How Ina Garten Keeps 40-Year-Old Pots And Pans Sparkling Clean

Keeping cookware pristine for years, let alone decades, seems like an impossibility for a lot of home cooks. Whether it's dealing with burnt surfaces or irreparable scratches, many people are led to believe that pans are not meant to last for long — unless you're world-renowned chef Ina Garten. The Barefoot Contessa says her go-to Dutch oven (that's probably yours, too) and pans have stayed strong for almost 40 years of what's probably heavy use. Her secret? The occasional overnight soak.

When dealing with food that's just too caked on, Garten fills her cookware with boiling-hot tap water and dish soap, then leaves it alone through the night. The warm water will soften the burnt gunk at the bottom of any pot or pan, allowing you to easily scrape it off.

While incredibly convenient and relatively straightforward, don't use this method on nonstick or cast-iron pans. The high heat and extended exposure can lead to warping or other forms of surface damage on non-stick surfaces. And that long of an exposure to water can rust iron. Keep this trick for stainless steel, enamel pans, or other cookware that can handle a lengthy soak.

Excessive dishwasher use ruins the coating on your cookware

Garten doesn't keep her pots and pans away from the dishwasher just to save on space. The professional cook states on the Ask Ina section of her website that using the dishwasher to get rid of stubborn burns can actually be detrimental to your cleaning efforts. Over time, the harsh cleaning method of a dishwasher can actually ruin the coating of even the most durable enamel or nonstick cookware, leading to permanent damage in what's likely some very expensive kitchen items.

You should also consider the possibility of your dishwasher causing kitchenware to bump and scratch against each other. You might be able to easily replace a set of dinner plates should a fork or other utensil start flying around during washing, but likely not so much with a quality enamel pot whose cost easily reaches the hundreds.

While the dishwasher might seem like the most time-convenient solution to the soaking hack, you actually don't even have to leave your cookware submerged in water overnight either. Just a few minutes could do the trick at loosening burn marks from the surface of your pots and pans, so just err on the side of caution and skip the dishwasher altogether.

Properly store your pots and pans to keep them pristine

Washing shouldn't be the only step you're careful with when it comes to keeping your cookware intact. Correctly storing your expensive pots and pans can actually continue to extend their life after a proper cleaning, especially when it comes to preventing scratches or other permanent damage.

Once you're done drying, you should try not to stack pans when you store them, as doing so can result in the bottom of your cookware scratching the surface of another. Deep enough scratches can affect the performance of your kitchenware, as they tend to ruin the nonstick properties of your pots and pans, leading to even more difficult-to-remove burns. Scratches also put you at risk of ingesting flakes from the cookware or even toxic fumes, especially with older pots and pans that might have toxic chemicals.

If you're worried about shelf space or just don't want to hang heavy cookware, don't worry. You can also minimize scratching by lining the bottom of your pots and pans with pot protectors, paper towels, or even rags.