Every cook does it at one time or another. The marinara was cooking away merrily, I left the heat on too high, and before I knew it, the food had scorched. There's nothing quite like the sinking feeling that you might not be able to use your $50.00+ solid stainless pan again, because it'll likely never come clean and you may as well just throw it away.
No, I'm too cheap for that. And I'm too lazy to chip away at the burned tomatoes for hours on end. So today I looked at my pan and wondered if it still could be salvaged. As it turns out, easily.
The layer of scorched food was pretty thick--roughly 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch thick. So I filled the pan about an inch over the scorched spot, and added 1/4 cup of sodium bicarbonate. Common baking soda. I brought the water to a boil, stirred it a little, covered it and reduced the heat just enough to keep it boiling for about twenty minutes.
When I went back to check on it, the water was black. So I poured it out, thinking I could try something else.
But as I did, I noticed large chunks coming out from the water, and once it was empty, I realized that all but a few tiny bits of the scorched food came out. The rest came off with a little dishwashing liquid and water, with a couple of swipes of a cleaning sponge.
So before you get fed up and replace that expensive pan, try a little baking soda and water. For 20 minutes and $0.15 worth of materials, it's definitely worth a try!