Dear Home Ec 101,
Last night, I left an aluminum pot on a burner I thought I had turned off. I served dinner and by the time I came back to it, all I found was a pan full of burnt food. Is my aluminum pot ruined? How do I remove the mess?
Tempted to Toss it Out
Don’t worry, your pan is salvageable, it’s just going to take some time and elbow grease. Since the pan is aluminum, I do not recommend using the oven cleaner trick that is plastered all over the web, the caustic chemicals can etch or chemically scratch the metal which means almost everything will stick to it in the future.
Fill the pan past the burnt on food, add some white vinegar and bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes. -Try not to forget it this time.-
Pour off the liquid, let the pan cool enough to handle, and use a nylon scraper (like Pampered Chef includes with their stoneware) or wooden spoon to scrape off as much of the burnt mess as possible. If there is still a lot of burnt food, repeat the process.
Once you’ve gotten down to the last thin layer, it’s time to break out our old pal Bar Keepers Friend, which is an oxalic acid compound and safe for food preparation surfaces. Sprinkle it over the bottom of the pot, which should still be damp, allow it to soak for a few moments, then use a rag and rub with the grain.
Rinse the pot well before storing.