Around the holidays our pots and pans get more use than usual. Green bean casseroles, lasagna, and especially those roasts leave tons of residue that's tough to get off.
What my grandma used to do was after cooking let the pans cool, then fill them almost to the top with water, and turn the burner back on to loosen food remnants that got stuck on the pans. She actually used to use this as a "gravy" for the dog's food -- it sounds kind of gross now, but I guess in the 1950s on a Midwestern farm, it wasn't that crazy.
I've tried this with things that don't perfectly sit on the stove's burner, like a casserole dish or other heat-resistant cookware, and it works just as well. If there is food especially caked on, pour a tiny bit of soap (not for the dog) in the pan and let that bubble.
You will want to watch the pan, because it will start to boil quickly and can boil over.
This works really well, and you won't even have to get out the Brillo pads.
Also, to get the residue out of candle holders you may have been using to light up the house this holiday season, freeze them. Put the candle holder in the freezer overnight, then tap the container upside down into the palm of your hand. All the residual wax from candle should fall out.
-- Lauren Williams