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?

  • probably the same thing: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/8927/…
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 22:10
  • 1
    Not quite the same - the gummy residue in that question is compounded by lecithin from the baking spray emulsion.
    – klypos
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 22:19
  • 1
    @klypos: As mentioned in that question, it happens with normal oil too, and the question itself isn't specifically about sprays.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 22:57
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    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
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 22:59
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    Whether it's gummy or not is probably more about thickness - if there's only a thin layer, it won't feel as gummy.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 16:14

7 Answers 7


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 coloured 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.

  • 2
    alternatively and I think preferably (i.e. it's easier). Deglaze the hot pan with fresh water before allowing the pan to cool. Cooling hardens the hot immature polymers and it's hard to rehydrate once it's had a chance to become a true solid. Reheating works, but deglazing right away is much easier. If water doesn't work with what you tend to cook, use white vinegar.
    – Escoce
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 16:49

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.


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.


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.


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.


Oil, butter, wax and greasy substances like that are all hydrophobic, meaning they do not mix with water. The following site can explain this. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-hydrophobic-definition-interactions-quiz.html

  • That's true, but if that's all it were, a healthy amount of soap would take care of it. If you just pour oil in a pan then try to wash it out, you'll see that this works, while if you cook in it and the oil polymerizes and sticks to the pan, you'll need something more to clean it.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 21:46

Use a baking soda paste to clean the baking tray.

  • 1
    Before applying oil? Or to clean the sticky residue?
    – Erica
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 13:42

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