Is It Safe to Use A Burnt Stainless Steel Pot?

Yesterday my toddler was running around in the kitchen when I was boiling eggs in a stainless steel pot.  I got distracted for a while and the next thing I noticed was a burnt pot! I didn’t know what to do — should I throw it away? If not, is it still safe to use? So, I did some research to find out the answer.

So is it safe to use a burned stainless steel pot? Yes, as long as you clean them thoroughly, stainless steel pots and pans are safe to use even after you burn them dry (and they look terrible!). It is safe to use provided that you’re well-informed on how to choose a high-quality product in the first place and how to safely use and clean it.

Many people think stainless steel cookware is the safest form of kitchen cookware. However, without proper use and maintenance, you are allowing unwelcome toxic into your family’s diet. This article will help you learn natural ways to clean and maintain your stainless steel cookware for the years to come.

Is Stainless Steel Toxic When Heated?

Stainless steel cookware is usually made from a combination of more metals in multiple layers, but only stainless steel comes in contact with the food. This unique construction makes it more stable, and less likely to leach any toxic metals (like chromium or nickel) or other substances. Besides, stainless steels have good strength and good resistance to corrosion and oxidation at elevated temperatures. For example, 304 stainless steel can be used at temperatures up to 1700° F. It is even safe for the oven. Stainless steel is designed to withstand high temperature and constructed in a way that is least likely to leach toxic metals into food.

However, that doesn’t mean it is always safe. Keep away from using deeply scratched and pitted pans, which can cause metals such as nickel and chromium to migrate into food in trace amounts. Toxicological studies show that oral doses of nickel and chromium can cause cutaneous adverse reactions such as dermatitis.

Another important thing to remember is that not every stainless steel cookware is created equally. High-quality stainless steel cookware use more expensive materials to form a safe and strong cooking surface, which will resist heat, not react with food, flake or leach harmful chemicals into food. It has better resistance to discoloration and corrosion. Some high-end products have 5-ply bonded construction that has alternating layers of stainless steel and conductive aluminum for warp-free strength and even heating.

So how do you choose a high-quality stainless steel pot? First, you want to make sure that the cookware is made with 18/8 or 18/10 as these are the standard used in good quality cookware. Another rule of thumb is the heavier, the better. A heavier pot means more material was used to make it. It will be more sturdy and less likely to have hot spots and dents.

How To Clean A Burnt Stainless Steel Pot (If You Boil It Dry)?

The simplest solution is to clean the pot with baking soda and vinegar. First, pour equal amounts of white vinegar and water on the bottom of the pot. Then heat the mixture on the stovetop until it comes to a boil. After it boils for a minute, remove the pot from the burner and drain the mixture down the sink. If there are any remaining burn stains, not to worry! Just add a tablespoon of baking soda to the empty pan and use a scouring pad to massage the bottom of the pot. After removing all the burn marks rinse the pot thoroughly with tap water.

How To Clean Burned Food Off Stainless Steel Pan?

Even if you pay close attention to the cooking process, stubborn food particles may still be gripping the bottom of the stainless steel pots and pans. At this point, the last thing you want to do is to damage the pots and pans while cleaning the food residues. Luckily, we have some simple solutions.

Method #1: Soak in water and boil

Begin by scrubbing away as much food as possible with a non-abrasive scrubber. Then, fill the pot or pan with water and a bit of dish soap. Make sure the stuck-on food is completely submerged. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, you can use a spatula to scrape away excess food with ease. If this one doesn’t work, try the methods below.

Method #2: Using Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is an effective cleaning solution for stuck-on foods thanks to its acetic acid content, which helps break down tough food particles. Follow the steps below:

  1. Fill the bottom of your pot or pan with water, enough to cover the stuck-on food.
  2. Add 1 cup of vinegar and bring water to a boil.
  3. Once boiling, remove from the heat and add in 2 Tbsp. of baking soda.
  4. Briefly mix together and empty the pan.
  5. Use a non-abrasive sponge or scrubber to remove any remaining food particles.

