Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Cleaning "ruined" pots
I'm happy right now. I have just resurrected an apparently hopelessly burned pot, and what is more, one of my favorites.
Okay, most of us have done it. We're cooking something in a pot, and we forget about it, or we serve out of it, and forget to turn the burner off. I've done it more times than I care to admit. (Okay, twice, but that's twice too many with good quality cookware.) And then what happens? Whatever is in the pot dries up, turns black, and molecularly bonds to the inside of the pot. If someone could make paint this tough, they'd make billions.
So, no matter what you do, the inside of your pot is coated black. Scrub it with Scotch-Bright, or Brillo, and it stubbornly stays black, no matter how long you keep at it. Scrub for ten minutes in front of the sink, or go watch a movie and scrub for the whole hour and a half, and the pot stays black.
So your beloved pot or pan is ruined, right? Unless you have access to some industrial grinding and polishing machines, you just have to buy a new pot. Or so it would seem.
As I said, I've been there. On the most memorable occasion, I had made a beef stock, and was reducing it to a glace, when this woman showed up, distracted me, and it wasn't until the next morning that I remembered my glace. When I got back to it, it was a thick coating of carbon on the bottom of the pot. I scrubbed, sanded, and chipped at it, and it never seemed to get any thinner.
Fortunately, my roommate at the time was one of those people with their own opinions, and the will to express them. Otherwise, I probably would have given up. But he kept at me. "No WAY are you going to get that pot clean," and so on. So, just to prove him wrong, I kept researching it. And then, one day, I came across a site that told me to use Cream of Tartar.
I could hardly believe it was that simple, but I went and got some Cream of Tartar anyway, poured a couple of inches of water into the pot, a couple tablespoons of Cream of Tartar, and brought it to a boil. I then took some steel wool, and pushed it around the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. The black disappeared as if by magic, and soon my pot was all bright and shiny again.
And, that of course, is what I just did with the other pot last night. And that is what you can do if you ever burn a pot like that.