The Bear on Hulu won Best Comedy Series at the Emmys this year and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, you might remember the scene that sticks with me: a chef completely transforms a grime-coated pan that looks like it's ready for the trash. He does it with the help of Bar Keepers Friend, a restaurant industry cleaning staple. And while you can't always believe everything you see on television, I'm here to vouch for this crust-busting powder, which I consider an essential for home cooks and Michelin-starred chefs alike. I write about kitchen products for a living these days, but I used to be a professional baker, so I've had my fair share of experiences with different cleaners — and this $2 wonder is the real deal when it comes to extending the life of your cookware. Here's my honest review:
Before you toss your residue-coated pots and pans (and drop serious cash on a new cookware set), I strongly suggest treating them with Bar Keepers Friend, since there's a good chance you won't even recognize them once it's done its job. And I should know; even though I don't work in a professional kitchen anymore, I get so much use out of my pans that you'd think I was a short-order cook just by looking at them. In short, they get really disgusting really quickly.
To many people, my super-stained pans probably look downright hopeless (check out the photo below), but Bar Keepers Friend has some surprises up its sleeve. I can't tell you how many grimy pieces of cookware I've been able to salvage, thanks to its stain-lifting power, and how much money it's saved me over the years. Other cleaners I've tried don't even come close in terms of effectiveness, but I'll admit that upon first glance, it's very unassuming. After all, how much difference could a powder that doesn't even contain bleach make? That said, it's been around for over a century, so you know it's doing something right!
How to use
I'm probably the laziest cleaner on the planet, so one of my favorite things about Bar Keepers Friend is how non-labor-intensive it is. All you do is wet whatever it is you're trying to clean, sprinkle a generous amount of the powder over it, gently rub, rinse and wipe dry. The key word is "gently," as I usually don't have to exert a ton of elbow grease in order to see a big improvement — something my weak arms are very thankful for!
For the best results, I usually let it sit for a few minutes before rubbing it in to give it some time to lift the stains, rust, grease — you name it. Then I'll use a cloth or sponge and start buffing it into my pans, making sure to go in the same direction as the metal's brushstrokes if there are any. For intense stains, I've found that using the rough part of a dry sponge works better than wet, but I've also had success with damp cloths. Seeing the before and after is so satisfying and never gets old; I mean, just check out those photos of my pan a bit further down. If that doesn't have you believing in magic, I'm not sure what will!
Have I mentioned that this cleaning powder is effective at cleaning so much more than just pots and pans? You can also use it to remove stains, rust, tarnish, soap scum and mineral deposits from sinks, appliances, non-stone countertops, tubs, toilets, tile, vinyl siding, boats ... actually, it's probably quicker to list what it can't be used on, such as gold, silver (other than sterling), polished stone, cast iron and lacquered, painted or mirrored surfaces. I personally reserve it for my metal pans so as not to damage the coating on my nonstick ones, but if you're unsure, it's always smart to test the product on a small, not-so-obvious spot to guarantee it's safe.
Fun fact: Bar Keepers Friend is formulated with sustainability in mind, and half of the water used in making it is rainwater that's been collected and saved! Plus, it's also biodegradable and safe for septic systems. My one gripe is that you have to peel a sticker off of the top of the canister to reveal the holes that the powder comes out of, but then there's no lid to close them back up with. I can usually get a good amount of use out of the sticker and reuse it, but once it loses its tackiness, I'll cover it with plastic wrap held in place with a rubber band.
Thousands of Amazon shoppers agree with me when it comes to Bar Keepers Friend's effectiveness — so much so that they took the time to give it a perfect five-star rating.
"Does not require a lot of 'elbow grease,' but don't try to be stingy with the product," shared a fellow fan. "I have used this on stainless steel pots, pans and utensils, as well as aluminum cookie sheets. They all look nearly brand-new."
"I got some rust on my sink and was afraid that I'd never be able to get it out, and so I tried this as a long shot not expecting it to work," wrote a former skeptic. "Not only did it work, but it took no effort at all, and the rust was completely gone in less than 60 seconds! This stuff is a lifesaver!"
"This is absolutely amazing," gushed a rave reviewer, who also posted before and after photos. "I've tried other stuff for the disgusting grout in my shower, but Bar Keepers Friend is the only thing that ever worked. Combine it with a good grout brush and you're set!"
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The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.