Home bakers adore their bakeware and often invest well in quality baking sheets, muffin tins, glass and ceramic baking pans, and nonstick cake pans. Some top-of-the-line brand items can cost $50 or more, and bakeware collections can run into the hundreds of dollars. Proper care extends the life of your bakeware and prevents scratches and chips, which ruin their nonstick properties. Here are the basics for taking good care of your bakeware:
--According to the experts at Bed Bath & Beyond, never use metal utensils when removing food from nonstick surfaces: "Metal can destroy the coating, so always use nylon, rubber or wood utensils." Even if a manufacturer says it's OK to use metal utensils on its product, always choose caution and use nonmetal utensils, such as plastic or wooden spoons and heat-resistant silicone tools.
--According to Mariette Mifflin, the About.com guide to housewares, "nonstick coatings in bakeware, cookware and appliances are not created equal, and how long a nonstick coating lasts depends mostly on you."
--Mifflin says, "Should your nonstick pan coating become damaged and start to peel, discontinue use of the pan to avoid pieces of coating from being transferred to foods."
--Wash your nonstick pan with hot, soapy water before you use it for the first time, to remove any dirt, oils or residues left over from its creation and shipping. Rinse well and dry completely.
--You do not need to "cure" nonstick pans with oils. They are ready to use after cleaning.
--Mifflin says that it's OK to use a bit of oil, margarine or butter in your pan to keep foods from sticking, but avoid using cooking oil sprays, because these often have additives that can damage nonstick bakeware and cookware.
--Always use low to medium heat for nonstick bakeware, because very high heat can damage them.
--Cool your baking sheets or pans completely before putting them in water. Mifflin says, "Drastic temperature changes can cause your bakeware pans or sheets to warp, which will damage the nonstick coating."
--Always hand-wash nonstick bakeware in hot, soapy water, using a plastic scrub brush or sponge. Never put it in the dishwasher, even if the manufacturer says it is safe to do so. Hand-washing extends the life of your bakeware.
--Be sure to clean off all food residue completely, because left-on crusts or oils will damage the bakeware.
--When your baking is complete, transfer the food out of your nonstick bakeware pan and into a storage container or onto a plate. Desserts with any acidic ingredients can damage the coating of your bakeware if left in it over time.
--If you do wish to cut baked goods -- for example, brownies -- in their pan, always use a plastic cutting tool, never metal, which can scratch the nonstick surface.
--Don't use your nonstick bakeware to cook meats or acidic foods, which can ruin the coating. "Keep bread pans just for bread, and designate another pan for other foods. This way, you'll ensure no pan residue ends up on your freshly baked bread," Mifflin says.
--Glass bakeware also requires the avoidance of metal cutting and serving tools, because scratches in glass become unsightly over time.
--Avoid extreme temperatures, allowing a hot glass pan to cool completely before immersing it in cold water.
--Soak glass or ceramic bakeware to soften baked-on messes, such as burned crusts, and sugary fruits, such as blueberries and cherries.
--Use a nonabrasive sponge with hot, soapy water to clean your pan.
--If you have stubborn, baked-on crusts, use a plastic scraping tool with a rounded corner to help peel away water-softened messes.
Cleaning authority Heloise has advised tackling tough, burned-on messes with baking soda and a sponge, which works on nonstick and glass bakeware. For ovenware, such as glass baking containers, Heloise says that oven cleaner will remove stubborn spots. Take the pan outside for good ventilation, and spray the pan liberally. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then scrub, wash well and rinse.
Most bakeware thrives with one main rule: Don't let it air-dry. Wipe it down to complete dryness so that rust does not occur. And take care in stacking and storing your bakeware so that it does not get nicks and scratches in a crowded cabinet. Stack cookie sheets standing on end, and place paper towels or dishcloths between stacked baking pans.
With proper care during and after use, your bakeware will last a long time, creating perfectly done cookies, muffins, brownies, cakes and other treats without unhealthy nonstick coating or rust particles in them.