Arm & Hammer to the rescue …

The other day I tried a new recipe, one from a friend. I cooked it in an enamel cast iron dutch oven. To my horror, when it was done cooking and I started to dish it out, I could see that the entire bottom of the pot was pretty thickly-coated with black, burnt, caked-on food. And I do mean the entire bottom.

A kitchen disaster. I could have cried. The pot is new and was expensive.

Gulping, I consulted the booklet that came with the pot. Following the instructions, first I let the pot cool. Plunging a hot pan into cold water can result in cracking or loss of enamel. I then filled it with warm water and left it to soak for a while. Some of the food did loosen, so I dumped everything out and tried again. Marginal results, so I turned to Google and did a search.

Following the new instructions I found, I filled the pot up halfway with water, put it on the stove and let the water come to a boil. Then I reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 15 minutes and then shut off the heat and let it cool. I also gently nudged the offending mess with a wooden spoon, trying to loosen it. NEVER, EVER USE METAL IN AN ENAMEL POT OR PAN.

Moderate success. So I emptied the pot, filled it again, let it boil again, let it simmer again, etc. etc. This I did four times.

Amazingly, after the fourth try, the pot was practically back to its original condition. Except for a sprinkling of what looked like black freckles everywhere.

When I’d done the Google search there were a couple of other “remedies” for stubborn stains. One was to fill the pot with four quarts of water and bring that to a boil. Once boiling, add two tablespoons of baking soda — SLOWLY, ONE AT A TIME, BECAUSE IT REALLY BUBBLES UP AND FOAMS. Stir, let it simmer for a few minutes while nudging the food particles with the wooden spoon.

Unfortunately, I had no baking soda in the house. I’d just dumped the box that had been in the fridge and hadn’t yet replaced it. So the next morning, bright and early, I charged off to the grocery store — in the pouring rain.

Like magic, it worked. Perfectly. I stood at the stove and watched the remaining bits of food float to the surface. My pot’s pristine, like it’s never been used, fresh out of the box.

So much for all the fancy and costly cleaners out there. Like with most things, simple solutions are usually the most effective. As for the recipe, luckily the food hadn’t been ruined and it was delicious. I will definitely be making it again and again. But not unless I have baking soda on hand.




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