We’re partial to the lived-in, well-loved look of a sheet pan, but if your pans are verging on unusable as opposed to “rustic,” it might be time to give them a deep clean. After years of use, baking sheets eventually build up layers of burnt-on oils, grease, and just bits of food, which become tougher with each bake to remove. The good news? Stains on your baking sheets shouldn’t affect how your cookies bake or vegetables roast. The only bad news is that they don’t make for an appetizing presentation (win some, lose some).
If you’re ready to tackle your needs-some-love sheets, try one (or all!) of the below methods to get them right back into shape (for the most part) before holiday baking is upon you.
Check Your Sheet Material Before Cleaning
Not all cookie sheets are created equal, and they’re certainly not all made from the same material. Standard aluminum baking sheets, like cult-fave Nordic Ware’s half sheets, and steel exterior pans, like Williams Sonoma’s Thermo-Clad stainless steel bakeware are going to be the strongest, most long-lasting option (read: can hold up to some aggressive cleaning). If you have nonstick baking sheets, like Great Jones’ aluminized steel Holy Sheet or Caraway’s ceramic bakeware, they require gentler care than standard steel or aluminum baking sheets. A non-stick coating, no matter what variety (ceramic, Teflon, enameled cast iron), doesn’t play well with abrasive cleaning tools or sharp utensils, so definitely skip steel wool or scratchy sponges.
A Bit on General Sheet Pan Care
- Avoid the dishwasher. We know, we know it’s more time-consuming to hand wash, but doing so will help to prolong the life of your sheet pans, be they aluminum, steel, or nonstick. According to Nordic Ware of their aluminum sheet pans (which we’d consider some of the most durable), “dishwasher use is not advised, as discoloration will occur due to the cleaning agents used in automatic dishwasher detergent.” If you do happen to pop one in for a cycle, “this discoloration is merely cosmetic and will not affect baking properties or safety of the pan.”
- For nonstick pans, Great Jones advises that you “always grease with butter or oil, or line with parchment paper to maintain the coating’s nonstick qualities.” Knives and other utensils with sharp edges will damage pretty much any cooking surface, but you should be particularly cautious with nonstick baking sheets. Instead of a metal spatula, opt for a “soft wooden, silicone, plastic, or nylon product,” Caraway advises, and don’t cut baked goods while they’re in the pan.
- According to Caraway’s website, they recommend letting your bakeware cool completely before running cold water over its surface to avoid thermal shock (meaning the nonstick coating might crack—yikes!). They add that while bakeware can withstand extreme temperatures, sudden and significant changes can reduce their lifespan.
Baking Soda, Hot Water, and Dish Soap (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)
Listen, we all like to take the easy way out from time to time, especially when it comes to cleaning. Melissa Maker, of Clean My Space, recommends soaking a sheet pan for at least one hour and up to overnight, depending on how stained it is with hot water, one tablespoon of baking soda, and a few drops of dish soap. Come morning, you should be able to easily scrub away any stuck-on food bits or stains with a non-abrasive sponge.
Baking Soda Paste (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)
There’s not much a baking soda paste can’t do, and Great Jones, purveyors of nonstick bakeware, agree. “To remove stains,” they suggest, “create a paste by mixing baking soda and a splash of water. Scrub the paste into the stains with a soft sponge, rinse with warm water, and repeat.”
Baking Soda & Vinegar (Aluminum, Steel, Nonstick)
Caraway, makers of ceramic nonstick bakeware, suggest a combination of bubbling baking soda and vinegar to lift stuck-on food from baking sheets. Cover a cookie sheet with two tablespoons of baking soda and one cup of vinegar, then letting the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Once most of the mess has been lifted, clean the baking sheet as you normally would with dish soap and hot water.
Bar Keeper’s Friend (Aluminum, Steel)
You know it, you love it. And if you don’t know it, you’re going to want to get acquainted. Bar Keeper’s Friend is pretty much the ultimate when it comes to giving cookware a like-new luster, especially stainless steel and aluminum. Just wet the baking sheet down with water, sprinkle over some BKF, and go to work with a sponge—you should see results right away. If you need some extra power, let the BKF sit for 10-20 minutes before you scrub, and you’ll be amazed by how well it lifts away years of grime.
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