When I was a kid we did the dishes by hand and whenever we'd have a pot with heavy residue or burned food we'd use SOS Steel Wool pads to clean the bottom. You could stand there scrubbing hard and never get that stuff off. Do they even sell those anymore?
I guess so...
It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I found the secret to cleaning pots and pans and to be honest I can't believe it took me so long to figure it out. You see I used to waitress when I was a sweet young thing and watched the grill cook clean his grill this way.
They'd always use a clean, wet, cotton hand towel and would scrub that towel across the HOT surface of the grill (using a spatula to keep their hand off the towel) as it boiled and steamed and (because of the high heat) cleaned the grill surface.
Watch any restaurant cooking show and you'll see them clean it that way. I've always cleaned my pancake griddle with a wet paper towel while it's still hot. Works like a charm.
Maybe you're nodding your head already cause you've figured this out, but you can pretty much do the same thing with your own pots and pans. Here's how.
I cooked some onions in butter for a pizza I was making SM.
After caramelizing the onions, I'm left with a crusty residue. After rinsing the fat out in the sink, I'll put a bit of water in the pan and turn up the heat to bring it up to a boil. I'll use my spatula to loosen the debris, (kinda like de-glazing with wine when cooking meat) then I'll walk it back over to the sink and dump the dirty boiling water out.
I then put a bit of cold water in the pan and using a scrubby backed sponge with some DW soap, give it a swipe or two. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan or sponge. Believe it or not, the debris comes up easily enough.
No elbow grease required. No need to soak the pan for hours or use harsh chemicals.
Now go burn some food and tell me if it works for you...
(*Do I really need a disclaimer? I guess so. Do this at your own risk since you're the one around hot pots and pans and griddles and steaming cloths or paper towels or scrubby sponges....Get the point? Don't blame me if it works. I just watched and observed someone else do it. Blame the grill guy at the Waffle House back in 1983.)