We’ve all been there. After a delicious meal, you turn around and remember—the dishes. While dishes strike dread into the hearts of many, you don’t have to worry about how to clean your frying pans anymore.
Burnt grease on the bottom of the pan is tricky to remove. Often, simple dish soap doesn’t do the trick. Luckily, I’ve compiled a couple different methods to clean burnt grease — whether you have non-stick pans, stainless steel pans, ceramic pans, or cast iron pans — so that you can spend more time eating and less time cleaning.
In my experience, ammonia is one of the best ways to clean a frying pan. That’s what I often use, but it requires that you leave the pan overnight. If you don’t have ammonia, don’t want to get any, or leaving the pan overnight isn’t an option, I have a couple other excellent ways to make that pan sparkle in no time.
There is no one “best way” — try a few of these and see which is best for your pans. Remember, the best solution is the one that works for you! My personal favorite is Method Four!
Different Types of Pans
Before we dive into how to clean your pans, let’s review the different types of frying pans. Depending on what your pan is made of, you’ll need to use different products to clean it. Make sure you figure out what material your pan is before you jump into trying these cleaning methods. Certain substances and cleaning tools can ruin a pan if you don’t use the correct cleaning method
A non-stick pan is a metal pan that has been coated with non-stick material, usually Teflon or PTFE. Non-stick pans are a pretty common type of pan—it’s likely you have one or two in your kitchen.
Non-stick pans are lightweight and best for cooking at low to medium-high heat. The non-stick surface gets scratched by metal, so make sure that when you’re cleaning a non-stick pan, you avoid tools like steel wool.
Stainless steel pans
Stainless steel pans are pretty self-explanatory—they’re pans made of stainless steel! They are often the shiny silver color we all associate with stainless steel.
Like non-stick pans, stainless steel pans are fairly light. However, they need oil to ensure that food doesn’t stick to them as it cooks, and they can take much higher heat than a non-stick pan.
Ceramic pans are actually made of metal, often stainless steel or copper, coated in several layers of ceramic material. This coating works like non-stick coating, preventing food from sticking to the pan.
Ceramic pans are lightweight and shouldn’t be used at a high temperature. Their coating can also be damaged by metal, so like non-stick pans, don’t use steel wool to clean them.
Cast iron pans
A cast iron pan is very different from non-stick, stainless steel, and ceramic pans. Cast iron pans are much heavier and heat up more slowly. They are versatile and long-lasting, and they distribute heat very evenly, making them a useful tool for anyone’s kitchen.
Most cast iron pans are bare, which means they’re uncoated. This means they’re prone to rust and need to be seasoned, or coated with oil. Once a cast iron pan has been seasoned, it doesn’t need to be washed with soap and water—simply wipe it down with a paper towel or cloth.
Now that you know a few key differences between types of pans, let’s jump into how to clean them.
Method One: Baking Soda
One option is baking soda. Whether you are baking cookies or cleaning tough stains, everyone needs to have some baking soda in their kitchen. Baking soda is great for cleaning many things because it’s a mild abrasive. To clean a pan with baking soda, the first thing you need to do is make a paste with baking soda and warm water.
Spread the paste on the bottom of the frying pan. You can let it sit for a bit or jump right into scrubbing. You can use a sponge, scouring pad, or rag. It’s helpful if you think of rubbing the baking soda into the bottom of your pan; this ensures you’re penetrating the grease stains.
Rinse and dry, and your pan should look great!
Tips and tricks
For really tough stains, try leaving the baking soda on overnight. Just make sure you have enough water in the paste so that it doesn’t dry out too quickly.
You can also mix dish soap into your baking soda paste to help cut through grease.
Be careful with baking soda on non-stick and ceramic pans. If you scrub too hard, you can damage the coating.
Method Two: Lemon Juice or Vinegar
Lemon juice isn’t just for cooking, it’s also a very powerful cleaning agent when used correctly. Using an acidic product helps break down the grease, making it easier to clean. Vinegar contains between 5 and 20% acetic acid, while lemon juice is usually 5 to 8% citric acid.
Soak your pan in lemon juice or vinegar for about an hour. Then, clean with a scrub brush or scrubbing pad and dish soap. This works best for pans with light stains.
The acid in vinegar or lemon juice has the added benefit of making your stainless steel pans super shiny.
Lemon juice or vinegar are often combined with other methods. One way to add to the cleaning power of an acidic product is to add salt. After soaking, use salt to scrub the pan. However, salt is a much harsher abrasive than baking soda, so avoid using it on non-stick and ceramic pans.
You can also sprinkle the bottom of the pan with baking soda, spray it with vinegar, and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing.
For really stubborn stains, use both salt and baking soda.
Be careful when combining products or methods—combining chemicals can cause reactions that create irritating fumes or liquids, so always double-check that certain products are safe to use together.
Method Three: Oven Cleaner
Oven cleaner is my go-to method when I need my pans cleaned quickly. Simply coat the bottom of your frying pan in oven cleaner and scrub. For tough scorch marks, you can let the over cleaner sit for a while.
Since oven cleaner is not safe to consume, make sure you wash the pan thoroughly with soap and water after using it.
Method Four: Bar Keepers Friend
You finally made it to my fail-safe method! A product made for tough stains, Bar Keepers Friend is great at removing burnt food or grease from a pan bottom. Make a paste of BKF and water and apply to the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before wiping off with a scrubbing pad. You can use aluminum foil to scrape the most affected areas on metal-safe pans like cast iron or stainless steel.
Bar Keepers Friend, like oven cleaner, is not safe to consume, so wash your pan well after using it!
Method Five: Dryer Sheets
I’ll be honest here: I don’t understand why using a dryer sheet on the bottom of pans works to clean off grease. But apparently it does!
Fill your burnt pan with very hot water. Put two or three dryer sheets, along with a dash of dish soap, in the water. Let it sit for at least an hour. You should be able to easily scrub off the grease with soap and water.
Method Six: Ammonia and Time
In my personal opinion, ammonia is the best solution—and easiest method—for cleaning the grease off the bottom of a frying pan. I put the pan in a garbage bag with a dash of ammonia and let the fumes do the work for me overnight. In the morning, your grease has magically melted off!
This method is also perfect for your stove grates or drip pans. This is my tried and true recipe for getting any deep-set stains out of metal. Not only is it the best method, it’s also super cost-effect too! A bottle of ammonia typically costs less than a dollar.
Preventing Burnt Grease and Grease Stains
While these methods will help you clean your pans in no time, the best method is always prevention. Here are a few tips to prevent burnt grease and grease stains on your pans.
- Soak your pan in hot water as soon as you’re done cooking (and it’s cooled off).
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning your pan.
- Put cold water on your hot pan when you’re finished cooking. This helps the grease coagulate, making it easy to pour off the pan.
- Avoid cooking food at a higher temperature than necessary, since this can scorch the oil and the food and create hard-to-clean stains.
- Invest in a high-quality pan or two—often, higher quality means easier cleaning.
Remember, you may not be able to get your pan looking brand-new again, but that’s okay! Your frying pan has been used and loved. However, the above methods of cleaning will work perfectly, even if your pan doesn’t look like it just came out of the box.
Which method are you going to try? Let me know how well it works!
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