I don't know how else to describe what happens to beautiful sheet pans once they take up residence in my kitchen. All I can say is that in no time, they begin to get this nasty buildup of what I call oven crud -- a burned-on incrustation of oven filth.
It's not that I don't wash and scrub those pans. I do. But apparently not well enough. I'm just not willing to spend hours of my life keeping sheet pans and the inside of my oven looking clean, lovely and like new. No way.
I've been on a rampage to conquer this problem once and for all. Call me idealistic, but I'd like my sheet pans and oven to clean up as easily as my dishes and dishwasher. I'm talking sparkling clean, with only minimal maintenance -- quick and easy. Is that too much to ask?
I'm pretty excited to share with you what I've learned through much trial and error. Now, I won't boast perfection, but I've come up with a protocol that's working really well for me based on the task at hand.
Soak the pan for a few minutes in hot water with a little Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Next, hit it with a scrubby sponge like a Scotch-Brite before putting it into the dishwasher. If I am consistent and do this every time I use that pan, it works great. Done.
If the light treatment above doesn't easily remove the crud, I do a quick scrub with Bar Keepers Friend cleanser and polish, and then into the dishwasher it goes.
If it doesn't come clean easily with Dawn and BKF, I have a problem. Provided the crud has not been burned on multiple times over a long period of time, a simple homemade process using hydrogen peroxide and baking soda should take care of it in short order. But there's waiting time involved.
Cover the area with a sprinkling of baking soda. Next, spray the baking soda with fresh hydrogen peroxide, followed by another layer of baking soda. Allow this to sit for a few minutes (or overnight for tougher situations). Using a wet sponge or Scotch-Brite scrubber to scrub the area clean, and then rinse with water. This should not require a lot of time or a great deal of elbow grease.
When none of the above takes care of the problem fairly easily, it's time to bring out the big gun: a serious degreaser. My favorite is Dawn dish power dissolver, which is remarkable because it melts baked-on crud. Dawn heavy-duty degreaser is a great alternative for the same reason. A good oven cleaner, such as Easy-Off fume-free oven cleaner, is also effective. I've used them all, and I prefer Dawn dish power dissolver because it does most of the work, and really fast. I don't have time to wait overnight.
I use Dawn dish power dissolver to clean the inside of my Breville Smart Oven and my standard oven. And I use it on my big oven glass door and the inside of the oven. It melts all that crud, so I can wipe it clean within minutes, not hours.
(I'm not a fan of the self-cleaning option on my regular oven because it takes hours to complete, it's noisy, it makes the house smell funny and I still have to get in there and wipe it down to remove all the ashes. Even then, it only does a mediocre job. What a mess.)
Finally, there are two things I've stopped using in an effort to minimize oven crud.
I no longer use nonstick cooking spray directly on sheet pans or bakeware. I suspect that has been the source of a lot of sticky, gooey, baked-on oven crud. Instead, I line sheet pans with foil and then spray the nonstick cooking spray on the foil. In the case of muffin and cake pans and things like that, I grease them with vegetable oil to prepare them for the oven.
I've stopped using household ammonia to coax off burned-on oven crud because of the fumes. It worked OK but required a lot of time to work. I just can't take those fumes! And there is reason to believe that breathing ammonia fumes is hazardous to our health.
Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at creators.com.