Yesterday I made a veggie-loaded omelet in my 12” aluminum pan, which turned out amazing. But, while cleaning the pan, I noticed a long scratch in its center (ah, heartache). Since I am very picky about my cookware, I decided to find who did that to my favorite pan.
Upon some questioning, I realized that my younger sister used a brittle sponge when she did the dishes. That’s when I lost my cool and schooled everyone in the house to follow a proper cleaning regime with cookware and never use just any detergent/scrubber they get.
Once I was done with that little session, I realized most of us don’t take cookware cleaning seriously and don’t know the dos and don’ts of it. So, I decided to write a complete guide on how to clean hard anodized cookware.
Whether you’ve recently taken up the kitchen responsibility or your pans are in a terrible state after mild usage, read through this guide to know the dos and don’ts of anodized cookware cleaning.
What makes Hard Anodized Cookware a good option?
Aluminum is a superb heat conductor, something professional chefs love. Most aluminum pots and pans last for years, thanks to their durability.
Some manufacturers treat aluminum cookware with chemicals (inert ones) and pass a high-voltage current through the chemical bath to form a hardened outer layer. This oxidized layer gives the name hard anodized to your favorite cookware.
Anodized cookware provides even heating, a non-reactive cooking surface, durability, and ease of use altogether. If you’re tired of seasoning your pans and need a reliable alternate, hard-anodized aluminum cookware is the answer.
How to Clean Hard Anodized Cookware?
Before I explain tips and tricks to clean your cookware correctly, note things you should avoid if you have anodized pots and pans.
Things That Harm Hard Anodized Cookware
- Brittle sponges/scrubbers – They scratch hard anodized cookware’s interiors, eventually making the non-stick surface useless.
- Chlorine-loaded liquid cleaners – Chlorine is a harmful substance that negatively impacts your health and the cookware’s usability.
- Extreme high temperatures – Extreme high temperatures can chip the hard anodized surface. Once it starts to chip, your pan/pot will soon become sticky.
- Sudden temperature changes – When you add cold water in a hot anodized pan, it causes metal warping and denting; let your aluminum cookware cool before you wash it.
Food burning and sticking incidents aren’t that frequent with hard-anodized cookware, so don’t stress everyday cleaning. Washing/cleaning hard anodized aluminum cookware doesn’t differ from other casseroles, except that this one requires certain cleaners to make it all shiny and tidy.
There are three ways to clean hard anodized cookware when it’s not burnt or severely discolored:
- Dish Soap
Rinse your aluminum pot/pan with warm water to remove the loose gunk and oil. Soak a soft cleaner, i.e., a spaghetti scrubber, in soapy water and wipe your pot/pan’s interiors with it.
If some food/oil particles don’t come off, soak your aluminum pan in soapy water for 5-10 minutes while you work on other dishes.
This step will loosen the grime, and you’re all set to give the pan/pot a thorough rinse. Don’t forget to towel dry your pans to prevent rusting.
White vinegar is the safest dish cleaner, easily available in most kitchens. It not only protects your hard anodized cookware from scratching, but it’s also a good shiner.
Mix one part white vinegar with three parts warm water and soak your hard anodized cookware in the mixture for 15-25 minutes.
This step will remove any discoloration, rusting, and stains from your pot/pan. If, however, you aren’t happy with the results, finish this step by gently scrubbing your cookware, and it will be clean within minutes.
- Cream of Tartar
Stains can ruin any cookware set’s look. If you love to keep your kitchen neat and tidy, do something about the stains on your hard anodized cookware. These stains appear because of regular usage and sudden temperature changes; treating them is not that difficult.
Pour some water into your anodized pan/pot, add two tablespoons of cream of tartar in it, and bring this mixture to boil. Drain the water out, and use a soft cleaning brush to scrub the pan’s interiors.This step will remove most discoloration and stains from your hard anodized cookware.
Most home cooks carefully clean their cookware’s interiors but leave the exteriors thinking they don’t matter much. However, having cookware that is clean from inside out makes your kitchen look good and safe.
- Soapy Water
If your hard anodized pan’s exteriors aren’t rusted, you can quickly clean them with regular dish soap and water. Soak your cookware in warm water, add some liquid cleaner to it, and this shall do.
If you see some grime on your pan’s exteriors, use your sponge’s coarse side to rub it off (scrubbing the outer side is safe).
- Baking Soda
Although using baking soda inside hard anodized cookware is not a smart move, you can confidently use it to clean the exteriors.
Mix some baking soda in warm water to form a thick paste and apply it to your pan’s outer side. Let the mixture do its magic for 10-15 minute and rinse it off with cold water. Ta-Da, Your pan is all shiny now!
- Scouring Agent
Scouring agents are relatively harsh chemicals used to remove oil stains from cookware and a few other surfaces. If none of the above methods work, buy a good-quality scouring agent from your nearest store to revive your hard anodized cookware’s look.
Mix the scouring agent in water to form a thick paste and coat the pan’s outer surface with it. You’ll see slight oxidation as the chemicals do their job.
After the mixture is dry, use the coarse side of a sponge to wipe it off, and you’ll love the shine of your pot/pan.
However, be mindful that you should not use a scouring agent inside your hard anodized cookware!
