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Pots and Pans: Coming Clean

Your pots and pans see a lot of action, especially at this time of year. Show them some TLC—and learn how to wash them with a gentle touch.

Photography by: YASU+JUNKO
Use a paper towel to wipe excess grease off dirty cookware before washing it. You’ll need far less dishwashing liquid and water to get it clean.

1. Anodized Aluminum

Aluminum cookware that’s coated with a nonreactive layer (so it’s safe to use with acidic foods, like tomatoes) is not dishwasher-safe. Hand-wash it with mild dishwashing liquid and a light-duty nylon sponge. Oily residue will cause food to stick to it, so be certain it’s totally clean before you cook.


Hard-anodized cookware covered saucepan, by Martha Stewart Collection, $180 for a 12-piece set,


2. Enamel-Coated

Putting this type of cookware in the dishwasher can dull its finish and cause chips (which can then react with acidic foods). So hand-wash it with a light-duty nylon sponge and mild dishwashing liquid. Dry it completely with a dish towel, especially the rim, where nicks and scratches—and thus rust—are most likely.


Enameled cast-iron round casserole, by Martha Stewart Collection, 6 qt., in White, $180,


3. Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pots and pans are heavy, durable—and dishwasher-safe. Just be sure that no sterling-silver or silver-plated items are in the machine at the same time; mixing these metals can lead to a chemical reaction that pits the silver. If you handwash, then use a lightduty nylon sponge and mild dishwashing liquid.


Copper Accent covered stockpot, by Martha Stewart Collection, 8 qt., $100,


4. Nonstick

Most nonstick pans are not dishwasher-safe; hand-wash them with a soft sponge and mild dishwashing liquid. Never scour them with anything abrasive—doing so can damage the nonstick layer. If the coating is scratched or peeling, discard the piece; a compromised coating can release toxic compounds.


Black Everyday ceramic nonstick pan, by GreenPan, $80,


5. Copper

Hand-wash copper cookware as you would other pots and pans that aren’t nonstick. The inside is usually lined with tin or stainless steel (since copper reacts to acidic foods); tin can be allowed to darken naturally with use. To get the outside sparkling-clean, cut a lemon in half, sprinkle it with coarse salt, and rub it all over the exterior until it gleams.


Copper sauté pan, by Mauviel, 3½ qt., $350,


6. Cast Iron

Most cast-iron products need to be seasoned before being used for the first time. (Each pot or pan should come with instructions.) To clean a seasoned pan, wash it with a soft sponge and hot water only. Never use soap (or a dishwasher), which will strip the seasoned surface. To prevent rust, dry the pan with a towel or over a low flame on the stove top before storing.


Round fry pan, by Lodge, 12", $36,


How to Handle The Stubborn Stuff

Stuck-on Bits

With cast-iron cookware, simply pour coarse salt on it and scrub with a dishrag. For everything else, fill the pot or pan with water and ¼ cup baking soda. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat, and let the pot soak for an hour. Then scrape the pot clean with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.


Bad Burns

Fill the pot or pan with cold water and 2 to 3 tablespoons salt. Let it soak overnight. In the morning, boil the water; the marks should disappear. (If not, repeat the process.) Soaking stainless steel, though, can pit it; instead, rub it with a dishrag dipped in white vinegar to remove burn marks.