Method #3: Using Cream of Tartar

Cream of tartar may not be as handy as vinegar, but if you have it, simply mix it with water to create a paste and cover affected areas in your pan. Allow the mixture to soak overnight in the pan. Rinse and scrub the pan out to remove any remaining particles.

Method #4: Using Salt and Lime

These two surprising ingredients create an effective cleaning solution for your stainless steel pan. That’s because the lime’s acidity works to combat tough particles while the coarseness of the salt helps scrub away loose food. Here’s how to remove stuck-on food with salt and lime:

  1. Squeeze lime juice into your pan and add salt.
  2. Allow the mixture to rest in the pan for several minutes.
  3. Sprinkle more salt into the pan.
  4. Immediately begin scrubbing with a non-abrasive scrubber.
  5. Once excess food is removed, rinse and dry as normal.

How To Clean Discolored Stainless Steel Pans?

Now you’ve tried the methods above to remove burn marks and stuck-on food from the stainless steel pans, you may still experience rainbow-colored discolorations or white calcium build-up. Here are a few simple methods for restoring your stainless steel back to its classic silver state.

Method #1: Using Vinegar

Vinegar is an effective ingredient for ridding your pan of any unsightly discoloration typically caused by overheating. Simply wash your pan with vinegar and rinse with water to remove discoloration.

Additionally, vinegar can be used to rid your pan of white calcium build-up stains. Make a mixture of one part vinegar to three parts water and boil in the affected pot or pan. Allow the mixture to cool, empty the pan, and wash as normal.

Method #2: Using Tomato Sauce

If you have excess tomato sauce leftover, this may be the perfect method to try. The acidity from the tomatoes reacts with the discoloration in your stainless steel pans similarly to vinegar.

For this method, fill the pot or pan with tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes until the affected areas are completely submerged. Allow the sauce to simmer gently for about 10 minutes, adding water if necessary. Remove the sauce and rinse as normal. Additionally, you can leave the tomato sauce in the pan overnight without simmering.

10 Tips on Maintenance and Care

Now you’ve cleaned your burned stainless steel pot like a pro, you don’t want to stop here. Proper care and maintenance are essential to keep your stainless steel cookware clean and avoid permanent damage and corrosion. With just a little effort, your stainless steel pots and pans will stay looking shiny and new. Here are some basic tips:

1. Clean with non-abrasive materials and sponges gently with warm water and liquid soap. Steel wool and other harsh scrubbers or cleaners can scratch stainless steel surfaces.
2. Use cooking utensils made from materials which will not scratch the stainless steel surface.
3. Don’t scrub against the grain. You may find some stainless steel has some tiny lines in the metal; that is the grain of the finish. Try to scrub, wipe, or polish stainless steel parallel to the grain rather than “against” or across the grain. This way you will have a better result in cleaning the surface and help maintain the original finish and texture of the steel.
4. Heat up the pan before adding oil. Letting the pan heat up before adding oil or other fat results in a more non-stick surface. However, do not overheat the oil, because the burned-on stain can be very hard to remove from stainless steel. If you have a burned oil stain, the best way to clean it is to soak it overnight in hot, soapy water, then scrub with a plastic scrubber.
5. Let the water boil before adding salt. Salting the water in a stainless steel pot before heating the water can lead to pitting and small dents in the bottom of your pan.  The tiny bits of rust on the surface certainly doesn’t look pleasant. It can be avoided without much effort. Just remember to add a little bit at a time because adding salt to boiling water can make it boil over.
6. Prevent water spots by always drying pans immediately after washing. To remove water spots, dampen your pan and rub down with a moist sponge and baking soda.
9. Cold food is more likely to stick to the pan. Bring meats and refrigerated foods to room temperature before adding to the pan.
10. Do not use cold water to clean a hot pan, this can cause warping and disfiguration.

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