TikTok Tuesday: We take on a potentially damaging #cleaninghack

The self-cleaning function on your oven may make pans shine, but experts warn this is also a great way to ruin them, and set yourself up for some health risks.

Emma Jones 4 minute read May 17, 2022

Who doesn’t love a good cleaning hack, especially in the kitchen? Tough-to-clean stains can take the joy out of even the best-prepared meals, and the ever-growing skepticism of too-good-to-be-true cleaning chemicals means we are often left with the option of standard dish soap, good ol’ fashioned elbow grease and a chunk of our time. It’s no wonder then that when TikTokers started to share stories about making their ugly, stained baking sheets as good as new at the press of a button, home cooks took notice.

Popular videos online include people putting their dirty, tarnished baking pans in the oven and turning on the high-temperature oven cleaning function. The pans come out looking like new, but experts warn this is a great way to ruin your pans — and could also carry some health risks.

The temperature and duration of a self-cleaning oven depend on the make and model, but the entire point of the cycle is to get things really hot for an extended period of time. Traditionally, self-cleaning ovens will reach internal temperatures of 800°F and 900°F, with a full cycle lasting anywhere from anywhere from 3.5 to 6 hours, according to Maytag. Self-cleaning ovens are designed to withstand these temperatures, although some repair professionals warn that the heat and duration can still cause parts of the oven to break.

But it may be a little too hard for baking sheets and pans to handle. For example, the maximum baking temperature of Chicago Metallic Bakeware pans, a consumer-focused cookware manufacturer, is 700°F. And over-heating a pan can cause it to warp or ruin its finish, Andrew Forlines, an appliance technology specialist, told Kitchn. A warped pan can result in uneven cooking and is also likely to wear out more quickly than normal.

Non-stick coatings on pots and pans not designed for extremely high temperatures

Things get even dicier if the pan in question has a coating, like with many non-stick pans.

Non-stick coatings are only heat resistant to about 500°F, according to a spokesperson for Hubert Canada. Over heating a non-stick pan can cause the coating to breakdown and may cause the release of polymer fumes which, if inhaled, can cause polymer fume fever.

A case study from 2015 describes a 35 year-old man who was admitted to the hospital with severe respiratory distress after being in the house with a polytetrafluoroethylene (non-stick) coated pan on a gas-burning stove for 10 hours. He was diagnosed with polytetrafluoroethylene fume-induced pulmonary edema and remained in the hospital for 11 days before being released.

How to clean a pan safely

Refer to the manufacturers directions to clean pots and pans. Depending on the coating or fabrication, overly strong or abrasive cleaners can damage the finish or any coating.

Generally, the best way to stop buildup on pots and pans is to stay on top of the cleaning. Using baking mats or aluminum foil can help reduce the amount of food on the pans, and wiping pans while they are still warm (not hot) with a clean cloth can help prevent carbon buildup. Some pans may also require seasoning with high-heat safe oils after each cleaning.

Depending on the pan, cleaning with a cookware-safe cleanser and a scrubbing pad can help remove the baked-in stains and keep the pans looking new. However, as long as the integrity of the metal and coating remain intact, cosmetic damage should not affect the performance of the pan or the taste or safety of the food.


Emma Jones is a multimedia editor with Healthing. You can reach her at emjones@postmedia.com or on Instagram and Twitter @jonesyjourn.


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