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I'm sure everyone's seen this - that brownish stuff left behind when you grease an area of a baking dish that gets left exposed to the heat. Soap doesn't bother it too much, and it likes to gum up my scrubber. What's going on there, and are there any easy ways to get it off?

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

When oil gets overheated, it turns into a polymer that is insoluble in water, even with soap.

The best way to clean this up is with Barkeeper's Friend, Bon Ami, or a similar solvent (I think they're all alkaline-based solvents). It's non-abrasive, and safe to use on almost all cookware without leaving marks.

Edit: To help prevent this from happening in the future, use a paper towel to wipe off any excess baking spray on the edges of the baking dish that won't be covered by food.

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To expand on what Bob said -- basically, the oil polymerization is the exact process that you're trying to get when you season cast iron ... it just really sucks when it's all splotchy on your other pans. –  Joe Nov 8 '10 at 14:40
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Yeah, I know, best solution is not to let it happen - but sometimes you forget, or miss a spot. As for the cleaning tips, thanks - though I don't think alkalinity is the factor there. Wikipedia says Barkeeper's Friend's active ingredient is oxalic acid, while Bon Ami's listed active ingredients are sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate, and feldspar (described there as mild abrasives, though obviously alkaline too). I'm sure both work great though! –  Jefromi Nov 8 '10 at 14:41
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I probably sound like a broken record chiming in on every thread about cleaning, but I live and die by my Barkeeper's Friend! –  stephennmcdonald Nov 8 '10 at 16:48
    
Dunno about Barkeeper's Friend, but Bon Ami is, indeed, an abrasive. It's less likely to scratch than some other scouring powders that aren't milled as finely, but its primary cleaning action is still mechanical rather than chemical. –  Marti Nov 8 '10 at 19:23
    
I just soak the pan in water for a day or two, which loosens it enough to scrub off without any other gunk. –  Bruce Alderson Nov 8 '10 at 19:53
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I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser last night on my deep fryer. It took a little elbow grease but it came right off, no chemicals needed

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I don't know of any method for the burnt-on oil in particular, but for difficult to clean pans in general, I usually resort to razor blades (not cartridge ones though). Something like a proper scraper tool would be even better.

Basically, something really sharp that can get underneath the substance, and then it can't help but come off.

Chemically, I'm assuming the stuff left on the pan after the cooking process wouldn't be the oil, since that comes off in soap. I suspect (guessing here) that it's the propellant from the can. Which isn't really that much of a pleasant thought.

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The same thing happens if you oil the pan the traditional way rather than using a spray, so it has nothing to do with the propellant. –  Marti Nov 8 '10 at 16:27
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