an entire year of my early 20s cleaning the charred remains of homemade chicken soup from the bottom of my roommate’s soup pot. I was heating up leftovers, and my roommate was nice enough not to make me feel worse than I already did. But still!
I immediately started a long, arduous process of scrubbing and soaking (as I said, a full year of it). After 365 guilt-ridden days, I did eventually return the pot in pristine condition, but suffice it to say that my story should serve as a warning for what not to do.
Indeed, by the time I stumbled upon what I should have done, I was living in an entirely new apartment with new roommates, and a newly scorched pan. This time, it was crab dip (I think), and I wasn’t the culprit, just someone older and wiser, who had seen a few things. This time, I had the wisdom to say, “There’s no way we’re going through this again,” and took it upon myself to find a better cleaning method.
Thankfully, it exists—and it’s cheap, easy to use, and most likely already in your laundry room: a dryer sheet.
Seriously. And all you have to do is put a single dryer sheet (or fabric softener sheet, if you prefer to call them that) in the bottom of your seemingly ruined pot or pan, add enough warm water to cover the charred bits, and let it soak. Depending on the level of destruction, 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!
It feels like an absolute miracle—because it is. But, according to lifestyle reporter Anna De Souza, it’s also “likely the conditioning properties of the dryer sheet” that do the trick. And it’s not an exact science either: Feel free to use a second sheet if you’re dealing with an extreme case, and use hot water if you prefer. All I know is, it works.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the burnt remains of a would-be meal, wash your pot or pan with soap and water as you normally would, and be glad that you learned this information without sacrificing a year of your life. If only I had then what I do now: the guidance of a Food52 community that had this very wisdom to share with me.
In fact, upon further research, the first time someone ( a commenter also named Karen) recommended this dryer sheet hack on Food52 was in January 2014, by which time I was living in the second apartment. Was it her advice that changed my life? I can’t remember. But now I pass it on to you.
Do you have an even better way to deal with scorched pots and pans? Let us know in the comments.