These six simple methods are sure to have your roasting pan looking like new.

By Taylor Tobin
November 19, 2020
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As we get ready for the holiday season, it's about time to start digging out the cooking and serving gear that becomes necessary when Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas feasts, and Hanukkah spreads are on the horizon. Perhaps the most crucial kitchen tool for these seasonal meals is the roasting pan, in which turkeys, hams, roast beef, and other oven-baked specialties develop their flavors and textures.

The positive aspects of owning a roasting pan are limitless, but, on the downside, these pans claim serious notoriety for their stubbornness in the cleaning department. The slow roasting process results in plenty of grease and residue, and even the most high-powered dishwashers often find themselves conquered by persistent stains. Luckily, chefs and cleaning experts have enough experience with these tricky cleaning challenges to know exactly how to take them on, and we've collected six thoroughly-vetted professional strategies for returning your beleaguered roasting pans to like-new condition.

Use the Pan Drippings to Make a Gravy

When you remove a roasted bird or cut of meat from the oven, you'll surely notice a pool of drippings gathered on the bottom of the pan. Before you even consider adding soaps or other cleaning agents to a "dirty" pan with drippings, take advantage of this flavorful substance by transforming it into a gravy or a pan sauce. "Once the roast has finished cooking, transfer the roast to a large platter and cover with foil and a towel to assist with heat retention. Pour off excess fat from the roasting pan (and save it in a Mason jar to use as cooking fat). [Next,] place the pan on the stovetop over medium heat and add one inch of water or broth to the pan. Bring to a simmer, making sure to scrape every inch of the inside bottom of the pan to incorporate the roasted meaty goodness, and whisk in 2 tbsp flour to thicken and taste for seasoning. Finish this pan sauce with a splash of brandy," instructs chef, owner, and master butcher Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market in Atlanta, Georgia.

Fill the Pan With Hot Water and Pop it Back in the Oven

When you're ready to start cleaning your pan, speed up the process by following this advice from former chef and current recipe developer/blogger Lucy Johnson: "As soon as you've finished roasting, pour water from a just-boiled kettle into the pan. Place it back into the oven on a low heat for about 30 minutes. Then, take the pan out to cool. Once it's cooled, you can drain the water and you'll find that the contents of the pan will wipe clean."

Try a Combination of Salt and Dish Soap

An abrasive scrubbing agent can help lift stains when regular foaming soap isn't doing the job. That said, some grainy cleansers contain chemicals that may not suit those who prefer natural cleaning supplies. For an ideal compromise, use this combination recommended by general manager Abe Navas of Emily's Maids in Dallas, Texas: "Salt, soap, and elbow grease. Salt is an abrasive, and with the help of a metal sponge, you can remove any gunk and filth in your pan that has developed over the years. You can leave your roasting pan soaking in soapy water for hours, then you can use salt as an abrasive and soap to finish the cleaning. This method is so good if you want to preserve your pan for a long time."

Spread Ketchup On the Pan and Allow it to Rest

Using ketchup to banish roasting grime and grease from a pan may sound bizarre, but when you consider the high acid content of ketchup (and acid's impressive stain-fighting abilities), then it all starts to make sense. "Apply a layer of ketchup on the pan and leave it for 10-15 minutes. After that, scourge the pan with an abrasive scrub to remove the stains," advises home blogger and former cleaning-services operator Parvathy Sudeep.

Make a Paste With Baking Soda and Vinegar

As we previously mentioned, acid works wonders on residue that doesn't want to budge, and substances with very high acidity—like vinegar—prove particularly effective. For that reason, chef and podcast host Carla Contreras swears by a mixture of baking soda and vinegar for her roasting pan cleaning needs. "Add 1 cup of white vinegar with 1/4 cup of baking soda [to the pan]. Let soak for up to 30 minutes, then scrub with a gentle bristled brush. Rinse and repeat, if necessary," says Contreras.

If you've tried numerous cleaning tactics and still can't remove all of the stains from your roasting pan, then cleaning expert Natalie Barrett of Nifty Cleaning Services thinks that it's time to break out the hydrogen peroxide: "If, after 10 minutes of intensive scrubbing, the burned spots don't go away, my advice is to step up your cleaning game. Pour vinegar over the problem spots and add some salt on the stains. Wait for half an hour and proceed to scrub vigorously. A similar process can be done with a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 tablespoon hydrogen peroxide. After you mix the 2 ingredients into a paste, apply it to the stains and let it sit for 4-5 hours or even overnight. Wipe away with a sponge and rinse your pan—it should be back to its original condition. Also, don't be afraid to use some kind of steel wool in the scrubbing."

If You're Roasting in a Dutch Oven, Avoid Steel Wool

The durability of metal roasting pans is a major point in their favor; these vessels can withstand vigorous scrubbing with abrasive materials like steel wool. However, if you're roasting or braising a smaller cut of meat, you may wish to take advantage of the heat-conducting powers of an enameled Dutch oven. When it comes to cleaning a Dutch oven, you'll want to stay far away from any cleaning supplies that could scratch, chip, or wear down the enamel coating (steel wool included). Instead, "halve a lemon and coat it with salt, then scrub away. If you've got a really messy situation (and some time to spend), you can put about one inch of hydrogen peroxide and some baking soda [in the Dutch oven], heat until bubbling, and then use your scrub brush to brush away the burnt food. Then wash and dry as you normally would before using again," suggests Kathy Turley, marketing director of Home Clean Heroes.

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