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!
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!
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?
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.