How to Remove Baking Spray Overspray

Dear Home Ec 101,

I’ve noticed that when I use non-stick spray (like Pam) on things that are subsequently baked, I end up with a sticky, brown residue that is really hard to remove from my pans.  This is a particular problem with my muffin tin!

Two questions:

1) Should I stop using non-stick spray on things that are going to be baked (casseroles, cookie sheets, muffin tins, etc.)?

2) Once it’s already there, is there a trick to getting it off my pans?  I’ve found this crud on glass, ceramic, and metal pans, so if the instructions differ by pan type, let me know!



Heather says:

Baking spray is both a blessing and a curse.

If you can, try to remove the residue before it cools. If you catch it before it has solidified, plain old soap and water should do the trick.

The brown residue you’ve noticed is baking spray overspray that has polymerized in the heat of the oven. Polymerization is the process by which many small molecules bond -in our case under heat- to create large, stable molecules. Most of us see the word polymer and think plastic, but it’s important to remember that while all plastics are polymers, not all polymers are plastic.

So what’s the big deal about polymers, I just want it off my cookware?

There are two kinds of polymers, some can be heated and reshaped and others can’t. The polymer we create with cooking spray is thermoset, meaning once it’s there it is going to be a bear to remove. It’s a lot like how you can’t uncook an egg.

With glass and stainless steel, I use Bar Keeper’s Friend and a little elbow grease to remove any polymerized oils. Wet the residue, sprinkle on the powder, give it a quick rub and then walk away for a few minutes. Give the oxalic acid a little time to work before using any of your own energy. If I’ve been slack for a while, this might take a few repeated applications.

A lot of people recommend using oven cleaner on glass and ceramic to remove polymerized cooking spray, but I would rather use a little energy than create those fumes. Naturally, your mileage may vary.

Do not try to remove cooked on baking spray from non-stick bakeware.

The removal of the cooking spray residue will likely remove the nonstick coating. If you have used baking or cooking spray on your non-stick muffin tins, don’t worry too much, you’re just going to have ugly muffin tins.

Try not to spray cooking spray on surfaces that do not come in contact with food.

Skip the cooking spray altogether, use parchment paper or silicone mats.

Finally just remember that ugly doesn’t mean an item has lost its use.

Thank goodness this is true, right?

The polymerized baking spray isn’t really going to hurt anything. The surface of your polymerized cooking spray isn’t going anywhere, but it isn’t as smooth as a metal or ceramic finish and food may be more likely to stick. Want to take a guess as to the fix?

Quit trying to keep up with Rachel Ray, Ina Garten, and Paula Deen. Yes, they are all good cooks. Yes, they all have beautiful kitchens, but here’s the thing. That kitchen is a tv set, not reality. That gorgeous cookware is replaced as soon as it shows the the slightest sign of wear. Companies send them cookware to feature. What you see is not receiving daily use by people with better things to do than perform upkeep on their tools.

I don’t have a crew, do you?

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  1. I usually try to dab up any excess with a paper towel or dish rag before I put it in the oven.

  2. Jenny King says:

    When I use spray, I do like Debi (above) and wipe any over-spray with a clean dish cloth.

    However, I have found an easy alternative to using the sprays.

    I use a pastry brush and butter and just paint the baking tins… I know, that is nothing new, in fact that is how I was taught to grease a pan 45 years ago. What a hassle you may say, having to wash up the brush… just use a paper towel with shortening… but then you get it on your hands. Ew.

    So here is the real "trick" – just don't wash the brush. What I do is paint the bakeware surface (muffin tins are so easy with a brush) and then PUT THE BRUSH, LEFTOVER BUTTER AND ALL, IN A PLASTIC BAG AND POP IT IN THE FREEZER! It only takes a minute or two to thaw when you need it again. I just set it out to thaw while I mix together whatever it is I'm baking or hold the plastic wrapped bristles in my warm hand for a minute or so.

    It works like a charm and I can let even fairly young kids do the "grease" job without over-spray and mess.

  3. JanetLee says:

    I don't use sprays either. I'm sort of funny about only inhaling air. I like the pastry brush suggestion but go the old fashioned, my momma taught me paper towel and shortening route.

  4. Keter Magick says:

    I like Jenny's method and used to use it when I baked more often (now just cooking for two).

