We all have favorite pots and pans that we reach for time after time. One day, you might notice that ole reliable needs a little extra love. Cooking oil builds up over time on cookware, and your daily wash might not be enough to remove it completely. If you've noticed that your most-used pans are accruing a sticky finish, we've got just the secret to getting them clean again without any extra elbow grease: a hot oven.
First, make sure your pan is oven-safe before trying this trick. Plastic handles and non-stick coatings do not hold up to high heat. This technique is exclusively for cast iron and carbon steel cookware; non-stick pans require a different method. Start by lining an oven rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil to catch any oil drips that might melt off. Then, heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the sticky pot or pan upside down on the foil and allow it to bake for an hour. Transfer the cookware to a heat-proof surface and wipe it down with a paper towel held with kitchen tongs to absorb any hot oil. When the pan is cool, the sticky coating will be gone, and your pan will be as good as new.
Cleaning With Heat And Science
You might assume that this oven trick is burning off the oil somehow, but it's actually the opposite. When oil is heated at the right temperature, it forms a protective layer that coats the little nooks and crannies of the metal to create a smooth surface. As you cook with cast iron or carbon steel, these layers accumulate and make the pan naturally non-stick. But, if droplets of oil land on the pan and are not heated enough, they don't have the chance to form into a layer and instead become sticky and tacky. The solution is to completely heat all of the oil in the pan so that it can complete the coating process.
This is exactly what happens when we re-season a cast iron pan or season one for the first time. Oil is added in thin layers and baked onto the pan inside the oven — upside down so that the oil won't pool in thicker areas that stay sticky. The heat needs to be high and consistent in order to season the pan. When heating a sticky pan, the heat of your oven converts the sticky oil into a beneficial layer that will actually make the pan even better, not just cleaner. To prevent the next sticky build-up, wipe your pans thoroughly while they're still warm to get rid of excess oil!
Read the original article on Tasting Table.