How to Clean Burnt Food from Pots and Pans

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The more creative cooking gets, the more you might find your pots and pans covered in stuck-on, baked-on, burnt-on food. You know, the sort of mess that looks impossible to undo. But those problems are nowhere near permanent. We've got tips for how to clean pots and pans. Attacking and removing that mess just takes a little elbow grease, a dash of know-how, and the power of Cascade. Now, before we get started, please review your owner’s manual. These instructions work for most dishwashers, but in the rare case you find a discrepancy, follow your owner’s manual.

1. Remove Excess Food and Grease

With a wooden spatula, scrape off as much stuck on food as you can into the garbage. You don't need to pre-wash pots and pans in the sink—no water, no rinsing, just a vigorous scraping. (Keep reading for the "Ah, that makes perfect sense!" moment.)

Cleaning baked on pots and pans by scraping excess food and loading directly into dishwasher

2. Check Pots and Pans for Labels

Look for a stamp on the handle or underside of your pan—that's typically how you find out whether a pot or pan is dishwasher safe. For example, you can wash stainless steel in the dishwasher, but not aluminum. If you have trouble locating a label and are unsure what material the pan is made of, check the original packaging or the manufacturer’s website.

3. Load the Dishwasher

Refer to your owner’s manual. Some dishwasher manuals specify to load pans on their sides on the bottom rack. For most dishwashers, insert pans with the burnt-food side down on the bottom rack. This lets the spray jets work their magic and remove baked on grease. You can also check out our handy article of how to properly load a dishwasher.

Dirty glassware and stainless steel cooking ware in bottom rack of dishwasher

4. Use Cascade Platinum Plus ActionPacs™

For best results, use a premium ActionPac. Each dishwasher pac has the power to clean baked-on messes without pre-rinsing or pre-washing, which saves water and time. Powerful enzymes latch on, break down, and wash away food with no soaking or spraying in the sink. Plus, Cascade Platinum Plus ActionPacs™ are tough enough to remove burnt-on messes but won’t cause the non-stick linings to come off your pots and pans.

Placing Cascade Platinum dishwasher pod before running dishwasher

5. Choose the Proper Dishwasher Cycle

Some dishwasher models will have a designated “pots and pans” cycle. For all other dishwashers, select the longest cycle. Give your dishwasher a little extra oomph to clean that burnt-on mess!

Now that you confidently know how to clean pots and pans of baked-on, burnt-on food, it's time to unleash your cuisine creativity. And the more kitchen adventures you have, the more types of dishes you’ll use, the more messes you’ll encounter, the more dishwashing wisdom you’ll need. Trust us, we’ve been there—that’s how WE got dish-smart.

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