No matter how careful you are, chances are you’ve ever burnt a pan or will burn one in the future. The risks of burning a pan increase when cooking foods with a narrow temperature range between ideal and burning temperatures.
This is very common when making caramelized sugar. Burning sugar isn’t the end of your pan. We will look at some tricks you can use to get rid of burnt sugar on nonstick pans (or even regular pans without a non-stick surface.)
Why is it So Easy to Burn Sugar?
Caramelizing sugar involves patiently stirring sugar on a pan at a steady temperature until it melts and boils. It is a common ingredient in delicacies like burnt sugar cakes, cheesecakes, and even poultry dipped in caramelized sugar.
You have to keep stirring the sugar and adjusting temperature since as soon as the bottom section in contact with the pan melts, it gets sticky. If it remains in contact with the pan, it will get brunt and turn bitter even before any sugar above it melts.
Check this too: How to Clean a Burnt Copper Bottom Pan
It is so easy to burn sugar if you are not paying attention to the extent that cooks started referring to it as ‘burnt sugar.’
How Do You Remove Caramelized Sugar From a Pan
Burnt sugar syrup renders a pan useless until you clean it. Here are some of the top procedures you can try to get the stains off your pan. Be warned. They are very tough even on those easy-to-clean Teflon pans that people are wary of using.
The procedure will vary depending on whether it is a non-stick pan or not. Aluminum and steel pans are hardy and can take harsh scrubbing. Nonstick pans need a more conservative and gentle approach.
How to Remove Burnt Sugar From a Non-Stick Pan
Even though using a nonstick pan to caramelize your sugar might sound like a good idea, it could be a disaster that ruins your pan.
The nonstick coating on your pan doesn’t take abuse scrubbing and harsh cleaners well. If it has to come down to that when cleaning the pan, the nonstick surface will be ruined.
ProTip: Stick to aluminum or stainless steel when making burnt sugar. You have more cleaning options that won’t ruin the pain if the sugar sticks on.
Here are some subtle ways to clean burnt sugar at the bottom of a pan without necessarily ruining the coating.
Deglaze and Clean With Water and Vinegar
Deglazing a pan is a great way to loosen bits of tough gunk, including burnt sugar, at the bottom of your pans. Here is what to do:
- Clean off any loose scraps of burnt sugar and rinse them with water
- Dry the pan with some serviettes or a rag
- Place the pan on a medium flame and let it heat up
- Once it is hot (a minute or two), pour some water onto it to cover the base
- The water or vinegar will sizzle up and form balls.
- The abrupt change in temperature between the pan’s surface and the burnt sugar will force the layer of burnt sugar to curl up and detach from the pan, making it easier to clean.
An alternative to deglazing is using vinegar to clean the pan. You will need some vinegar and some sponges.
What to Do
- Add a generous amount of vinegar to the bottom of the pan such that it covers the burnt sugar
- Place the pan onto low heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes
- Let the pan cool down before gently scrubbing it clean with a cleaning sponge
An alternative to simmering the vinegar is letting the pan sit overnight with the vinegar before cleaning it in the morning. This will save you the smell of simmering vinegar if you find it unpleasant.
Soak it in Warm Soapy Water
Soaking your pan in warm soapy water for up to 24 hours could be a simple but efficient way to remove subtle or tough stains from your pans.
Add some warm water to your pan to cover all the stains and drizzle on dishwashing soap. You could use dishwashing tablets for better results.
Place the pan on the stove and slowly bring the water to boil before turning it down and letting it simmer for 15 minutes.
Let the pan sit overnight before attempting to clean it the following day. This could be enough to remove those tough burnt sugar stains from your nonstick pan.
Cleaning With Hydrogen Peroxide
Another suggestion would be using hydrogen peroxide. It could lift the caramelized sugar even without scrubbing.
- Pour some hydrogen peroxide into the pan to cover the sugar stains.
- Bring it up to boil on the stove.
- Ensure that the exhaust fan is on or boil it outdoors as it will start to smell
- Bring the heat down and simmer it for 15 minutes.
- Let it cool down before scrubbing it off with minimum effort.
How to Remove Burnt Sugar From an Aluminum or Stainless Steel Pan
If you have stainless steel or an aluminum pan, you could get away with more aggressive cleaning procedures.
Since the pans have no nonstick coating, you can use abrasive cleaners to remove the burnt sugar at the bottom of the pan. After this, you can polish the pan with a scouring pad or some steel wool to recover its original sheen.
Here are the different solutions you should use to get rid of burnt sugar.
Use Bar Keeper’s Friend (BKF)
BKF is an excellent surface polisher for stainless steel, aluminum, ceramic and other surfaces. Though it’s mainly used on countertops, it could be helpful when trying to remove burnt sugar burnt to the bottom of your pans.
ProTip: Take a while to confirm that your pan has no finishing surface that BKF will damage. Else, you will ruin your pan.
You will need:
- BKF powder
- A sponge for cleaning pans and dishes
What to do
- Wet the pan slightly and sprinkle some BKF onto it
- Let it sit for up to five minutes
- Use the sponge to rub the surface in circular swipes gently
- Repeat the process with more of the BKF and some more water to form a paste and spot clean stubborn stains
Use Some Baking Soda
Baking soda is a helpful cleaner to have around the house. This is all thanks to its abrasive characteristics. Adding it to your cleaning procedure gives you a more abrasive solution that is great at scrubbing off any residue and polishing your pans.
- Sprinkle some baking soda to the bottom of the pan (be generous)
- Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan
- Place the pan onto a stove set to low heat, and let it simmer for around 20 minutes for small sugar deposits and up to an hour for bigger or bulkier residues.
- Proceed to scrub and clean the pan as usual. The burnt sugar bits should fall off easily now.
Use Aluminum Foil, An Abrasive Cleaning Pad or Steelwool
While the above procedures will remove most of the burnt sugar chunks, there are chances your pan will remain discolored and with tiny bits of stains.
An abrasive cleaning pad, soap, and elbow grease should be enough to polish up your pan and restore its new sheen.
Using Aluminum Foil
Using aluminum foil to scrub aluminum or stainless steel pans is a great way to recycle all that foil after cooking or covering food.
- Crumbler up some foil to form a fistball just as you do before disposing of it
- Add some water to the pan and some drops of dishwashing soap
- Use the aluminum foil ball as a sponge to clean and scrub the pan until you get rid of the dirt and blemishes
- It might take some time and much scrubbing since it is a makeshift scrubber
Use a Stainless Steel Sponge
Stainless steel sponges are bunches of fine steel wire used to clean different surfaces around the kitchen,
Depending on how tough and big the stains are, you can buy them in different textures. The very course of the scrubbers will knock off gunk but will leave marks on the pan.
You will need subsequent passes with more delicate sponges to polish up the surface. Finishing up with a scour daddy pad should give you the final smooth surface.
ProTip: If you are familiar with sanding, think of this as sanding with increasingly finer sandpaper until all the stuck sugar is gone and the fine units polish off the marks caused by courser scrubbers.
If the damage is too much and scrubbing with your hands tires you before you can get rid of the stains, you could try starting with a wire wheel on a power drill to knock off most of the blemish.