How to Clean Burnt Oil From a Stainless Steel Pan

By Jenny Seyfried

After cooking a meal, the last thing you want to do is struggle over cleaning the pots and pans. Unfortunately, tough burnt oil and grease can give you that exact problem. There are a few tricks, aside from old-fashioned elbow grease, that can remove burnt oil from stainless steel pans without destroying your pan in the process! There are also some preventative measures you can take to avoid this issue from occurring regularly.

Wash the frying pan on a dark marble background. Hygiene. Wash dishes with gloves
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Abrasive Pads

Metal pads work better than plastic scouring pads for cleaning burnt-on oil, but if you use your arms to apply lots of pressure when you scrub, they may get the job done. Metal scouring pads, available in either stainless steel or copper models, have built-in abrasive power and require less hard scrubbing on your part.

Homemade Abrasives

Substances such as baking soda, salt and toothpaste contain gritty materials that help remove built-up and burnt oil without containing enough grit to damage stainless steel. Make a paste with baking soda and water, creating a substance comparable to that of toothpaste. Add the mixture to your pan and scrub with a dishcloth. Another method is to sprinkle salt directly over the oil, followed by a vigorous scrub with moist a dishtowel. With toothpaste, dampen the pan or pot with lukewarm water and scrub, applying about 1 tbsp. of toothpaste.

For any of these methods, heat the pan for 30 seconds by placing it upside down over a burner to help loosen the oil before scrubbing it. Take care not to burn yourself on the hot pan.

Boiling Water, Baking Soda and Vinegar

For this method, place your dirty pan on an oven burner. Add a squirt of dishwashing soap, 1/2 cup of baking soda or 1 cup of vinegar into the pan and enough water to cover the the entire surface area of your pan. Bring this liquid to a boil for three to five minutes. Let the pan cool and then scrub off the oil, with a little extra baking soda added if the oil remains stubborn.

Commercial Abrasives

Commercial scouring cleansers come with or without bleach in addition to abrasive materials. Choose only cleansers that don't contain bleach, because those with bleach, stain and corrode stainless steel. Follow the directions of the commercial cleanser to remove the burnt oil from your pan.

Preventing Oil Residue

Some cooking products and cooking methods reduce the chance of oil burning onto your pans. Oil sprays that contain a chemical propellant are more apt to cause oil to brown and stick to the pans, so make your own spray bottles containing natural cooking oils instead of buying these brands. Keep cooking temperatures at medium-high or below when sautéing or pan-frying to minimize burning or scorching oil. Use good-quality stainless steel cookware that conducts heat efficiently, so that you don't need high cooking temperatures.