How to Clean Burnt Oil From a Stainless Steel Pan

By Susan Lundman

To start with, lots of elbow grease can help to remove burnt oil from your stainless steel pots and pans. If that doesn't work, you need to resort to a variety of cleaning products to achieve success. Then, take steps before you cook in the pans again to help reduce the amount of scorched oil that remains after you cook.


Abrasive Pads


Plastic scouring pads don't typically work as well as metal 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 a little water and scrub it into the oil with a dishcloth. Or, sprinkle salt directly over the oil and give it a vigorous scrub. With toothpaste, dampen the pan or pot with lukewarm water and scrub in about 1 inch 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


Boiling water with a squirt of dishwashing soap and either 1/2 cup of baking soda or 1 cup of vinegar get off both burnt-on food and burnt-on oil. Heat either the baking soda or the vinegar, with enough water added to cover the burnt oil, and boil the liquid for 5 minutes. Let the pan cool enough off the burner so you can handle it, 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. Cleansers without bleach may say on their label that they are safe for stainless steel or may say they don't include bleach.

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. And, keep cooking temperatures at medium-high or below when sauteing or pan-frying to minimize burning or scorching oil, and use good-quality stainless steel cookware that conducts heat efficiently so that you don't need high cooking temperatures.