5 Smart Ways to Clean a Crusty Sheet Pan, According to Professional Bakers

updated Feb 5, 2023
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wiping down a dirty baking sheet with a sponge
Credit: Joe Lingeman

We all have one: a stained, crusty, tired baking sheet that’s just, well, accepted. Heck, maybe you have more than one. Over time, even the most durable, well-constructed baking sheet can look worse for the wear due to molten sugar, hot oil, and scorching oven temperatures.

Can a stained, crusted-on baking sheet be saved? According to professional bakers: Yes. But, also, don’t stress about it. We spoke with a few baking wizards to find out how they clean up messy, almost-too-far-gone baking sheets and came away with plenty of good intel to share (for one, the pros don’t bother with specialty cleaners).

The general consensus is that first, you’ve got to loosen up the crud — and then you can start scrubbing. But also, in the end, it’s really not that important how a baking sheet looks. “Why do baking sheets need to be perfect?” asks Nicole Rucker, the head chef and owner at Fat + Flour pie shop. “Patina is good.” Caroline Schiff, the executive pastry chef at Gage & Tollner restaurant, agrees. “At a certain point, I start to embrace the stains.”

If you’re not quite at that point yet, try these tips.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

1. Soak it.

Sometimes, the best way is the easiest way. “Soak it,” says Briana Holt, the head baker at Tandem Coffee Roasters. That’s the first thing she tries when it comes to any crusty sheet, and it works wonders. Be sure that the water is hot, and use plenty of sudsy dish detergent — preferably one with grease-cutting powers.

2. Go to town with a bench scraper.

Bakers love bench scrapers, and reach for them to tackle a variety of tasks in the kitchen (they’re particularly useful at cutting dough). And the sturdy and durable metal ones are a powerful tool for cleaning crusted-on cookie sheets. Holt uses hers whenever crusty stuff accumulates on her pans; her personal favorite is a wood-handled metal scraper. 

3. Sprinkle on Bar Keepers Friend.

Bar Keepers Friend is always close at hand for Schiff. Heck, if BKF can remove discolored stains from stainless steel cookware, a crusty baking sheet will be no problem. Even the cleaning company’s website claims, “Bar Keepers Friend can remove burned-on sugar and oils and get you back in the baking business in no time.”

4. Use steel wool pads.

Steel wool is not meant for every cleaning task. It’s super abrasive, and can scratch delicate materials. However, that’s exactly why Schiff finds it useful for baked-on sheets. The firm and dense texture of a steel wool pad is fantastic at cutting through tough crud. Just keep it away from your favorite nonstick sheet pans and dishes, as it can ruin the coating.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

5. Try to prevent stains in the first place.

If you’d prefer to avoid cleaning a dirty baking sheet altogether, Rucker has a smart tip. “We use parchment sheets, so our trays are almost perfect,” she says. Parchment is key for baking, as it can provide an extra layer of nonstick protection. It’s the first line of defense between melted sugar and your pans. Bonus: It also makes a handy sling for moving brownies or quick breads.

How do you handle your crusty baking sheets? Tell us in the comments below.