Just last night I burned pasta onto a stainless steel pan. I mean, really burned it on! I don't have a picture to show you of how bad it was at first, but the first picture you see with this article is following one treatment with baking soda, as I am going to describe.
You need to put enough water in the pan to cover the burned area, probably a minimum of one inch of water. Then pour in a generous amount of baking soda. Use at least 2 T, maybe 1/4 cup. You don’t have to measure, just dump some in. Put it on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat off and let the pan sit for a while. No particular time frame... maybe at least 30 minutes. But all day will work too. I’m pretty laid back about cleaning.
Pour out the black water. In the pictures the black water is after the first boiling of this pan, and you can see that a great deal of carbon came off. When I looked at the pan, there was still some burned residue. But, believe me, the entire bottom and some of the sides of this pan were totally gummed up with charred macaroni.
So I gave it a second treatment with the boiling baking soda. After the next rinse and a light scrubbing with a nylon scouring pad, you can see that even more came off. I purposely just used a nylon pad to show how much can be removed with just the baking soda treatment.
But how hard was it to remove the rest? Not hard at all. Since this is a metal pan that can be scrubbed, I used a steel wool pad, and timed how long it took me to get the pan completely clean. Because even those last little bits of carbon had been softened by the baking soda I scrubbed for 1 minute and 48 seconds, and removed the last of the residue.
This pan has always had some staining because it is very thin, and I do manage to burn it a little too often, but all of the carbon is completely removed.
Of course you couldn’t use a steel wool pad on a treated pan, but dealing with overheated treated pans is a whole different topic.