Help me save my frying pan!

And my marriage. :smack:

I made a grilled cheese sandwich yesterday and accidentally left the empty pan on the hot stove for about 10 minutes. The pan now has a baked on brown film that is mostly resistant to my efforts to remove it, despite constant soaking. Some possibly relevant facts:
[li]The pan is a stainless steel Calphalon. (My wife got a brand new set of pans for Christmas, so she is not amused.)[/li][li]The “butter” used in preparation of the sandwich was actually an all-natural, non-dairy butter substitute (“Earth Balance”).[/li][li]The pans cannot be put in the dishwasher and harsh abrasives (e.g. steel wool) cannot be used without damaging the pan. Don’t even bother suggesting it, my wife will not go for it.[/li][li]I have put a great deal of elbow grease into trying to clean it with a light duty sponge with a small amount of success, but at this rate it will take me 3 years to fully clean the damn thing.[/li][/ul]

So, with that in mind, any amazing Doper suggestions for magic remedies to clean this thing? Or should I just give up and buy a new pan?

Copper mesh scrubber, maybe…won’t scratch the steel, but has a great deal more abrasive power than a scrubber sponge.

*I have not used this method, and said “maybe” because it’s IMHO.

The easy route would be to go buy a new pan.

If you want to add a bit more work, there are non-scratch abrasive pads available. You could fill the pan with water and 2 tablespoons vinegar, set atop stove again to boil. Watch it this time, please. Let it simmer 15 minutes or so, pour water out, then scrub with the above mentioned pads.

Good luck.

I’d buy a new frying pan made of a more forgiving material, like cast iron for example, and call it a day. I have no use for pots you can’t abuse.

I have Calphalon stainless steel pans. According to their site:

I prefer to hand-wash, but the SO has put them in the dishwasher with no ill results.


On the rare occasion something gets stuck, I use Bar Keeper’s Friend and a Dobie pad.

If something is really crusty, try simmering some soapy water for a while. That should get most of it off. But for the brown film, the manufacturer says Bar Keeper’s Friend is allowed, and it works for me.

ETA: Oh… I never use an abrasive – not even Bar Keeper’s Friend – on the outside of my pans. Only the insides.


If you don’t have Bar Keeper’s Friend, glass stovetop cleaner might work in a pinch.

FWIW, the sticky brown culprit is probably lecithin. That stuff is well-known for leaving difficult to remove gunk on pans.

Dawn Power Dissolver?

Or maybe a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser?

Oven cleaner?

We own a number of these stainless pans and yes, sometimes they get hard to remove stains. On every single occasion, Bar Keepers Friend on a regular kitchen sponge has restored the pan to original stainless state without any adverse effects on the cooking surface or finish. It’s what the manufacturer recommends.

Go clean and burn no more.

leave it on the fire until it turns to ash

FWIW I have steel Calphalon pans, and they’ve gone into the dishwasher a hojillion times – there’s nothing a dishwasher could possibly do to damage stainless friggin’ steel.

ETA: BarKeeper’s Friend … now it’s your friend, too! :slight_smile:

There can be a learning curve when it comes to cooking on ‘tri-ply’ stainless steel. Generally, use lower heat. As the link I posted earlier says, start with medium heat.

  1. Open your kitchen windows
  2. set up a fan to circulate the air
  3. put a teaspoon of dry dishwasher powder in the pan, cover it with water to about an inch deep (enough so it doesn’t boil over)
  4. Put it on the stove and raise it to a boil.

Yes, it might kill you, but it will clean the pan.

I’ve used this once and it did work. But never again.

Thanks everyone! I’ve got the pan on the stove now to simmer in some soapy water and I’ll be getting some Bar Keepers Friend tomorrow. I’ve never heard of it before, but looks promising. Much appreciation to everyone who responded. And since it’s the Dope, I’ll be sure to report back on the results of my “experiment.” :slight_smile:

I second the use of a Dobie pad, since you’re heading to the store anyway, pick up a couple of those. My mom has stainless pans that are at least 40 years old and that’s what she uses on them. Burned on stuff gets simmered with salt or baking soda and water, then scrubbed with a Dobie.

I’ve got what might be the same pan. I scrub them with a stainless steel choreboy pad all the time with no damage. It’s not non-stick, it’s steel!

I third (fourth? fifth?) Bar Keeper’s Friend. It gets anything off anything, more or less. (Pro tip - if your white plastic toilet seat or even bathtub gets discoloured, BKF will bring it up like new, without scratching.)

Don’t bother putting the pan in a dishwasher. If scrubbing by hand doesn’t shift a stain then a dishwasher (which has no scrubbing action and limited soaking time) certainly won’t.

I’ll have to try that. The SO dripped a drop of hair dye on the toilet seat a year or two ago. It’s faded from when it first happened, but it’s still there. I’ll have to try Bar Keeper’s Friend next time I take it off.

Definitely worth a shot, although if it’s dye then it might have penetrated too deep into the plastic.

For general, uh, yellowing it works a treat though.

Stainless is so hard scratching or gouging is not an issue. I used an electric skillet for years and always scrubbed it with a stainless pad.

I’ll wager that the person who inspired that fix is no longer the barkeeper’s friend…