Saturday, February 25, 2012

Must Have Done It Myself

Big black crust already removed
and the bottom scraped with a sandwich knife
It's a new and, I should say, undesirable alchemy for the kitchen. Take a perfectly good reduction of juice to a syrup and turn it into 3/4" deep layer of firm, foam-like char on the bottom of the sauce pan.  Well, OK, not new at all.  But it is the first time I've burned up juice.

I've had, most unfortunately, plenty of experience burning up (please note the difference between burning the potatoes and burning up the potatoes--which, for the record, I've never done, yet) peas (several times), carrots, broccoli, artichokes (this was amazing), and I honestly cannot remember what else, though, of the list, everything but the artichokes has been burned up more than once.

About three years ago we purchased a set of pots and pans from the big box store.  It was in the middle of the "Harry Potter" fever, and the pots looked like little cauldrons.  We loved them and still do.  And then I  burned up something in the medium/small pot, which for some reason seems to take the brunt of my pyroculinary skills.  All subsequent charrings have occurred in this pot.

But back to the black at hand.  At the time of this big smoke, I ran the pot out the back door to finish smoldering.  And then we went away for the weekend.  Some tasks find their way into my heart, my hand and my list of Things I get to do today--face it and do it.

Chipped out the black foam.  Scrubbed the pot.  Absolutely not better.  Thought of all the clever things a Handy Andy would do to cause the char to release easily.  Added water and brought it to a boil on the stove.  Nothing.  Put in 1/2 cup of vinegar, boiled it.  Nope.  Soda?  No.

I scraped at it with a rounded metal sandwich knife that my sister-in-law had given my about 8 years ago--another friend in my kitchen. It was very slow and made scratch marks on the surface of the pot.  I remembered that if the pan were as hot or nearly as hot as the burn, the black remnants would probably release, which is why boiling water won't work--the water keeps the pan at 212 degrees--not anywhere nearly as hot as the "fire".  So I put in some oil for a solvent and turned on the burner again.  A wooden spatula worked pretty well to get the flat surface mostly clean, but then the oil started to smoke up the house.

Clean and scratched, but clean
Ultimately it was the sandwich knife that loosened all the remaining chunks of char from the pan.  There were visions of my being a dental hygienist removing scale from teeth as each remaining tiny, blacken piece of burned juice popped off the pot.

I can hear my grandmother saying that "prevention is better than a cure" and "a watched pot never boils" or burns for that matter.   I'd like to hear from you.  Is there a better way or is my grandmother right on?

PS.  The "bright" side of this tale (pun intended) is that the first time this pot was used to burn up something, the inside remained an ugly, mottled gray.  The next time it was shiny.  Then ugly mottled gray, and this time shiny bright!  I'm seriously planning to keep it that way.


  1. When I first lost my sense of smell (several years ago) I burned lots of things, and ruined lots of pans. My solution now is to always have my timer on to remind me that there is something on the stove! Works for me.

    1. oh dear -- plenty of experience burning things, not a lot of experience getting the char off. my solution? i don't cook anymore; i buy it all at Trader Joe's so i only have to reheat!

    2. I've got a great timer that I can actually carry around with me when I'm distracted by other tasks. Thanks for the idea.