How to Clean Burnt Food Off Your Enamel Cookware

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People covet enamel-coated cookware for a reason. It distributes heat evenly, all while looking beautiful, and it makes you feel like a pro in the kitchen. But take your eyes off the stove for too long and that coated cast-iron or steel becomes a mess of burnt food, no matter what you’re making.

Although it’s okay to run enamel cookware through the dishwasher, it’s not the best habit. Those beautiful colors will fade with repeated exposure to heat—it’s the same reason you shouldn’t exceed medium on the burner. And soaking your coated cookware for a few days doesn’t always do the trick, especially when you’re dealing with finicky residue like crusty cheese or burns on the bottom of the dish.

Your secret weapons

Got residue that won’t budge after days of soaking? (We too have learned that cheese and enamel cookware don’t mix the hard way.) It’s time to break out some super valuable team players. Although the materials differ, cleaning out a crusty enamel dish is a lot like scrubbing down a glass stovetop—you can apply all the elbow grease you want, but you’ll need a chemical reaction or an abrasive substance to completely remove the burns. Enter your new best friends: baking soda, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide.

First, assess the situation. Does this residue just need scrubbing with a little more texture, or are you dealing with a full-blown mess? If it’s the first scenario, you can likely clear it with baking soda, a mildly abrasive sponge (like a Scrub Daddy) or dish brush, and some exerted pressure. If the situation requires reinforcements, you’ll need to lift the mess with a fizzy substance like hydrogen peroxide (on its own) or baking soda combined with vinegar, the best tag team of all time. Don’t resort to anything metal, because that will lead to scratches and I know that cookware was expensive.

For stubborn stains, start with your fizzy solution of choice. The chemical reaction will help to lift most of the mess, meaning you can save your energy for the tough stuff. Any spots that withstood the fizz will need a mixture of abrasion and pressure. Pour baking soda over the char. Then, press down hard with your cleaning utensil and use circular motions. If you like, you can make a paste by combining it with either water or dish soap.

How to prevent burns on enamel cookware

The first thing you should do before using enamel-coated cookware is make sure it’s clean. Add heat to residue, and you get smoke (or even fire), which just creates a bigger mess. You also may want to wipe down your stovetop before heating up a coated dish, because a dirty stovetop can cause even more smoky marks on the bottom. Priming your enamel cookware, especially pans, with butter or oil will help cut down on residue from burns. By creating a layer between the surface and the food, you’re preventing bits of food from getting stuck and leaving crust behind.

If you can, remove residue as soon as possible. Some enamel-coated cookware isn’t recommended for use with high temperatures at all, so check your packaging or manual. If you must turn that burner up, do it gradually—this applies to lowering the temperature as well. Lastly, don’t try to multitask too much or abandon your enamel cookware for too long on the stove. Only you can prevent stovetop fires, so keep an eye on that pan.

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