Everyone loves cooking. Okay – Maybe “everyone” is a bit extreme, but if you’re one of those that do love whipping up some homemade cooking for dinner, chances are you’re not big into the clean-up. Fear not, and don’t ruin your dinner plans by letting the dread of clean-up get to you. We’ve got some great tips for getting rid of stuck-on bits of meals gone by. That said, you should always get to it as soon as possible. As fats and oils congeal and harden, some acids and proteins wear down the coating on your cookware. The problem can get even worse if you got burned food on the surface of your baking tray! Whether it’s cookies or casseroles, these tips make it easy to get the job done before you’re ready for dessert.

Soak and Sit

Your first instinct happens to be one of the best methods to loosen the charred remains of your culinary masterpiece. Many people will run hot water into a pot with some soap and let it sit (some until the bottom rusts out). Soap is really good at getting under and around all the usual dirt and grime. However, it’s not great at breaking things down that are a little stronger. It is really not good at doing the hard work when you’re not working with it. Soap, just sitting on its own, isn’t the most active cleaning agent.

Instead, try some Alka-Seltzer tablets. This stuff works great for a variety of digestive problems. However it can also help you out in a wide variety of places around the house. One of the most immediately noticeable is in loosening up stubborn food on your dishes. Plop five or six tablets in a pot full of hot water and watch them bubble away. Leave them to sit for a while while the citric acid breaks down the bonds that make burned food so strong. Come back with a good scrubber and some dish soap and finish the fight. You’ll be amazed at how well it works.

Another strange and amazing soak is the dryer sheet. It’s a bit of a mystery why this one works, but with celebrity endorsements and years of homemakers swearing by the method, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying. Similar to the seltzer, set it and forget it. Come back an hour later and start scrubbing, watching the job melt before your eyes.

Baking Soda and Friends

If you don’t have an hour to spare, baking pans react well to hot water, soap, and baking soda. You’ll still need to give your dishes a good soak – 15 to 30 minutes – But after that, the scrubbing will go a lot easier. If you want to make it so it goes even faster, mix up the same concoction but bring it to a boil before you let it sit. The heat will expand the metal of your cookware, and the hot water will help get the soda in between all the little bonds of the stuck-on food.

If that doesn’t get the job done and even boiling it didn’t help, you might recall mixing vinegar and baking soda for a science project back in elementary school. Well, you can apply that to your adult life and get your pots and pans sparkling again! Boil a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water to loosen the food, then pour out the liquid and let your pan sit with some baking soda sprinkled on the stain. Once it’s cooled, add some more soda, some more water, and scrub it away with a plastic scrubber.

Prevention goes a long way, too! Make sure to use a timer to prevent burned food in the first place. Also, invest in a wooden spoon if you don’t have one. These are essential to keeping the food moving and preventing burns on your pans without damaging the coating.