I have been visiting the Second Chance Charity Shop a lot lately. Firstly, because I work at The Carpenter’s Shop, which is a fantastic NPO, and the money from the Charity Shop goes towards funding TCS initiatives, like cleaning people who live on the street (and anyone else who wants to come), and we collaborate to meet their needs, like feeding, clinics, clothing banks, second-phase shelter, etc.

Secondly, I love saving money wherever I can.  I see frugality and effciency as a sport (if couponing were a thing in SA, I’d be the extreme user) and Thirdly (and probably most relevant for me), I love that feeling when you find something in a corner, all neglected and undervalued and you can see the potential, so you support the charity AND save money AND extend the useful life of something!

This is what I found in the shop. It is a heavy based, stainless steel pan, with a metal handle and silicone sleeve (so fairly new).  I liked the size (just over 2l, and slightly smaller and deeper than my usual frying pan.  I could think of a few things I’d like to use this pan for.

These are the things I looked out for:

  • The handle was securely attached and is oven proof (metal or silicone is good)
  • The base is thick and unwarped
  • There is a stainless steel mark at the bottom (don’t be fooled by aluminium)
  • My pan wasn’t heavily used.. The bottom of the pan was only slightly discolored and inside it looked like there had been a seriously burned meal.  I think someone had just stashed a pan that was probably a gift.


Stainless steel is totally underrated by home cooks.  Here are a few of it’s benefits:

  • Stainless steel retains heat well, so you can cook evenly.
  • You can cook at higher temperatures without damaging the pot or finishing (this is great for browning steaks & caramelising food).
  • Heavy bases don’t warp (so your food has contact with the metal, cooking it properly).
  • It is non-stick if you get it to the right temperature before adding food.
  • It doesn’t release chemicals into your food.
  • It lasts, and can be handed down to many generations if it is cared for properly.

Stainless steel is priced as an investment, costing between R650 and R1200!  As with anything, there are varying qualities of cookware, even the stainless steel kind.. so when you’re checking out the second-hand stores for cookware, be ruthless, and look out for the best quality.

I’m going to start sounding a bit like an infomercial here, because when you look at the pic above, there was burned oil and solids on the pan. It looked like it would take some drastic elbow grease to sort it out (think of how hard the “before” people in an infomercial work).

Was it worth the effort? Yes!!! Because it took me 10 minutes, cheap cleaning materials and very little pressure to get the residue off! First, I started with bicarb and sunlight liquid and a dry sponge.

This paste is excellent for removing burned oil and fatty grime, even the solid stuff that gets baked onto trays. In this case, though, it didn’t get to all those little specs, so I pulled out the big guns and added a little hot water to the pan (with the paste etc) and put it on the stove for 5 minutes, and added a glut of vinegar, which created a lovely foam as it reacted with the bicarb.

It is often much easier to remove baked on grease/solids etc when the pan is warm (not hot – then you’re just going to burn your fingers!). I added the vinegar for good measure to break down whatever it could.

Once I’d warmed the pan, I emptied it and added more bicarb and dishwashing soap, squeezed out the sponge and started again. This time the spots came off much easier and it took me about 5 minutes to get to this!

Isn’t it marvellous?!!


I made a 1 minute video of me getting the dirt off so you can watch it.  Please excuse my voice – I’m getting over a cough.  (Also, note that the scrubbing is in real time.. I didn’t speed it up, so you can see how quickly the dirt came off.




If you have used this method on any grotty pans, let me know!


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