Author: kim copeland productions
Cooking can be great fun; cleaning up afterward, not so much, unless you have non-stick cookware. If you’re old enough to remember what life was like before non-stick, you know what a tremendous boon it has been. Since it first hit the market in France in 1956 and America in 1960, it’s lightened the cleaning load for many a busy homemaker.
Occasionally, though, cookware is left unattended on a hot stove and food is burnt onto the non-stick surface. When that happens, you need to take special care in cleaning it so you don’t damage the surface and render the pan unusable, or even hazardous. In this essay we will discuss how to clean a burnt non-stick pan safely and effectively.
For the Curious: How Was Non-Stick Cookware Invented, Anyway?
If you like history, or trivia, or both, here’s a little background on non-stick cookware. The first non-stick chemical was discovered in 1938 by a scientist named Roy Plunkett. Plunkett was not looking to invent non-stick cookware. He was part of a research team working on finding a less-toxic refrigerant. He left a chemical mixture overnight which was intended to produce tetraflurorethylene gas. Instead, the next morning he discovered a white, waxy substance: polytetrafluroethylene (nine syllables, and don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz), also known as PTFE.
DuPont patented the chemical, trademarked the process, and gave it a much shorter name, by which it is now famous: Teflon. French engineer Marc Gregoire later discovered how to bond Teflon to aluminum, the first non-stick cookware came into being, and the rest is history.
Since Teflon revolutionized cooking, as well as cleaning up afterward, other non-stick surfaces have been developed. Still, Teflon is somewhat a universal moniker for non-stick cooking surfaces. We may call a non-stick pan a “Teflon” pan, even if the surface is another compound, just as we may call facial tissue “Kleenex,” even if the brand name is different. So much for the history lesson. Now on to business.
How Not to Treat Your Non-Stick
Non-stick cookware can be cleaned safely in several different ways. However, before we talk about what to do with non-stick cookware, let’s talk about what NOT to do as far as care and cleaning.
Non-stick cookware is basically cookware with a special chemical coating. According to William Raiford of DuPont, most non-stick cookware is expected to last anywhere from three to five years of normal use. However, the cookware’s lifespan varies, depending on the amount of use and the care it receives.
That chemical coating is not invincible. It can be damaged if the cookware is not treated properly. If the non-stick surface is compromised, tiny pieces of the non-stick chemical coating can break off from the surface of the cookware and find their way into your family’s food. If you see an item of your non-stick cookware has scratches or other damage to its coating, you probably should dispose of it.
Metal utensils can also scratch and damage non-stick cookware. You should use wood, plastic, or other non-damaging utensils. Also, when you store non-stick cookware, cover the cooking surface or place the cookware in an area where it won’t be scratched or struck. Also to avoid damage during cleaning, do not use metal scrubbers, steel wool pads, or harsh abrasives, and do not clean non-stick cookware in an automatic dishwasher.
Cleaning our Cookware Effectively and Safely
The most basic cleaning procedure for your non-stick cookware is first to scrape out the excess food with a plastic brush or scraper. Then add a small amount of dish liquid to the pan and use a plastic brush or other lightly abrasive device such as a plastic scrubber to break through the more stubborn stains.
If you have accidentally burnt food onto the surface that cannot be removed with soap and water, a little more effort can take care of the problem. One way to clean burnt-on food from the cookware is to fill it with water until the burnt portion is submerged. Then pour a glass of white vinegar into the pan. Place the item on a stove and bring the water/vinegar mix to a boil. Let it boil ten minutes. Boiling will help loosen the stuck-on food.
Then pour two tablespoons of baking soda onto the boiling water/vinegar mixture. A chemical reaction will occur whereby bubbles will erupt. The bubbling action will also help loosen the burnt-in dirt. Then pour out the mixture and clean the pan with soap, water, and a soft plastic scrubber. If some stains are stubborn, pour a little baking soda into the pan and scrub. Some baking soda and a little elbow grease will usually take out most stains.
Another variation on the hot water method is to fill the pan with water and add several drops of dish detergent, and let the hot water and detergent do most of the work.
For More Info
If you Google “How to Clean Burnt Non-Stick Pans,” you are sure to find several different ways to remove burnt-on food. Most of these involve the use of mild compounds like vinegar, lemon juice, or dish liquid. If you like YouTube videos, type in “YouTube/how to clean a burnt non-stick pan.”