This time of year, when roasted vegetables and festive cookies happen by the bushel, sheet pans deserve a round of applause. Whether you line with parchment or foil, grease with butter or cooking spray, after dozens of trips through the oven, most sheet pans manage to be caked in all manner of sticky, charred gunk. This holiday season, give your sheet pans a spa day by learning how to clean them properly.
Begin with washing the sheet pan by hand as you typically would. This, hopefully, will remove most of the food particles and grease on the pan, as well as any loosely caked-on charred bits.
Next up, make a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. The paste should be a similar texture to watery toothpaste or a creamy salad dressing. Spread the paste on the sheet pan, paying careful attention to the grossest areas. If you have a jar of Bar Keepers Friend or some comparable cleansing powder, sprinkle on the powder over the wet pan liberally. If, like me, you live in a small apartment with a kitchen sink that barely fits dinner plates, let alone sheet pans, this step may need to be done in a clean (again—a clean) bathtub.
Let the paste permeate the charred-on bits on the pans for at least 10 minutes. After that time has passed, use a sponge (preferably one with a scrubby side) to scrub off as much of the gunk as you can. If you’re finding any areas especially stubborn, rinse the pan and cover the tricky areas again with a layer of paste or powder. After you feel you’ve removed as much char as you can, rinse and then hand-wash the pan again.
Of course, if you use your sheet pans to the best of their ability, it’s unlikely that they’ll ever return to their original state of pristine shine. However, that’s not really the point. If, after cleaning, the pans are mostly smooth and not sticky, oily, or crusty to the touch, then you’ve done your duty. The corners are bound to stay a bit charred, and the surface to be scraped up. A well-loved sheet pan is the sign of a busy kitchen and full bellies, both of which are beautiful things.