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 to keep sheet pans and ovens looking the way I want—clean and sparkly.
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 like this Scotchbrite before putting it into the dishwasher*. If I am consistent to do this every time I use that pan, it works great. Done.
MEDIUM-LIGHT CRUD. If the light treatment (above) doesn’t easily remove the crud, I follow with a quick scrub with Bar Keepers Friend, then into the dishwasher* it goes.
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.
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.
I use Dawn Dish Power Dissolver to clean the inside of my Breville countertop oven, and my standard oven, too. And I use it on the glass doors, inside and out. 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 big oven because it takes hours to complete, it’s noisy, makes the house smell funny; I still have to get in there and wipe it down to remove all the ashes—even then it does only a mediocre job of cleaning. What a mess.)
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 bake ware. 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.
Ammonia. I’ve stopped using household ammonia to clean because of the fumes, a method still recommended by some to coax off burned-on oven off. The ammonia method requires a lot of time and a lot of work. But the biggest problem: I just can’t take those fumes! There is reason to believe that breathing ammonia fumes is hazardous to our health.
*NOTE: My sheet pans and bakeware that I put in the dishwasher are all stainless steel, not aluminum. You should avoid putting anything aluminum in the dishwasher as it will turn dark and nasty. If you have heavy crud on aluminum, scrub, rinse and dry.