One time, when I was a teenager, I set off the house fire alarms from forgetting that I was boiling noodles on the stove. Yep, you heard that right. I completely forgot about it, so all the water boiled away and the noodles started smokin’. I’m better that that now…I never burn anything with a lot of liquid in the pan. But any dish that has me cook something thick—unsupervised—for longer than a half hour is likely to end up as a burned pan. I’m sorry, I am an active cook. I can fly around the kitchen like no one’s business. But if you say I can leave it for an hour, I probably will. Only when my nose catches a whiff of that burned smell do I realize that my “low” wasn’t low enough, and I’m too late to save the dish. (Hence, why I use a slow cooker.) The worst is when it is something precious, like Momofuku’s taré recipe involving roasted chicken bones, mirin and soy sauce. The kitchen goes from smelling glorious to singed in less than fifteen minutes. Precious ingredients wasted. Precious time wasted.
The fact that my expensive Le Creuset Dutch oven was at stake (a wedding present from my sister, no less), prompted me to do an online investigation. This is the very best way to remove burned food from an enameled pan or treated non-stick pan without scratching it.
This hydrogen-peroxide and baking soda solution was posted online and voted highly, so I gave it a try:
Add about a 1/2-inch of Hydrogen Peroxide, and 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda to the pot. Heat until it starts to bubble up. It needs the heat to start the reaction. Simmer about 10 mins … and brush with a green scrub brush and use a wooden spoon to scrape. Repeat as needed. It gets into the bond of the carbon and lifts it of the pan. It will bubble and stink, so turn on your vent. But it won’t harm the enamel. I’ve tried all the above for high sugar crusts/carbon burned on stuff. This is the ONLY thing that works 100 percent of the time without scratching your pan.
Honestly, it is magic. A bit stinky, but within 15 minutes the solution was clear and the pan was clean.
Another time, after searing some marinated flank steak in my cast iron, I needed a trick for a seasoned pan. For cast-iron pans, method #1 is to add enough water to cover the bottom of the skillet, then put it right back on the stovetop and heat it until the water begins to boil. When the water cools, use a scrubber or wooden spatula to remove all of the crud. If the crud is impossibly stubborn, method #2 is to put the pan in the oven and turn the oven to the self-clean cycle (which does kill two birds with one stone). You will have to reseason the pan after the high-temperature method.