March 4, 2015

No Use Crying Over Burnt Milk: A Pot Cleaning Tutorial

In an attempt to be a good host (and because my grandmother had mentioned it on the phone a number of times over the past month) I decided to make baked mac and cheese for dinner one night during Alex's visit. My gram makes the BEST mac and cheese and its the kind with the white sauce made with milk and white cheddar, real bread crumbs and butter on top. It is awesome and delicious and I'm a HUGE fan. Thinking about it now makes my mouth water.

I picked up the ingredients, and following a recipe I had found online, threw together some mac and cheese. In the middle of making the sauce, my uncle called me. The thing I need point out about this phone call is that he never calls, and my dad had been in and out of the hospital a few times the previous week. Naturally a call like this is bound to stir some nerves, so despite being in the middle of cooking, I picked up the phone. Of course it turned out to be fine, he was just inquiring about my dad, but in the two minutes we were on the phone I burnt the milk and cheese and scorched my pan. The sauce looked fine so I went ahead and used it on my mac and cheese, only to end up causing the entire batch to taste smokey (even though it wasn't). How disappointing. Add this to the list of #kitchenfails for Castle DIY.

But back to the pan. I burnt it. Like really, really burnt. To a crisp. It was like my milk and cheese concoction meta-morphed itself into the blazes of the sun and turned the bottom of this pot to molten black rock. So I tried some of my standard methods for removing the blackened milk:
  1. Overnight soak with dish soap followed by a heavy scrubbing. In fact, I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. Nothing. No amount of elbow grease and steel wool would get the residue out of the pain. 
  2. A cycle in the dishwasher on high-temp wash. Nada.
  3. The next rabbit I pulled out of my hat was salt. I dumped a few tablespoons of salt in the water and boiled it. I have found that this works well for removing food particles easily - like sticky rice or overcooked beans. Unfortunately, this was a no-go, too.
  4. Awesome. As in the cleaning product. This stuff works great as a degreaser and I have used it to get the sticky brown residue off of my stove eyes many-a-time. I left it to soak overnight and came back to it the next morning. This is about when the pot started laughing at me. I'm fairly certain I heard the sound of stainless steel giggling. 
  5. Bleach. Don't judge. I'm getting desperate at this point. 
  6. Another go in the dishwasher. Maybe I didn't hit high temp wash after all?
  7. How about another soak? Little pot, do you prefer Dawn with bleach alternative or the original blue formula?
  8. Denial. At this point I'm seriously considering calling it a day and throwing the darn thing in the trash to hide all evidence of failure.
  9. Abandonment. Maybe if I leave the pot in the sink with water for a week it'll just magically clean itself. 
At this point the pot has been sitting in my sink like its on vacation for the last ten days. TEN WHOLE DAYS. I can't believe I'm admitting this on the internet. 

So, with the exception of taking the pot out to the back yard and trying to clean it with the power washer (someone - Matt - would have to hold it and that just sounds dangerous) or slipping it into the recycling unnoticed, I had one more card up my sleeve that I was willing to try. And I had no faith that it was going to work. Not at all.

And ya know what? Thank goodness I am wrong most of the time because this totally worked. And I already had the things I needed on hand and you probably do too.

What You Need

Hydrogen peroxide
Baking soda
Steel wool or scrubby-thing
The evil pot in question (and the lid)

What You Do

1. I did not even measure. I just dumped a pile of baking soda (maybe a couple of tablespoons) into the pot.

2. I added about a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide to the pot to make a paste. 

3. I swished it around a little, I put the lid on it and walked away. I WALKED AWAY. I left the pot and hydrogen peroxide/baking soda concoction over night and came back the next morning. I poured out the mixture, rinsed with warm water and got something that looked like this:

I know it probably doesn't look like much, but scroll up and see the difference! It lifted a bunch of gunk with absolutely no scrubbing.

5. Scrub. Just a little. I took some steel wool and scrubbed the inside for a few minutes with hot water. Whereas before I was not able to even use the steel wool because it was getting caught up on the offending stuck-on-burnt-stuff, now it was coming off in flakes. After just a few minutes of elbow grease the pot looked like this:

Hallelujah! I honestly thought this pot was a goner. 

Until next time!


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