How to Care for Hard Anodized Cookware?
Cleaning hard anodized (or any other) cookware is not a one-time job; you must be considerate about the aftercare too.
Once you’re done cleaning your aluminum pots and pans, follow the below-listed tips to enjoy their clean cooking surface for a longer time.
It’s okay if you forget to follow these tips once in a while; make sure not to make them a habit, and you’re good.
- Hand wash
Even if your cookware is labeled as dishwasher-safe, I suggest you prefer hand washing. Leaving coated cookware in a dishwasher makes it prone to scratches and dents, something we all wish to avoid.
Moreover, dishwashers often do not clean the built-up residue, and it keeps increasing with time. When you manually wash your hard anodized cookware, it’s safe from scratches and looks better, so why not?
- White vinegar polish
Any cookware can lose its shine with regular usage; to revive that shine, you need proper polishing.
However, since health authorities don’t recommend silver polish and other such chemicals, you should opt for a healthier alternate; white vinegar.
I follow this practice with my cookware, and it’s going well. Soak a kitchen towel in white vinegar and rub it on your hard anodized cookware’s exteriors (not inside). You can either leave the pans and pots as it is or rinse them before storing, your call.
- Avoid coarse scrubbing
I always recommend this; no matter how greasy or stained a coated pan/pot is, never use a coarse scrubber inside it. This step might reduce your cleaning time, but it will affect your cookware, making it hard to use in the longer run.
So if you’re frustrated because of burnt food or accumulated grease, follow any of my above-shared suggestions to clean it. You can also try several ways to see which one suits your cookware the most.
Is hard anodized cookware scratch-resistant?
Not really. Although hard anodized cookware is extremely durable, it’s not scratch-resistant. But that’s not it. If you follow a proper cleaning schedule (as I explained earlier), you can enjoy scratch-free anodized cookware for years.
Don’t use abrasive cleaners and harsh detergents with anodized cookware if you want to increase its lifespan and usability.
A few manufacturers say their hard-anodized cookware is dishwasher safe, but it’s not a sustainable approach.
Like any other coating, the anodized layer can also chip off when cleaned carelessly. So, be proactive and reap the advantages of your hefty cookware splurge.
What are the advantages of hard anodized cookware?
Aluminum cookware itself is a reliable option. When paired with the non-reactive anodized layer, it becomes a superb addition to your kitchen.
First, a hard-anodized layer ensures fast and even heating. You won’t face hot spots in a hard-anodized pan/pot because heat quickly transfers across this oxidized surface.
Second, hard-anodized cookware is non-reactive and safe. Unlike Teflon coatings, this layer doesn’t leach toxic fumes into your food.
Third, the anodizing process makes aluminum impressively durable. If properly cared for, hard anodized cookware never chips or peels, all thanks to its electro-chemical treating.
Do I need to season anodized pans?
No, there’s no need. Unlike bare cast-iron and stainless steel cookware, hard-anodized sets come with a protective coating that doesn’t need seasoning.
During the manufacturing process, aluminum pots and pans undergo an electro-chemical reaction that oxidizes their outer surface.
This oxidized surface increases the aluminum core’s durability and makes it low-stick. If you season hard anodized cookware, it doesn’t serve any purpose because the non-porous layer is already there.
So, use a gentle amount of cooking oil and enjoy fast cooking with your hard anodized cookware.
What’s the best way to deal with grime in anodized pots?
Scouring and scrubbing; follow these two practices, and removing grime from your cookware will never be a problem again.
If your aluminum pans have dark dirt in their corners or you face an uneven cooking surface, it’s because your cookware isn’t clean.
It could be because of burnt food gunk or excessive greasing; whatever is the reason, use a scouring agent to deal with it.
A scouring agent is an abrasive cleaner mixed with dry soap and a mild bleach powder. When you mix this powder with water, it forms a thick paste, used to remove oily and stubborn stains.
Bar Keeper’s Friend (BKF) is a reliable scouring powder to be used with cookware. If your hard anodized cookware has thick, burnt grime, apply a layer of the scouring agent on the pan’s surface and let it sit. Rinse this paste after 10-15 minutes, and wash it with your regular dish soap.
My anodized cookware alters the food color; what could be the reason?
When we regularly use a hard-anodized pot/pan, food gunk starts accumulating inside it. If you thoroughly clean your cookware weekly or bi-weekly (I am talking about deep cleaning, not daily rinsing), this grime won’t impact your food’s taste and aroma.
However, if you rely on gentle rinsing, this grime will start disturbing your food’s color.
Some years ago, I had a 12” hard-anodized skillet, and since I didn’t know about scouring/gentle scrubbing back then, it would give my sauteed veggies a weird color. But once that pan’s insides were all scoured and clean, it never affected the food’s natural color again.
I suggest you also scrape your hard anodized pot/pan to prevent this problem.
Most home cooks don’t understand the significance of a proper cookware cleaning and maintenance routine.
If you rely on gentle rinsing and think your hard anodized cookware will do fine with it, you’re missing out. Even if you have a new cookware set, follow a care routine to enjoy it for a longer span.
All of the above-listed tips come from my experience, so you won’t go wrong with any of them. Pick a method and stick to it to enjoy effortless, healthy cooking in the future. Toodles!