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I haven't been cooking for long — recent college grad — so I'm doing a lot of experimentation and making a lot of rookie mistakes. One of them is shown here for your viewing pleasure:

brown stains on a frying pan

My mom gifted me this pan less than a year ago. She used it for over 15 years and kept it spotless the entire time, so I'm more than a little embarassed. I suspect that these stains were caused by stray drops of oil getting onto the bottom of the pan and getting burned on. Is that right, or were they caused by something else? I use an electric stove with resistive heating coils, if it makes a difference. And more importantly, how can I get this pan clean again?

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The question should be about food. –  kiamlaluno Jul 22 '10 at 21:28
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@kiamlaluno: not so; I did check before I asked. See meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/138/… and meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/110/… –  Pops Jul 22 '10 at 21:37
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@kiamlaluno: if he's cooking for me, it's most certainly a question about food! Seriously though, this is a cooking site and the general consensus on meta is "could the average {cook/chef} learn something from this?" (meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/173/…) If you disagree, please add to the discussion. –  Dinah Jul 23 '10 at 2:16
    
@Dinah: If it is allowed, then it is fine with me. It's not completely clear to me which questions are allowed, and this question seemed a not acceptable question. –  kiamlaluno Jul 23 '10 at 3:45
    
I have a theory that what you've managed to do is cause the exact same reaction as what you're trying to do with season a cast iron pan -- effectively cook down the oil so it forms a tough, plastic-like surface. (I've done it in a few of my pans, and I find cleaning it whil fairly hot, and one of those free scrubby pads works pretty well) –  Joe Jul 23 '10 at 9:02

6 Answers 6

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I too use barKeepers Friend...love it. However, use a piece of crumpled up aluminum foil to scrub off the stain. It comes right off!

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Can you tell us a little more about the crumpled up aluminum foil? Dry or wet? With or without detergents? If you can answer a bit of "why", that would help too. For what it's worth, I didn't do the downvote. I think that's a crappy way to treat new posters. Downvotes should at least include an explanation. It would be my pleasure to negate the downvote if you could make the answer a bit more useful. –  Jolenealaska Oct 21 '13 at 8:32
    
@Jolenealaska : Clarification would be good, but my take on it was that he was recommending BarKeeper's Friend, but using the foil to scrub with (rather than steel wool or some other implement) –  Joe Oct 21 '13 at 13:59
    
I used the BarKeepers Friend with crumpled foil and it worked like a charm! Required minimal scrubbing, and my pan bottom was a mess. Now it looks like I have a new pan. –  user21673 Dec 4 '13 at 16:44
    
+1 for the aluminium idea! Steel wool will destroy the pan (small scratches, making it more sticky). Aluminium is softer than steel. Good idea. –  erik Feb 23 at 13:47
    
BKF worked okay, but not great, on its own. Foil on its own didn't do much. But the combination really is amazing! Here's an "after" photo to compare to the "before" from the question. –  Pops Mar 16 at 10:26

Bar Keeper's Friend in powdered form and some elbow grease will solve this problem. The first time you tackle it, it can be a real pain to get the pan cleaned up, but if you keep up with it regularly after that, it's not to bad. Great cleaning supply.

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thats what I use. works wonders. –  shsteimer Jul 23 '10 at 12:55
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This seems to be working... you weren't kidding about the elbow grease, though. –  Pops Aug 13 '10 at 4:49
    
Will this work on non-stick cookie sheets? –  Malfist Oct 6 '10 at 23:41
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@Malfist, NO. Unless by "work" you mean completely remove the non-stick coating, forever ruining your cookie sheet. –  yossarian Oct 6 '10 at 23:49

This is little off the beaten path, but try a solvent gun cleaner (not oil).

I recently (last week) caused a catastrophic burn on one of my skillets when I let it get entirely too hot before throwing a steak on it. After a few hundred cubic feet of smoke, a smoke alarm that sounded more like an air-raid siren, and a stubborn decision to let my steak cook anyway I was left with an interior that was about 100x worse than your picture. (The steak turned out perfect).

I tried the standard google recommendations of lemon juice, vinegar, and oven cleaner. They barely put a dent in it.

On a whim I grabbed a can of Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber® Solvent / Degreaser, and decided to give it a try.

Wow! A thorough spraying, a steel wool pad, and a surprisingly little amount of elbow grease later the gunk was, I'd say, 99% gone. I still have a slight lightish brown tinge to my previously shiny surface, but I think that's as good as it's going to get.

Your profile says you live in Virginia, so there's at least a slight chance you have some of this. If not, you should be able to find some at a Wal-Mart.

Needless to say, wash it thoroughly after you've cleaned it.

Update

My pan was All-Clad stainless steel. Guns are steel, and typically devoid of any aluminum parts. If your pan is aluminum I wouldn't suggest trying this, because I don't know what would happen.

Another update

I didn't think this answer would end up getting many up votes. Since it has, I want to stress that you shouldn't just use any arbitrary gun cleaning product you have laying around. You should make sure that it's strictly a solvent/degreaser. If it indicates that it "protects" in any fashion, then avoid it. A great many solutions include an oil based protectant. This is most certainly not edible. You don't want anything that leaves behind a residue. This stuff very clearly strips everything off the metal and evaporates very rapidly. Regardless, wash your pan very thoroughly afterwards.

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+1 For creative solution / Assumption that living in VA == owns a gun. –  ManiacZX Jul 23 '10 at 1:06
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I grew up in VA :) –  hobodave Jul 23 '10 at 1:19
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So, if I want a perfect steak, all I have to do is disable the smoke alarm and buy some gun cleaner. Got it. I have the same kind of pans, so this is good to know, actually. –  JustRightMenus Jul 23 '10 at 1:37
    
I live in the progressive DC suburb-land of northern VA, so no gun cleaner... maybe after I move to Norfolk in a few days, eh? –  Pops Jul 24 '10 at 3:04

Yes, these are from burned-on oil.

Steel wool should get it shiny again, with a little work. Note that this will scuff the finish of "bright" stainless steel.

This is the outside of the pan, though, so who cares? Even if you are careful, you will get similar stains again - they are pretty much inevitable. Consider them "battle scars" :-)

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+1 for confirming that it's burned-on oil, -1 for opining that the exterior of the pan is unimportant. –  Pops Jul 22 '10 at 23:28
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Heh I missed the question asking if it's burned-on oil. It didn't help that he assumes so in the phrasing of the question title. –  hobodave Jul 22 '10 at 23:41
    
@hobo, yeah, I made an assumption when I was writing the title and I thought better of it by the time I finished writing the question. Will edit. –  Pops Jul 23 '10 at 1:03

Wash. Dry thoroughly. Spray bottom with oven cleaner. Leave overnight. Rinse and wash again.

Edit: If the inside is non-stick, don't get any oven cleaner on that part.

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+1 I have done this with the no heat oven cleaner spray can and it worked like a charm. –  papin Jul 22 '10 at 21:52

If your pan is stainless steel, I've had great luck getting really bad stains off with and electric drill with a rotary wire brush. It's best to do it outside, since it generates black dust.

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