The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Washing up

washing baked on foodYears ago I met someone who had been a kitchen porter on a cruise ship. This meant that he had all the lowliest jobs including washing up at the end of the evening. This was the one duty that he loathed. He resented the time scrubbing away whilst the rest of the team were playing pool in the bar. The life was pretty good apart from the two hours a day battling with the pots.

So he hatched a plan. There must be something that would eat up all the caked-on food and fat. So rang a friend who was an up and coming research chemist.

When he came home on leave he met the chemist in a pub and a large bottle of some sort of acid was passed under the table and secreted in the inner pocket of his heavy winter coat.

“When you are back on ship and faced with a monstrous pile of pans, pour a capful of this solution into the water in the sinks and submerge the pans. Leave them for 30 minutes and then rinse them well. Never, ever, divulge your secret or your source.”

Wearing a pair of heavy duty drain gloves, he lowered the pots into the solution. It worked liked magic. Within half an hour the pots were sparkling. From then on, he’d rinse them out carefully and join his pals in the bar.

The team was bemused. The pots had never been so clean.

He did admit that the hefty catering quality saucepans were feeling the acid by the end of the trip as the handles were getting a bit wobbly. Shortly after he stepped ashore he got a strong foothold on the alternative comedy circuit so never needed to go to sea again

This evening I ventured onto the internet to try and discover what he might have used. It was probably hydrochloric acid. I discovered this pan cleaning thread in a forum. With advice regarding chemicals if you scroll down the page.

I have never had to resort to anything so potentially dangerous. My mum gave me a great tip ages ago for getting rid of baked on food in pans. It’s simple and works like a dream.

Put the pan on the top of the stove cover the base with at least half an inch of cold water and a couple of tablespoons of washing powder. Set the temperature to the lowest setting and leave to slowly reach simmering point. Let the pan simmer gently for a few minutes and leave to soak. The baked on food usually lifts of easily when scraped with a wooden spoon.

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  1. typo, sorry… should be a “redox” reaction – clearly I’m tired.

  2. Chemists are wonderful things!!
    okay, so as a chemistry graduate I’m a bit biased…

    Nonetheless, washing powder is brilliant. The bio version works even at low temperatures because of the action of the enzymes in it – they’re designed to munch through the grease and protein stains on your clothes so work brilliantly on pans. One word of warning though, if you do this in a non-stick pan the fragrance can permeate the coating and everything you cook in it for a while tastes disgustingly floral.

    While we’re on cleaning things – I amazed my fiance this evening by polishing his silver cufflinks (and my engagement ring) up to blinding sparkle with no more than a flick of the kettle switch.
    Glass bowl, tiny bit of aluminium foil, sprinkle of salt and sprinkle of bicarb of soda (less than a teaspoon). Place the items (gold or silver. Diamonds won’t mind, pearls and opals definitely will. Be careful with plated things) on top and add enough boiling water to cover. It will go fizz madly and your stuff will gleam. It gets into all the nooks and crannies too so great for anything awkward like cutlery.

    If you’re interested, it’s a redux reaction, but “it’s magic” is also true. Enjoy!

  3. Hi Fiona … I use dishwasher powder to soak things overnight, similar quantities, works like a charm


  4. Natasha

    mmmmm washing powder works a treat on nasty tea cups too!

  5. does this work on a pan thats been used to cook scrambled egg too? thats the one thing we always wrestle with – its a nightmare to clean, but i do love my scrambled eggs!!! I’ve tried squirting in some washing up liquid and water in the pan and putting it on the stove to “cook” long and slow but i’m not sure it works terribly well…


  6. Great tip, I was fighting with a lasagne dish a few days a go! Will give the washing powder a go next time

  7. Jane Weston

    Use at your own risk – But I have read and used fabric softener…just a little bit in water in the pan…leave to soak and it washes away easily.

  8. magic cochin

    This will be very useful for when I ‘just have a quick read of Cottage Smallholder’ while the basmati rice cooks!!!!!!


  9. I have used the trick with the boiling of the washing powder many times. Usually after I have cooked rice. I always forget it and burn it to a cinder. We now have a rice cooker, which is fabulous! I can thoroughly recommend.

  10. I could really have done with this tip a few months ago. I set a ham shank in a pan of water to come to the boil – with a view to tipping the water staight out and starting again so the heat was on full for a quick boil – and went off to do something else. Within seconds I had completely forgotten about the ham shank. Soem time later I was sitting in the lounge with the door shut as it was a bit draughty when I became aware of an acrid smell. On opening the door I found my whole flat, upstairs and downstairs was full of thick smoke. I think had I not noticed at this point I could have killed myself. It was a major reality check. And no my smoke alaram wasn’t working (it is now!). I fully expected the fire brigade to turn up as the smoke billowed out of all the windows. My pan looked done for, however, as it is a Hackmann, I bought all sorts of products and using tons of elbow grease managed to arrive at a pan with a bad stain on the base but a smooth surface. I wish I had known about using washing powder. Today my pan will be hosting some meaty oxtail extavaganza. Your oxtail post popped up when I googled oxtail!

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