Autumn is here! Time for some nice baked squash! Unfortunately, this tasty side dish can really mess up your baking pan. Here’s how my nice Corningware pan looked after my most recent batch of butternut squash. For some reason, this particular squash had an unusually large amount of sugary juice that oozed out the sides and–especially in the areas that weren’t sheltered by the squash sections–burned into a blackened mess.
My pan and I have been through this before. We’ve learned not to panic. It takes some patience to recover from this, but it does not require a lot of hard work or any noxious chemicals! This technique works on most types of baked-on food, not just squash.
This method is safe for any ceramic or glass pan or a metal pan with no special coating. Don’t use it on a seasoned cast-iron pan (it will remove the seasoning) or a pan with non-stick coating (it may scratch the coating).
The first step, after your pan has cooled, is simply to place it in the sink and allow water to fall into it and overflow as you’re washing your hands and so forth. When you are done using the sink for a while, empty the water from the pan, put in a small squirt of dish detergent, fill it with water, and leave it to soak for several hours.
This is what my pan looked like after soaking, with no scrubbing whatsoever. Big improvement! A lot of that gunk simply dissolved into the water.
To restore the pan to pristine whiteness, you’ll need three items that should be in every Earth household: baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and some type of dishcloth, scouring pad, or sponge.
We keep a supply of baking soda handy in our kitchen in a cute, convenient, damp-proof shaker made from reused materials. It’s looked like this since my 11-year-old Nicholas redid the decorative covering recently, but it’s still the same shaker shown in the other article, which we’ve now been using for 6 years.
I’m including a photo of the peroxide bottle to make it very clear that this environmentally-friendly cleaner is not some special variety of peroxide; it’s the kind you can buy in any drugstore for about $1 a pint. It’s great for any cleaning task that would benefit from some bubbling action!
Shake a small pile of baking soda (1-2 tsp.) into your pan. Add a little peroxide (1/4-1/2 tsp.) and mix into a paste. (I usually mix it with my fingertip, but if you have very sensitive skin or do not want the cosmetic risk of your finger turning white, use a butter knife.) Use your cloth/pad/sponge to spread the paste over the stuck-on food, using firm pressure.
Some of the gunk will come right off when you do this! After brief rubbing of the parts that are loosening easily, rinse the pan and shake out as much water as possible. Then make more paste and completely cover the stubborn spots. Let it stand for about 10 minutes. (This is a great time to wash other dishes, prepare the next meal, wipe off the stovetop, or some other kitchen task.)
Now wet your cloth/pad/sponge thoroughly and rub it over those stubborn spots. This is the one part where you may have to really scrub–but then again, you may not! Although my pan looked really bad this time, every bit of food came off in the first round, and I didn’t even have to do this last step!
I wasn’t able to get in-focus photos of the cleaning in progress, but here’s the finished pan, nice and clean!
This same technique works on the casserole dish used for Honey Baked Lentils and that dish’s lid, which tends to get coated in tiny dark-brown dots as the delicious lentils bubble and bake. Check out my article at Kitchen Stewardship about the wonderful autumn dinner of Honey Baked Lentils and baked squash (or sweet potatoes)–easy to make, delicious, nutritious, affordable, and it won’t ruin your pans!