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Spring is the perfect time to up your cleaning game.

Spring Clean Your Cookware

As the weather starts looking nicer, it gets to be the time of year to clean. Spring is associated with cleaning for a few reasons. It's partially symbolic – this is season when lawns and gardens come back to life, so it only makes sense that homes should be spruced up a bit as well. It's also a practical decision. When it's cold out, you're less likely to brave the weather to go out or have people over. Once the weather starts to look beautiful and sunny, most people are inspired to invite friends over.

Whether you're cleaning up for a dinner party or simply refreshing your kitchen, you need to know how to properly clean your cookware. The make and material of your pots and pans, along with what kind of mess you're dealing with will define how you need to approach your cleaning. As long as you're equipped with the proper knowledge, however, your cooking dishes will be shiny and clean in no time at all:

Cast Iron

"Soap will damage cast-iron cookware."

Cast iron is probably the trickiest and most confusing cookware material out there. Cast-iron cookware should be a staple in people's kitchens. You can use these pans on the stove or in the oven, and the longer you use them, the better they get. This has to do with how cast-iron pots are seasoned. As you cook with them, a layer of fats and oils develops over the top of the cookware. This gives it a non-stick surface, prevents it from rusting, and keeps your food from interacting with the metals in the pan.

Though these pans are incredibly useful, they come with a drawback. Cast iron requires specific care, and treating the material poorly even once can seriously damage it. When you're done cooking, pour a little bit of oil and a sizable amount of coarse salt into the pan. Use a paper towel to scrub the pan with the salt. Once you've scrubbed the entire pan, rinse it with hot water. Don't use soap – that will break down the layer of seasoning you've worked so hard to build, and it could even make the food you cook in the pan taste soapy. 

Burnt Stainless Steel

Stainless steel has a straightforward cleaning process for regular use: Simply wash with dish soap and hot water. However, accidentally leaving a stainless steel pan on a hot stove can leave you with a big mess. Fortunately, you can clean these pans with products you probably already have in your kitchen. All you need is water, white vinegar, baking soda, and a scourer. Start by putting enough water in the pan that it totally covers the bottom. Then, add 1 cup white vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, remove it from the heat and pour in 3 tablespoons of baking powder and wait. Once the fizzing has slowed down, pour the mixture out and scrub with the scourer. The burnt residue should start to come off without too much trouble.

Before you know it, your pans will look like new again. Before you know it, your pans will look like new again.

Forgotten Disasters

The ultimate spring cleaning disaster: You reach into your cabinet and pull out a countertop grill you haven't used in months. You open it only to realize that the last time you used it, you forgot to clean it. It's coated in sticky grime and dust, and you're forced to debate between tackling the cleaning job or just throwing it out and getting a new one.

Take heart: You can handle your forgotten disasters. If the appliance is something like a press or a grill, place a warm, damp paper towel between the heat plates. If it has a low setting, you can turn it on to low – only let it go long enough to get warm, then turn it off, and do not leave it unattended. If it doesn't have a low setting, you can simply let the warm towel do its work. Let the paper towel dampen the surface for 10-20 minutes, then try to clean it with a scrub brush. The moisture should loosen it up enough that you can salvage the appliance.

The same principle can be applied to many different items. If it's not electronic, you can also soak the appliance in a sink full of warm, soapy water.

Quick Tips

  • Need a scrub brush last minute? Crumple up a piece of aluminum foil. It won't work as well as an actual brush, but it can work in a pinch.
  • If a pan is coated in grime from being left out overnight, stick it in the freezer for a few hours. The frozen gunk will be easier to scrape off.
  • Don't overload your dishwasher. Err on the side of caution by running two loads rather than adding "just one more dish." Even a few too many dishes can dramatically reduce the cleaning power of your machine.
  • Never use a steel wool scrub brush on cast-iron cookware.
  • You can use baking soda and a tooth brush to make a stainless steel sink shine like new.
  • If you accidentally use soap on a cast-iron cookware, you can repair the seasoning with flaxseed oil. Simply coat the entire item in the oil, then stick it in the oven set to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Take it out after a half hour, recoat it, and repeat five times.

3 Responses to Spring Clean Your Cookware

  1. Betty C Rader September 11, 2016 at 10:36 am #

    I have inherited several pieces of your cooking stones. They have never been cleaned properly and have baked on black/brown all over some of them. Is it possible to clean this off and, if so, how?

  2. Rhonda Melstrom May 11, 2017 at 7:23 am #

    Hi Betty!
    Well-loved stoneware develops a dark patina with use and time. And like seasoned cast iron, you shouldn’t use soap on your stoneware. The only tools required for cleanup are hot water and a nylon scraper.

    If your stoneware has a sticky residue you can make a paste of baking soda and water to rub onto the surface then allow to dry, scrape off with the nylon scraper and then rinse and completely air dry. Hope this helps. I’ve had some of my pieces almost 20 years and can’t get through a week without them.

  3. K Trahan June 28, 2017 at 11:32 am #

    Dropped large Pampered Chef skillet and handle broke off. Is there a replacement handle?

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