Sheet pans are surely among the most versatile kitchen tools ever invented. Most likely you use them all the time, for everything from roasting meats and poultry, fish and seafood, vegetables, and baking breads, cookies, and more. You can even make a whole meal on a single sheet pan.
If you use your baking sheets often, they will most likely develop a sort of patina after a while—that baked-on, dark brown or black sheen, especially around the edges and in the corners—and it feels like no amount of scrubbing can get rid of it. If you want your baking sheet to shine like new, there are some tips and tricks for getting them extra clean.
Why Do Baking Sheets Turn Brown?
When you roast foods on a baking pan using oil, or if the food you cook (like roasted meats and poultry) is already fatty, those fats and oils polymerize onto the surface of the pan. This polymerization is exactly what happens when you season a cast iron pan. When heated, those fatty acids chemically bond with the metal of the pan, which is why ordinary dish soap and scrubbing won't remove it. (Note: this is also why you don't have to worry about removing the seasoning from your cast iron pan through ordinary soap and scrubbing.)
To get that layer off your pan, you have to forcefully scrape it away, and that means elbow grease combined with an abrasive scrubber. Fortunately, you can loosen that layer by using some everyday household ingredients and cleaners, making the scrubbing quite a bit easier.
Should You Deep Clean Your Baking Sheets?
We should note that that baked-on patina might actually make your foods turn out better. For one thing, foods like cookies or roasted potatoes baked on a dark pan will brown better than they will on a clean, gleaming one. The reason is that darker colors absorb more heat. Darker sheet pans will also heat up faster, which means items cook faster.
Not only that, but as is the case with cast iron cookware, that patina or seasoning also forms a nonstick coating on your baking sheets, meaning you don't have to grease it or use parchment. Cookies and other baked goods will just slide right off.
In any case, you have a choice. You can leave your battle-scarred baking sheet as it is, but you can also easily restore it to its original gleaming condition. Here are five ways to do it.
How to Clean Your Baking Sheets
Every method described here will involve applying some sort of cleaner or cleaning compound to the pan, letting it sit for some amount of time, and then scrubbing it off. How much scrubbing is needed will depend on the method you use, how long you let it sit for, and how dirty the pan is.
Ammonia and a Garbage Bag
This method involves filling your pan with household ammonia, which is a diluted water solution of 5 to 10 percent ammonia. If your pan doesn't have rims, this method won't work, since the liquid will just spill off.
Place your pan in a large garbage bag, fill the pan with the ammonia solution, then tie up the bag and let it sit overnight. Then drain, rinse, and scrub with a copper or steel scrubbing pad before rinsing with soap and warm water. Be sure to use this method in a well-ventilated area.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Cover the pan generously with baking soda then pour in enough white vinegar to make a paste. Spread this paste evenly over the surface of the pan and let it sit overnight. Then scrape away and discard the paste, scrub with a scrubber pad, and rinse with warm water and soap.
Peroxide and Baking Soda
Use the same method as the previous one, only instead of vinegar you're using hydrogen peroxide. Cover the pan with a generous amount of baking soda, then spritz it with the peroxide or just carefully drizzle it across the baking soda to form a paste. Rub evenly over the surface, let it sit overnight, scrape, scrub, and rinse.
Here's where things start to get really interesting. Oven cleaner isn't made for cleaning cookware, but it is made for dissolving baked-on grease from the inside of your oven. This means it will also dissolve the baked-on grease from your baking sheet. And unlike the previous methods, which require letting the mixture sit overnight, oven cleaner works in less than 30 minutes. In fact, letting it sit longer than that could damage your pan.
Just spray the oven cleaner over the entire surface of the pan and let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Then wipe it away with a sponge. All that baked-on grease will have liquefied and should wipe right off. Be sure to clean well with soap and water afterward.
Yes, ketchup. Cleaning your cookware with a condiment might seem downright strange, but it really works! The acid in the ketchup helps loosen the gunk, while the thickness of the ketchup helps hold it in place so that the acid can really work its magic. Simply slather your pan with ketchup and smear it around, working it especially into the corners and edges. Let it sit overnight, then scrub, rinse, wash, and admire your gleaming baking sheet.