How to clean baking sheets and baking trays

We have a penchant for the worn-in, beloved look of a sheet pan, but if your pans are nearly unusable as opposed to ‘rustic’, it might be time to give them a deep clean. After years of use, baking sheets eventually form layers of burnt-on oil, fat and just bits of food, which are more difficult to remove with each bake. The good news? Stains on your baking sheets should not affect how your cookies bake or roast vegetables. The only bad news is that they don’t make for a tasty presentation (win some, lose some).

If you’re ready to tackle your need-what-love sheets, try any (or all!) of the methods below to get them back in shape (for the most part) before baking for the holidays.

Check your sheet material before cleaning

Not all baking sheets are created equal, and they are certainly not all made from the same material. Standard aluminum baking sheets, such as Nordic Ware’s cult-favorite half-plates, and steel outdoor pans, such as Williams Sonoma’s Thermo-Clad stainless steel bakeware, will be the strongest, most durable option (read: can withstand some harsh cleaning). If you have non-stick baking trays like Great Jones aluminized steel holy leaf or Ceramic bakeware from Caraway, they require more care than standard steel or aluminum baking trays. A non-stick coating, regardless of its variety (ceramic, Teflon, enamelled cast iron), doesn’t mix well with abrasive cleaners or sharp utensils, so be sure to skip steel wool or scratchy sponges.

A little about the general care of blades

  • Avoid the dishwasher. We know it’s more time consuming to wash by hand, but this will extend the life of your baking sheets, whether they’re aluminum, steel or non-stick. According to Nordic Ware of their aluminum pans (which we consider to be some of the most durable), “dishwasher use is not recommended as discoloration will occur due to the cleaning agents used in automatic dishwasher detergent.” If you happen to cycle one at a time, “this discoloration is purely cosmetic and will not affect the frying properties or the safety of the pan.”

  • For non-stick pans, Great Jones recommends that you “always grease with butter or oil, or line with parchment paper to maintain the non-stick qualities of the coating.” Knives and other utensils with sharp edges will damage almost any cooking surface, but you should be especially careful with non-stick baking sheets. Instead of a metal spatula, opt for a “soft wooden, silicone, plastic, or nylon product,” advises Caraway, and don’t slice baked goods while they’re in the pan.
  • According to the Caraway website, they recommend letting your bakeware cool completely before running cold water over the surface to avoid thermal shock (meaning the non-stick coating could crack — yikes!). They add that while bakeware can withstand extreme temperatures, sudden and significant changes can shorten their life.

Baking soda, hot water and dish soap (aluminium, steel, non-stick coating)

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 baking sheet for at least an hour and up to overnight, depending on how stained it is with hot water, a tablespoon of baking soda, and a few drops of dish soap. When it’s morning, you should be able to easily scrub away any baked-on food particles or stains with a non-abrasive sponge.

Baking soda paste (aluminium, steel, non-stick)

There’s not much a baking soda paste can’t do, and Great Jones, suppliers of non-stick bakeware, agree. “To remove stains,” they suggest, “make 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 and vinegar (aluminium, steel, non-stick)

Caraway, makers of ceramic nonstick pans, suggest a combination of bubbling baking soda and vinegar to lift caked foods off baking sheets. Cover a baking sheet with two tablespoons of baking soda and a cup of vinegar and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes. Once most of the mess is removed, clean the griddle as you normally would with dish soap and hot water.

Bar Keeper’s Friend (Aluminium, Steel)

You know it, you love it. And if you don’t know, you want to meet. Bar Keeper’s Friend is pretty much the ultimate when it comes to bringing a brand new shine to cookware, especially stainless steel and aluminum. Just wet the baking sheet with water, sprinkle some BKF over it and get started with a sponge – you should see results right away. If you need a little extra power, let the BKF sit for 10-20 minutes before scrubbing, and you’ll be amazed at how well it removes grime for years to come.

What’s your go-to method for cleaning baking sheets? Let us know in the comments below!

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