On weekdays, we make quick, tried-and-true recipes the whole family likes, but on Sundays I get to pick what we eat for dinner with no stipulations. Maybe the lasagna I’ve been craving or chicken biryani. I look forward to cooking, but the hard truth is that cooking and cleaning go hand in hand, and I am left with lots of dirty pots and pans to wash.
After loading the dishwasher, my husband moves the Dutch oven and cast iron skillet (two kitchen workhorses we love) into the sink, hoping that a good long soak will loosen stuck-on foods. Unfortunately, soaking is never enough to lift all that burnt-on stuff.
Harsh abrasives or scouring pads damage the enamel finish and remove the seasoning off cast iron. So what do I do instead? I turn to the one ingredient I have sitting on my counter at all times for the job: salt.
I sprinkle coarse salt over the bits of food that don’t want to come off. Then I take a damp sponge and rub it until the stuck-on bits lift off. It doesn’t take long, and my pots and pans are clean and ready for our next cooking extravaganza.
How To Scrub Your Pots and Pans Using Salt
Let’s say I have a Dutch oven with burnt, stuck-on food around the outer edges. I start by washing it with a soapy sponge and water. If it has stuck-on bits that won’t scrub off easily, I rinse it and pour out the water—excess water will dissolve the salt quickly, which I don’t want.
I sprinkle a tablespoon of coarse salt all over and rub it in circles with the sponge using the same amount of pressure as I do when washing with soap and water. The salt acts as a mild abrasive.
Once the salt dissolves and I no longer feel or see it, I rinse the pot and check to see if I need to repeat the process, but usually once or twice is enough. I give the pot one last quick wash and rinse. That’s it!.
The Best Salt for Scrubbing Pots and Pans
I use Diamond Crystal, a coarse kosher salt, because that’s what I have on hand. Coarse sea salt or other brands of coarse kosher salt, such as Morton, will work. I’ve found that coarse sea salt is rougher and stronger than coarse kosher salt, so I would reach for that if you have it.
Avoid table salt or expensive finishing salts, such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes. Table salt isn’t abrasive enough to do the job and finishing salts are too expensive and delicate—save it for these caramel brownies.
Salt Is Safe for Only Some Surfaces
I use this cleaning trick most often on my enameled cast iron Dutch ovens and my cast iron skillets, but it also works for ceramic or glass baking dishes. Refrain from using it on aluminum, stainless steel, or on pans with a nonstick coating. Salt can scratch aluminum pans and nonstick surfaces, and can cause pitting and rust on stainless steel.