Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My parents went out of town for a bit and so I had to fend for myself with cooking! I made some chicken and some quesadillas on a particular pan. However, my parents got back and my mom is astounded to find the pan all dirty with oil still sticking to the pan. I washed it with soap, so why is it still sticking??? It is like it is embedded into the pan. Not sure what happened! Anybody knows? I am also unsure about the type of pan it is. At this rate, I'll be buying new pans every so and so months if I lived alone. :( I wonder if it has anything to do with cooking food in a not so high temperature?

share|improve this question
probably the same thing:… – Jefromi Jun 9 '11 at 22:10
Not quite the same - the gummy residue in that question is compounded by lecithin from the baking spray emulsion. – klypos Jun 9 '11 at 22:19
@klypos: As mentioned in that question, it happens with normal oil too, and the question itself isn't specifically about sprays. – Jefromi Jun 9 '11 at 22:57
There was no gummy residue, more like a thin layer of oil in a portion of the pan which glistened in the light. – O_O Jun 9 '11 at 22:59
Whether it's gummy or not is probably more about thickness - if there's only a thin layer, it won't feel as gummy. – Jefromi Mar 28 at 16:14
up vote 9 down vote accepted

As I understand it, when you combine high heat and vegetable oil you get a fairly stable polymer (much like a plastic or resin). The polymer bonds with the surface (which is porous), and results in robust surface. This is what we use to season cast iron cookware, but it's less desirable on stainless and other lighter colour hardware.

You can prevent the coating from forming by never allowing he oil to maintain a high temperature for long periods by itself. Keeping food in contact with the pan will both help keep the temperature down, and reduce the chance of the oil bonding with the steel.

Cleaning the oil off once it's formed is usually pretty simple: add water (or soda water) and heat for 10-15 minutes. Often the oil will wipe out (or need mild scrubbing with an appropriate scrubbing pad). You should not have to use steel wool (or a caustic cleaner), both of which can damage the smooth surface of many pans.

share|improve this answer
"Never allowing the water to evaporate from the oil in a pan" --> what? Something is wrong with that sentence. – Aaronut Jun 10 '11 at 0:32
Sorry about that, fixed it up. – Bruce Alderson Jun 10 '11 at 5:11
It still doesn't make sense. There's no water in oil. – Aaronut Jun 10 '11 at 14:23
Corrected: my source suggested there was a small % of water in vegetable oils. My mistake, I should have confirmed. – Bruce Alderson Jun 10 '11 at 15:12

If you get oil too hot, it can form a really sticky layer of the heavier oil residues.

To remove it, use a little fresh oil, warm the pan, and spread the fresh oil all over the surface. Let it rest for a while, then spread the oil on the surface again. Tip the oil out, rubbing away as much residual oil as possible with paper.

Now you can rub neat dishwashing liquid onto the surface and all the residual oil will emulsify, and can be washed away with water.

share|improve this answer

If you cook with non-stick pans, you should also be careful to read the instructions on the pan. Mine says to never heat above medium. My last pan was ruined after heating above medium with a black substance much like yours.

share|improve this answer

Here's the other matter. After you've cooked with oil in a pan, mine is the one with the dreaded circular groves, as in Circulon® and any residual oil remaining will turn into the thick sticky substance after at least a day. My mistake was not washing it shortly after using the pan(skillet). If you use a quality oven cleaner, that will take care of the problem, but be sure the manufacturer thinks it's OK for its cookware (or if you know it's scientifically alright to do so without damage to you or cookware). Be careful of the fumes.

share|improve this answer

What type of oil did you use in cooking? There are Drying oils, Semi-drying oils, and Non-drying oils.

Drying oils are polyunsaturated materials such as linseed (flax), or Tung oil. People usually use oils like these to finish furniture, but some, like walnut oil, do get used in cooking.

Semi-drying oils, like corn, sunflower, safflower or soybean oil, have high enough unsaturation to oxidize into a gooey mess on your cookware, especially if you get them too hot.

Non-drying oils, like olive, canola or peanut oil, are relatively saturated and don't easily oxidize to form the sort of hard varnishes you have to clean off off with a scrubby pad or angle grinder.

share|improve this answer

Use a baking soda paste to clean the baking tray.

share|improve this answer
Before applying oil? Or to clean the sticky residue? – Erica Mar 28 at 13:42

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.