    You know, the slightly paranoid (but often right) part of me insists that what polymerizes on your cookware may also polymerize in your arteries, so the sight of oil that has turned into goo scares me. This idea is supported by the observation that aluminum seems to react chemically with these oils and produce the goo faster and it is harder to get it off aluminum than anything else. I consequently no longer use aluminum for any cooking.

    I use olive oil now for all of my pan-coating needs, and even at broiler temperature, it doesn't seem to turn to pseudoplastic. If you're cooking something exceptionally sticky and you think the oil won't be enough, just dust the olive oil with a little rice flour or fine cornmeal…. or go oil-less and use a piece of baking parchment.

    For removing the goo on glass, enamel, or metal, try putting a baking soda paste on it, cover with plastic, and let sit for a while. If that doesn't work, try a little Goo Gone adhesive remover. I was given very fancy crock pot one time because it had a thick layer of greasy goo on it, and the owner was going to throw it away. Goo Gone got it off without damaging the painted finish. Mind you, that took two days of soaking, but it did work. Goo Gone MAY be safe on nonstick, too…use your discretion.

    • the polymerization process is generally temperature dependent, and with cooking oils that happens at high temperatures. An oil that polymerizes at low temperatures (like body temp) isn’t really going to be much good for cooking. How do you cook with something that turns to goo once it hits a hot pan?

      No need to worry about oil polymerizing in your arteries.

  5. See, this is why I use butter, not spray. :-)

  6. ggmcgough says:

    I have a recipe for bread pudding that says to spray bread cubes heavily with baking spray. What kind of bakiing spray should I use. Any suggestions?

  7. Chuck Shuman says:

    You guys are gonna love this. This morning we cooked pancakes in a 12 in non-stick frying pan. We used a lite coating of canola oil for cooking. When we were done and washed the pan, the center of the pan had this sticky material that was impervious to water and soap – we washed it twice to no avail. So we have polymerized cooking oil stuck on our non-stick! I removed it with no chemicals and no scrubbing simply by repeating the process but this time cooking something on the troublesome spot. I put the pan on medium high heat and used a small amount of canola on the sticky spot. I left the rest of the pan oil free so I didn’t polymerize more cooking surface. I let the pan and the oil get pretty hot and then put a 6 inch yellow corn tortilla on top of the spot. I let it sit like I would a pancake. It was sizzling softly. I pushed down lightly and rotated on the spot. i then flipped it over to cook some more. The tortilla was absorbing the polymerized material that was in solution with the still wet canola oil. I removed the tortilla and put another one on to absorb more material. Then removed the tortilla and let the pan cool down naturally. Voila. Gone.

    • I tried that but the spray had actually burned onto my pan and it is a nice brownish black color. Reheating it and using some more oil did not help and I think I have made a mess out of a nice pan.

      • I’ve had a bit of luck by putting a small amount of water (about 1/4″ deep) in a skillet or pan and bringing it to a boil and gently scraping burned oils and other material off with a silicone spatula. Worked on my nonstick and ceramic skillets where I’d had overspray with pancakes. I just use clarified butter now and don’t seem to have that trouble anymore ;)

      • I’ve had a bit of luck by putting a small amount of water (about 1/4″ deep) in a skillet or pan and bringing it to a boil and gently scraping burned oils and other material off with a silicone spatula. Worked on my nonstick and ceramic skillets where I’d had over spray with pancakes. I just use clarified butter now and don’t seem to have that trouble anymore ;)

    • I’m glad I found this site and plan to try some of the tips mentioned here. I read somewhere many years ago that canola oil should never be used on any kind of nonstick cookware or bakeware. It speeds up the removal of the nonstick material faster than using a fork or any other metal utensil.

  8. So glad to find this site and the community supporting it. My “Hints From Heloise” is no doubt outdated.
    My husband wanted to make baked potatoes and brushed them with olive oil and used my broiler pan to cook them and now I have the goo stuck on it. Soaked it in dishwasher powder and Dawn overnight and I still needed to use a paint scraper to get most of it off. I’m soaking it again because the grill part of the pan won’t give up the goo. I will be trying Goo Gone and my husband is not going to make any more baked potatoes.

  9. I used olive oil in a misto sprayer and it still had the same reaction, so it can happen to olive oil, too.

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