'Tis the season to bake cookies, which means 'tis also the season to take stock of your baking supplies. How old is that box of baking soda anyway, and will it still work? Do you have a full set of dry cups, or has one of them mysteriously wandered off? (If you are me, it hasn't wandered off, but has been put to use as a dog-food scooper.)
Of course the essential tool for baking cookies is a cookie sheet (and we would argue that the best cookie sheet is actually a half-sheet pan). If it's looking dinged and dented, mottled with stains and a far cry from its former shiny self, you may be tempted to throw it out and get a new one.
Don't! Or rather — do get a new baking sheet for your cookies, but don't throw that battered and blackened one out. Here's why.
1. Baking sheets are extremely resilient.
For starters, as I recently learned, there are very few things you can do to your baking sheet that is irreversible. A few weeks ago, I roasted a turkey for the very first time. It went great and you can read all about it, but then my night took a bit of a scary turn when I decided to crisp some turkey skin under the broiler.
There were firemen involved (although I acted quickly enough that the only real casualty was my pride) and the turkey skin and my baking sheet were charred basically beyond recognition. My neighbor Arnold said to me, "Geraldine, can I give you a piece of advice? Throw out your pan."
But I didn't throw it out. Instead, I soaked it overnight in hot, soapy water. In the morning, it still looked pretty bad:
I decided to use my tried-and-true method of cleaning: salt and oil and a good scrub. This got any gnarly raised bits off the surface, but the pan was still very black.
I tried lemon juice and baking soda, separately and then together, and then I soaked it some more. Then I scrubbed it some more. And slowly, ever so slowly, I started to see real signs of progress.
Your pan may never be like new, but with a little elbow grease, you may be able to bring it back to life.
2. Blackened baking sheets make better roasted veggies.
But if you can't and it's still stubbornly scarred and charred, you still shouldn't give it the heave-ho. That's because a blackened baking sheet is great for roasting veggies. It helps achieve the quick, deep browning that you want for roasted vegetables (even if it's not so great for cookies).
These battered baking sheets are also great for other cooking tasks, especially messy ones. Let this be your designated half-sheet pan for the times when you know things are going to get a bit ugly.
3. Battered baking sheets can be used for non-cooking tasks.
When I posted a photo of my poor, patinated pan on Instagram, our food editor Christine commented, "Keep it! Great photo surface." While this particular use might not apply to everyone, there are plenty of other times when a sturdy tray comes in handy. Use it to clear the table when company comes; or to carry meat and to and from the grill. You might even use it as a serving piece, where it's sure to spark conversation: Remember that time I made a turkey and I set my oven on fire?
Do you keep an old, ugly baking sheet in your kitchen?