No matter how careful you are about cleaning your interior cooking surfaces, it’s the exterior layers that take the brunt of the damage on the stovetop.
In most kitchens, it’s the frying pan that’s going to see the most use. How to clean frying pan bottoms so they sparkle once again?
There are six common solutions to this problem:
- 1. Bar Keeper’s Friend
- 2. Baking Soda
- 3. Vinegar
- 4. Vinegar + Salt
- 5. Ketchup (!)
- 6. Oven Cleaner
The first of these is by far and away the easiest, so give it a try if you’re able to source the product.
The others become increasingly abrasive or ineffective, and so I recommend working your way down the list until you’ve achieved the results that you’re happy with.
In the rest of this guide, I’m going to explain in greater detail how to tackle each one of these methods.
(If you want to explore more of my cookware content, take a look at the home cookware guide I have on the site.)
#1 – Cleaning With Bar Keeper’s Friend
This stuff works absolute magic on all kinds of cleaning jobs around the house.
If you’ve not used it before, do yourself a favor and grab a bottle at your first opportunity!
It’s the easiest method for cleaning the bottom of a frying pan, and is relatively inexpensive too.
- Read the instructions on the BKF before starting.
- Apply a small amount to the entire bottom of the frying pan.
- Leave the frying pan upside down somewhere for around 10 minutes.
- Once the BKF has worked its wonders, clean the pan as usual.
This is such a simple solution that you really owe it to yourself to try it out first.
It’s also safe to use on all kinds of cookware materials, from cast iron to stainless steel.
It’s the easiest and most effective method of the six I’ve included in this guide. You’ll get consistently great results from what is really a minor investment.
#2 – How To Clean Pots & Pans With Baking Soda
This method is a close runner-up, although it can be a little messier to undertake.
- First, combine three parts standard baking soda with one part water. This will form a sort of paste that you can apply to the bottom of the frying pan.
- Put the pan to one side and wait around 10 minutes.
- Use a gentle, non-abrasive sponge to wipe the residue off.
- Wash the frying pan as you normally would.
This makes a bit more of a mess and requires a little more effort on your part. You might have to work away at the grease and burn marks for some time too.
Do resist the urge to use an abrasive sponge here though, as it’s better to go slow and steady when working with cookware surfaces.
I think this method is better for removing obvious one-off marks, rather than brightening up the overall look of the cookware material.
#3 – Using Vinegar On Frying Pans
It’s the acidic qualities of vinegar that make it particularly useful for cleaning off grease and general stains.
It’s a popular option to try as it’s a relatively mild cleaning agent. It’s also an ingredient you’re likely to have somewhere in your kitchen already.
It’s not my first choice though, simply because you need to use quite a bit of this stuff. It’s also stinky, and can leave an unpleasant odor in the kitchen – and on your frying pan too.
Still, it’s worth attempting if you’ve tried the other two methods, or you just don’t have access to the materials required.
- Add vinegar to your sink. You’ll need enough in here so it covers the entire bottom of the frying pan once you’ve placed it inside.
- Leave the pan bottom to rest in the vinegar for longer this time – around 60 minutes.
- Once an hour is up, use a mildly abrasive scrubbing brush and go to work on the bottom of the frying pan.
- Bonus tip: Use a toothbrush on any ridges and indentations on the underside of the pan. This will help you work the cleaning agent into those tricky to reach spots.
I mentioned the smell at the start of this section, and it’s something you do need to be aware of!
I recommend opening a kitchen window or two before trying this method out.
You’ll also need to give the frying pan a thorough, regular wash when you’re finished. You really don’t want any lingering vinegar odor – or taste – left anywhere on the pan.
#4 – Add Salt To Your Vinegar
This one’s tied directly to the last approach.
If the vinegar alone hasn’t finished the job to your satisfaction, you can try adding a sprinkling of salt to the bottom of the frying pan after it’s been soaked. Then just follow the previous instructions.
A word of caution here though.
Some types of salt are notably more abrasive than others. It really depends on the size of the crystals and the brand you’re using.
Because of this I would only try this on frying pans that are made from the sturdiest materials.
Be careful too not to scrub any of it onto the more delicate areas of the frying pan either, such as the actual cooking surface.
#5 – Try Adding A Squirt Of Ketchup
This sounds ridiculous, but many people swear by the cleaning power of ketchup when it comes to cookware.
It’s definitely worth trying if the other methods have failed, but don’t expect to get the best results!
- Apply just a small amount of ketchup to the underside of the frying pan.
- Work it into the surface in as mess-free a manner as possible.
- Wait 10 minutes, and then clean the bottom of the frying pan.
- Clean as usual afterwards, until all the ketchup has been cleanly removed.
IMPORTANT: Do not try this method with cast iron cookware. Store-bought ketchup isn’t exactly overflowing with tomato-y goodness. Still, this ingredient is infamous for causing problems with cast iron pots and pans.
#6 – Oven Cleaner (But Use With Caution)
I consider this the nuclear option when it comes to repairing the exterior of a frying pan.
It will depend on the exact make of frying pan you own, but using oven cleaner on any part of cookware can void your warranty.
This is the method to try when:
- You’ve tried all the other methods.
- You absolutely cannot live with dirty exteriors on your pots and pans.
- Your frying pan is out of warranty, or you’re not fussed about exercising it.
If you’re comfortable with all three of those conditions, here’s what you need to do:
- Apply a very light coating of oven cleaner to the bottom of your frying pan.
- Leave it for a few hours somewhere it’s out of reach. Ideally you should leave it overnight for the best results.
- Use a scouring sponge to work away at the grime as best you can.
- Wash the frying pan, and make sure all traces of oven cleaner have been removed.
Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure!
Hopefully at least one of those measures has restored your frying pan’s appearance nicely.
There’s no getting away from the fact that a well-used set of pots and pans will pick up lasting grime over time though.
With that in mind, there are some useful tips you can follow to prevent the problem happening in the first place.
- Try to get in the habit of cleaning your pans as quickly as possible after you’ve finished cooking and eating. Pay extra attention, of course, to the bottom of your frying pan.
- If the bottom of the pan can’t be easily cleaned with the usual wash, give it a good soak before finishing the job later on. Never soak cast iron though. This material hates moisture, and will rust and otherwise degrade if you leave it soaking.
When you need to clean your cookware, always start with the gentlest method first. Only turn to more aggressive methods if that doesn’t work.
Although it’s tempting, I also avoid putting any kind of cookware through the dishwasher.
A mucky frying pan exterior might not look very nice, but you really don’t want to risk damaging the actual cooking surface. With everything that rattles around inside a dishwasher, it’s just not worth the risk.
This advice goes double if you have any kind of non-stick coating on your frying pan!
All these methods will work to one degree or another, but sometimes you have to accept that a pan’s appearance is beyond repair.
I really don’t think it’s worth buying new cookware just for appearances’ sake, but I understand this matters more to some than others.
Assuming the cooking performance of your frying pan remains unaffected, try to learn to live with these marks and burns.
Personally I like to look at this sort of superficial damage as the sign of a piece of cookware that’s been well-used and well-loved.
It means you’re getting your money’s worth out of your investment, and you’re doing something right in your cooking journey.
Mark’s a lifelong food fanatic and spent ten years working as an entertainment journalist. He now combines his love of food, drink and writing as the founder and editor of Viva Flavor. Read more