dirty pan to clean pan

How to Conquer Burned-On Oven Crud

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 build-up 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 ovens looking clean and sparkly.

dirty pan to clean pan

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. 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.

Light crud

Soak the pan for a few minutes in hot water plus a little Blue Dawn. Next hit with a scrubby sponge such as this Scotch Brite (see Note 1) before putting it into the dishwasher (see Note 2). It works great if I consistently do this every time I use that pan. Done.

Medium-light crud

If the light treatment doesn’t easily remove the crud, I follow with a quick scrub using Bar Keepers Friend, then it goes into the dishwasher (see Note 2).

Medium crud

If it doesn’t come clean easily with Dawn and BKF, I have a problem. Provided the crud has not been baked on multiple times over a long period of time, a simple homemade process using hydrogen peroxide and baking soda should loosen and soften the crud so it can be scrubbed away. But there’s waiting time involved.

Cover the problem area with a generous sprinkling of baking soda. Next, spray the baking soda with fresh hydrogen peroxide (pour some into your own empty spray bottle), followed by another layer of baking soda. Allow this to sit for awhile, even overnight for tough situations. Using a wet sponge or Scotchbrite scrubber, scrub the area clean and rinse with water. This should not require a lot of time or a great deal of elbow grease.



Medium-heavy crud

To remove the burned-on mess from oven racks, cookie sheets, and other cookware, a quick soak in citric acid and water can break down the grease for easy cleaning.

Put two heaping tablespoons of citric acid into a bucket (deep-sink, bathtub) of hot water so the powder dissolves. Next, add the racks and let them bathe for 20 to 30 minutes. Ugly stains should come off quickly with a good scrubbing brush.

Heavy crud

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, a remarkable cleaner because it melts baked-on crud without fumes, even leaves a pleasant fragrance. Dawn Heavy-Duty Degreaser is a good alternative, for the same reason.

A good oven cleaner like Easy-Off Fume-Free Oven Cleaner is also an effective oven crud cleaner. I’ve used them all and prefer Dawn Dish Power Dissolver because it does most of the work, and really fast. I don’t have time to wait overnight.

A close up of a bottle

I use Dawn Dish Power Dissolver to clean the inside of my Cuisinart countertop oven, and my standard oven, and on on the glass doors as well. It “melts” all that crud, so I can wipe it clean within minutes, not hours.

Finally, there are two things I’ve stopped using in an effort to minimize oven crud.

Non-stick spray

I no longer use non-stick 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 non-stick cooking spray on the foil. In the case of muffin and cake pans, etc., I grease them with vegetable oil to prepare them for the oven.


1. There are two types of Scotch Brite sponges. The one that is green is “heavy duty” with tiny strands of metal buried in the scrubbing side. While this is great for bakeware, pots, and pans— never use a green Scotch Brite on your stainless steel sink or kitchen appliances. It will scratch them in ways that cannot be reversed or repaired. For those items use the blue Scotch Brite Non-Scratch sponge. The scrubbing side is only plastic, which makes it less effective on oven crud, but it is a good choice for sinks and appliances.

new spunge

2. The sheet pans and bakeware I put in the dishwasher are stainless steel, not aluminum. Never put anything aluminum in the dishwasher as it will turn dark and nasty. If you have heavy crud on aluminum, scrub by hand, rinse, and dry.



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  1. Joan says:

    I found the Dawn product on Amazon. A bit pricy but oh so worth the price. I now have cleaner pots and pans, great looking oven. My husband used it to clean a soiled spa. It works great. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Ann Marie says:

    This may fall under another subject but I cannot get my oven glass clean. I’ve tried everything mentioned above (except perhaps peroxide). I once made a paste of baking soda and vinegar and spread it on the glass. Unfortunately, it dried and baking soda fell between the glass and falls on the warming drawer and floor every time I open the oven. I even used the oven self-clean feature, and the glass is still coated. HELP!

    • Nan says:

      Awesome from Dollar store will clean oven door glass.I lay paper towels down & spray with Awesome. Let’s say about 20 minutes and then see if it’s coming off and if not let it sit longer like an hour.A Brillo lightly over the stubborn parts that are left will usually come off with the Brillo. Don’t press too hard with a Brillo pad

  3. Janice says:

    I’ve learned about aluminum and dishwashers, but have also found a workaround. I previously used Cascade liquid in my dishwasher but got tired of the buildup on the stainless door and the damage that the chlorine did to glassware. On a whim, I bought Aldi’s liquid dishwasher liquid. It worked just as well as the Cascade without the extra headaches and I could even clean aluminum items without discoloration. Naturally, it was replaced with another formulation that didn’t work as well. Now I use the Aldi gel packs and all is back to normal

  4. Jack Voss says:

    I no longer feel badly about baking pans having baked on stains. Turns out – those stained pans and trays bake BETTER than a shiny pan! It’s seasoning, similar to cast iron.
    For the explanation from an expert, go to YouTube, Helen Renne’s Kitchen. Neat person, wonderful recipes. And a way better cook than me. (Actually, there seems to be a LOT of folks who cook better than me). sigh

    • Illgen, Ines says:

      Thanks. What a fabulous site. I’ll be returning to it frequently. She explains everything so well and doesn’t just tell you what to do, but why something works.

  5. amye says:

    I use a combination of Barkeeper’s Friend and a Magic Eraser to clean almost everything in the kitchen; pots and pans, silver utensil marks on white cookware, scummy gummy residue, refrigerator shelves, and just about anything else. Rinse thoroughly for a nice shine.

  6. Peggy says:

    i protect my muffin pan from some of the crud you are talking about by using muffin cups which I then spray a little cooking spray in the paper liner. It helps the muffin to come away from the liner easier also.

  7. Sandra C. Wegmann says:

    On aluminum pans I used good old S.O.S. or Brillo pad — nothing works better. My cooky sheets etc., are over 50 yrs. old and still look like new!! For a buildup of non-stick spray: Goo Gone dissolves and gets rid of it, even off the non-stick pans and griddles. For stainless steel pans, Bar Keepers Friend — works great on pyrex, Corning ware, sinks, silverware, etc.

  8. Reg Pitt says:

    I searched for Dawn Dish Power Dissolver and then went to the Dawn website which stated: “We understand this may not be the news you want to hear, but in March 2014, we stopped making Dawn Power Dissolver. It’s important to us that we provide you with great products that you love to use, so we pay attention to which products are most popular with our consumers.”

  9. Lynda Ruiz says:

    Just a note – when I use the self cleaning function for the oven I actually vacuum out the ash before wiping it out. Much easier.

  10. Sharron says:

    I use Reynolds non-stick foil on all cookie sheets and metal pans when baking and no more dirty pans or non stick spray smoke. I also put heavy duty foil in the bottom of my over as well as the pull out tray in the bottom of my toaster oven to eliminate oven cleaning altogether. I wish I had thought of it years earlier. Just replace when dirty.

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