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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

When a Pot Burns...

It's been a mad place over the last couple of days with produce all ready at the same time. I've bottled 12kg of tomatoes and made more rhubarb cordial. The dehydrator has been busy with sage, mint and parsley and zucchini and squash. I have been busy freezing beans and turning 10 kg of damsons into plum sauce and plum chutney.
I haven't had a pot burn in a long time but I took my eye of the ball for a short moment with a phone call. It was not long after I had added the brown sugar to the chutney and I thought it had fully dissolved but I really should have been watching and stirring.
At least I caught it before too much damage was done to the chutney.
When you feel that stuck coating at the bottom of the bottom of the pot, it is most important to not be tempted to scrape at it releasing burnt fragments into your mix, it will taint the flavour for sure. The second most important thing is to decant into a new pot immediately. Don't keep cooking and hoping for the best.

I sold pots and pans (among other kitchenware) for a long time and one of the things I always impressed upon my customers was to avoid scratching their stainless steel cookware. It's really tempting for people to get the heavy artillery out and use a curly girl pot scrubber on a cooked on mess and scratch away at it with steel scrubbers. Think about it this way though....
If you were to look at the cooking surface under a microscope you would see thousands of grooved scratches, lots of highs and lows. This sort of surface is a greater area for food to cling to and the more you scratch, the more food sticks, the more work you have to do cleaning, not to mention how much stirring and fussing you have to do during cooking especially with something sugary or milky.
Most saucepan ware is manufactured with a lovely polished surface which is not just for good looks. It gives the pot a surface similar to non-stick. I always use wood or melamine utensils in my cookware and I never scrub at them with anything other than a cloth.
So what happens if you have a burnt on mess like above? It almost seems to have become one with the pot it's so cooked on. Sugar is usually the worst! Take a deep breath and understand that this is a process that will take a day or two.
Cover the bottom of the pan with warm water and a small squirt of detergent (more is not better it is just a waste).
Here is the magic part....
Place the pot in the sun. The back lawn works best for me.
Leave it, probably for 24hrs....

Hard to see in this photo but can you detect that the mess is no longer flat and clinging to the bottom? It is bulging and bowing in the middle.

Doesn't get any better than this does it looking at somebody's washing up!?

So what I am trying to show you is that the burnt mass is lifting away from the pot.
That thin burnt crust has started to erupt away from the bottom.

Allowing you to remove big sheets of it with just your fingers.
After removing most of the debris there was still a thin remainder about 5mm around the very edge. I soaked this again and then used a damp cloth and some bi-carb as a gentle abrasive to polish it back to it's glorious stainless steel self.
The same goes for fry pans and skillets of stainless steel. Avoid scratching them. You can still use metal tongs and spatulas but don't go cutting into them with knives and stirring with forks. Straight after cooking tip some water into the pan and leave it soak while you are having dinner. It will soften and clean up beautifully with just a soft cloth.
The more you avoid scratching the higher the polish and the more gliss the surface, saving you time and energy. There is also some commercially prepared stainless steel cleaners on the market that I also liked my customers to go home with when they bought their pots so they were never tempted to attack them with anything other than a soft cloth. They cost under $10 and last half a life time. They are also great cleaners for stainless steel sinks too.
Naturally you want to avoid burning your pots ever, but it happens probably a couple of times in your life.
The quince burning in the bottom of my oven saga has not faded from memory yet either!


  1. Oh my, thanks so much for this!! I have burnt my SS pots quite a number of times over the years and I am sad to say that I have attacked them with those nasty scratchy things - but no more! As of this moment I am converted to soaking....... or maybe even, not burning?!?!?

    I'm impressed with your bottling etc - thats a massive effort indeed!

    1. Thanks for the great advice. You've been a busy girl.

      I am about to make fig jam and I'll be watching it like a hawk.

  2. That's one reason I try to do things in my slow cooker now, as I am notorious for burning things to the bottom of pans. I am just doing too many other things to pay attention properly! Probably why I broke a jar on my FV today, as I was just doing something else (getting clothes off the racks) when it boiled, and I didn't turn it off in time? Hmmm, anyways, great tips! I find bi carb does the trick too...

  3. Hey tanya, I must remember this tip.......a little chemistry lesson in there as well.

    You have been busy, between bottling, freezing, cooking and dehydrating is there time for much else?

    Claire :}

  4. Ohhh I usually add a bit of water and bi carb and let it simmer and that usually lifts it all and means I can clean and put away straight away! BUt if it is BBBBBAAAADDDDD or I just cannot be bothered I recon I will try this next!

  5. You certainly have been busy! Thanks for the advice about burnt pots, it will come in handy I'm sure :)

  6. That is a great tip and yes I have been known to get out the steel wool or scrubber:0(, but not anymore.

  7. Thanks for this. Always good to know this kind of stuff. I learn so much from you and I appreciate it all.

  8. This cleaning method is interesting, I have been doing this for many years but not intentionally, I usually just put the pans out on the lawn to get them out of my kitchen and to deal with them in a few days time when I get over the trauma of actually burning my jam/dinner!! All of a sudden I feel like I always new what I was doing...if that makes sense... : )
    You've been very busy preserving, Plum chutney sounds good!


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