Field of Science

All natural! Removes burned on food! Magic chemical concoctions

I steamed a batch of dumplings for lunch yesterday, which never had time to cool before being wolfed down by the spring break crowd in my kitchen.  So I pulled another set from the freezer which someone in the scrum popped into the steamer.  In the confusion, no one checked to be sure there was still water in the steamer.  Fast forward eight minutes, the dumplings are stuck to the steamer and the smoke alarm is shrieking.

The dumplings were edible, but the bottom of the pan was pretty badly scorched.  My mathematician spouse wondered if I had some special chemical that would magically clean the pan.  I said I did and that I'd already applied it.  "What did you use?" he said, peering into the blackened pot. "Water."

Water is sometimes called the universal solvent, and though many things will dissolve in water, it's not clear that more things are soluble in water than in any other solvent (or how you would undertake such an inventory). And it's absolutely a chemical, though it is so ubiquitous we have a hard time thinking of it as such.  Even chemists.

The pot soaked overnight, and with the application of a bit of elbow grease (physics, not a chemical) and a finely ground mixture of low volatility chemicals (feldspar, limestone, sodium carbonates with a dash of soap - aka kitchen cleanser) is as shiny as ever.

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