Cooking Tip: Food Tar Clean-up

By Caroline

This cooking tip gets a Venn Diagram Award* for overlapping in the minute nexus of simplicity and functionality. How to clean your badly mucked-up pots and pans is essential to using pots and pans in the first place.

If you ever cook** you have no doubt turned the heat up just a little too high, walked away just a moment too long, or stopped stirring just enough to allow for that inevitable scorching that coats the bottom of your stock pot or fry pan with the Dreaded Crusty Food Tar. Dread of this Crusty Food Tar has fueled the non-stick cookware industry for years, but effective Crusty Food Tar removal is simple (although the non-stick cookware makers don’t want you to know this). And simpler clean-ups mean more cooking with abandon, a key tenet of our Soup Club Manifesto.

The source of wisdom is Chef Amanda Cohen and her secret is water. Water doesn’t sound so classified, but I’d never come across this particular application until I realized that every time I texted Amanda some variation of, “Help! I left the <fill in the blank food> on too long and they burned. How can clean up my pot/pan/casserole?” She always had the same response:

“Fill the pot with water, put it on the stove over high heat until the water boils. Let it boil for a few minutes and scrub away at the gunk with a spatula or spoon.”

That’s it. No soap, baking soda, salt, lemon juice, ammonia, Mr. Clean – just boiling water in the pot of Food Tar.

dirty pot
Dreaded Crusty Food Tar.


cleaning water
Step 1: Boil water, apply spoon.


And like magic, it works. I don’t need to know the science*** of why boiling water is the world’s most amazing Food Tar Remover, I just need to spread the word.

The magic of water
Step 2: It’s Clean. That’s it.

What’s your worst Food Tar Incident? Show us your goo-caked pots and pans before and after the Hot Water Treatment!

*A Vennie?

**And you’re here, reading this, so let’s assume cooking has some role in your life.

***But if you are a scientist and have some wonderfully wonky explanation of boiling water’s efficacy, please share.