Debra Lynn Dadd

Burned pots and pans


Hi Debra,

we're a family with 2 young children under 2. So it gets busy... to say the least. I also get distracted. I steam all my veggies rather then cook them, but lately, I've had a couple of pots in which the water has cooked off without me noticing. Yeah, bad... by the time I smelled something was wrong, the pot was literally BLACK with bubbles and all. but pitch black. The pots were expensive. Stainless steel All-Clad. It smelled bad, I took it under cool water and then got it out of the house ASAP because I feared toxic fumes.

But then, my hubby, who is a clean freak, put his mind to it and actually succeeded in scrubbing off ALL the black stuff. No cleaning chemical, wearing rubber gloves.
Now, I'm kind of wondering whether or not we should still make food in these pots. Maybe the lining was so damaged that we are now exposed to leaching of the heavy metal (stainless steel)???

I have send an email to All-clad but haven't heard from them...




If it were me, I would trash the pots. All that scrubbing compromises the surface and will cause more leaching.

Set a timer for your veggies to remind you to come look at them before they burn.

Debra :-)



If you burn another new pot, you might try this. It's a pain, but sometimes saves a new pot.

After removing the pot from the burner, make a paste (in the pot)with baking soda and castile soap. Scrape what you can with a wooden spatula, a plastic scraper or plastic putty knife (not a metal utensil). Scrub what's left with a non-abrasive scrubbing pad. Scrub gently but firmly, and gradually, more should come off.

If any burned areas remain, boil an inch of water in the pot for 10 minutes with 1/4 -1/2 cup baking soda sprinkled in. Sometimes that will release the rest of the burned stuff. If not, rinse the pot. Sprinkle baking soda on the burned areas. Spray the baking soda with water, cover the pot and let it sit overnight. The water absorbs the baking soda, helping lift some of the burned mess.

Don't run cold water on the pot immediately after removing it from a hot burner, as it can cause warping.

Gina Ryerson


Is there a test kit available to test for what might be leaching out of the pots? Pots can be so expensive I'd hate to trash an ok pot.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: That's a good question. I don't know of one. Readers?

POSTED BY D HOSFORD :: GEORGIA USA :: 09/12/2007 9:12 AM

I had the same kind of burning on a Visions pan, and also scrubbed vigorously with abrasive cleanser. There are small scratches on the pan now. I also have small scratch marks from stirring with a stainless spoon. I realize that Visions is almost totally safe, but this post made me wonder whether it is safe to keep Visions after equally rough treatment.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: OK with me. They do not leach toxic chemicals.


There are test kits for nickel leaching from stainless steel. I am allergic to nickel, and discovered that my stainless steel pans were leaching nickel into my foods, and really causing terrible dermatitis on my hands. I had to get rid of all the stainless that contained unbound nickel. Too much nickel can be harmful to anyone, not just the nickel allergic.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: These test kits are quite easy to find on the internet. Just type "nickel test kit" into your favorite search engine.

POSTED BY DONNIE :: MICHIGAN USA :: 09/19/2007 5:57 AM

Hi Debra,

I've been reading your blog and comments by different people about burnt pots. Since I'm a disaster in the kitchen and always creating "toxic clouds," my pots are in terrible shape. Most are stainless steel. Since so much of stainless steel is now made in China, is it possible to buy American-made cooking utensils? My concern is about lead leaching into the food as it's cooking, since that seems to be a problem with stainless steel commercial products from China.

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Wait a minute. Where did you get the idea that there is lead in stainless steel products from China? Please send me the URL or other reference. As far as I know, lead is only a problem in toys with lead in the paint. Lead is not and has never been to my knowledge an ingredient in stainless steel.

POSTED BY ELLA :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 09/27/2007 8:22 AM

re. stainless steel pans /

Debra's right on with the baking soda.
I have burned mine occasionally, as well.
I shake the baking soda into the pan, and add
white vinegar, which makes it bubble, and leave it over night.
By morning it is easy to clean with no scraper. Just a cloth and my finger nail pressure.

Love your information, Debra and readers.


One way I prevent burning when steaming is keeping a separate pot nearby with hot water, ready to add it to my cooking pot if the water gets dangerously low. That way, I don't have to rush the pot to the sink and wait for tap water to heat up.

I'll also start setting a timer!

POSTED BY GINA :: CA USA :: 09/27/2007 8:56 AM

I thought I'd share my "recipe" for a cleanser that's virtually foolproof and simple to use for burnt-on messes. I suffer from "Cook Everything On High Heat" syndrome. Which is okay, except if I get distracted or busy doing something else. It's not my "recipe" (not clever enough for that), but I have tried it on aluminum, enamel, Visions, steel, etc., and I love it.

Make a thin paste (NOT runny -- you want the consistency of thin pancake batter) of cream of tartar and white vinegar, pour it onto the burnt, baked-on mess, and let it sit for a few minutes. The mess will come up with just a little friction from a scratch pad.

When I've used it to clean oven messes (the REALLY stubborn, repeatedly-baked-on kind), I've left it on there for half an hour or so before removing it.

One last comment, since I use this concoction on my many messes, it saves me a LOT of money by buying the cream of tartar in bulk at my local health food store. My store keeps it in the bulk dried herbs and spices section.

Debra, I love and respect you and your work dearly. When I receive emails from you, they're like an email from a best friend. God bless you.

POSTED BY DEBORAH :: TEXAS USA :: 10/05/2007 12:14 PM

After overheating, but not burning, several times, a stainless steel pot made in china, I began to get nausea and dizziness almost immediately after drinking tea with water boiled in that pan. I have tried to find out about toxic metals in stainless steel cookware made in china, but have not found a website for that. can you help me with specific website, research, studies, or any other info. thanks, ml

POSTED BY ML :: MASSACHUSETTS USA :: 03/17/2008 10:20 PM

My mom suggested that I use vinegar on blackened, burnt pots. It didn't work completly until she mentioned that the vinegar needs to be warmed in the pot. Once the vinegar is cooked/soaked into all black and burnt areas, on a low fire/heat setting, 99% of the blackened areas will scrub off easily with a slightly abrasive sponge.

POSTED BY D.U. :: ARIZONA USA :: 04/10/2008 12:56 PM


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