How to clean sticky egg from pans?
May 9, 2006 10:50 AM   Subscribe

How do you clean a saucepan and utensils that have been used to prepare eggs?

I don't eat eggs, my girlfriend does. I do the washing up in the house. Whenever she cooks eggs she does it in some way they all go 'fluffy' (is this 'scrambled eggs'?). When it comes to washing up, even boiling water can't shift the white sticky gunk from the pan! Instead I have to scour and scrape and end up smushing the white waxy stuff all around the pan. It really is like wax and takes forever to remove. The same applies, to a lesser extent, with utensils, but with a smaller surface area I can eventually scrub the egg off.

As most people tend to eat quite a lot of eggs, surely there's some simple way to clean away the white waxy nastiness without spending five solid minutes with a scouring pad destroying our pans?
posted by wackybrit to Food & Drink (35 answers total)
Use a little oil and cook rapidly, then use Barkeeper's Friend (or an equivalent over there) to clean immediately. If she cooks them wrong, there is but one solution to that.
posted by kcm at 10:52 AM on May 9, 2006

FWIW, I've tried soaking the pans and implements in extremely hot water for, say, an hour, and it has no effect at all and is just as difficult to clean.

This strategy works with everything else though (fats, etc) but eggs appear to contain some scary ultra-resistant material :-)
posted by wackybrit at 10:54 AM on May 9, 2006

My wife does this, and it is a result of cooking eggs with very little oil or butter.

After she finishes cooking the eggs and puts them on a plate. Take the pan from her while it is still hot, and under running hot water, and scrape the bulk of it off with a wooden or plastic spatula. This will leave you just a tiny bit to scrub off after breakfast

You may encourage her to cook her eggs with more oil or butter as I do. In that case, there is almost no egg stuck to the pan.
posted by poppo at 10:56 AM on May 9, 2006

kcm: Aha, so perhaps the problem is further up the chain of command... :) Whenever I cook, I immediately rinse my utensils and such under hot water, but perhaps I need to get her to sharpen up her technique :)

But I wonder.. for those times she leaves a big mess in the pan, is there some scientific way of removing the mess without leaving a waxy smush all over the pan? Hot water doesn't work, but perhaps heating the pan on the stove.. or acid.. or.....?
posted by wackybrit at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2006

coarse salt is a good addition to or improvisation for BF, too, if you get some really difficult crud. cooking quickly on high heat is key, contrary to what les amateurs think. ;)
posted by kcm at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2006

eggs are just difficult either way. the best you can do is to minimize the damage as above -- whenever I cook eggs I think about doing it in the microwave so I don't have to do the cleanup dance, then I skip it and let the frying pan sit in the sink for a day because it's the only thing that will get it so cruddy a quick cleanup doesn't work.

on the other hand .. if I do it in the microwave I end up leaving the cooking bowl in the dishwasher for a few cycles because it won't come clean EITHER and I'm too stubborn to do it by hand.
posted by kcm at 11:03 AM on May 9, 2006

My mom used to loosen food stuck to a pan by boiling water in it with some baking soda. I don't know if it will work on eggs, but it may be worth a try.
posted by Hermes32 at 11:08 AM on May 9, 2006

Besides more oil or butter, it might be a pan problem, too. What kind of pan is it? If it's cast-iron it sounds like it needs to be seasoned again. If it's stainless steel, just get a flat square-edged spatula and chisel off the egg--you can't wreck the surface. If it's non-stick that's gotten scratched and ruined, you shouldn't be using it anyway (non-stick pan surface stuff isn't good for you).
posted by tula at 11:10 AM on May 9, 2006

I was always taught to wash eggy stuff in cold water - the hot water is the problem (you're just cooking the egg even more and worsening the problem). Once you've scrubbed with cold water and got all the manky bits off, then you can go back for a normal hot soapy wash if you wanna make sure you've got the germs.
posted by penguin pie at 11:12 AM on May 9, 2006

Seasoning a pan.
posted by tula at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2006

1. Clean immediately (hint: this is important when cooking rice, too).
2. Maybe switch to a teflon-coated pan.
3. If you're using cast iron, scour with salt.
posted by adamrice at 11:18 AM on May 9, 2006

Teflon - pan and utensils.
posted by caddis at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2006

It's stainless steel, so it sounds like I should just have a chisel at it :) Thanks for the advice guys. It's not the answer I wanted to hear, but at least it seems like everyone else sometimes gets this problem.. :)
posted by wackybrit at 11:22 AM on May 9, 2006

I've loosened some things by soaking (overnight sometimes) with baking soda. About 3-4 TBSP (I just dump some out of the smallish box), fill the pan with water, and leave it alone for a while. Can't remember if this is effective with eggs, but it might be.
posted by amtho at 11:35 AM on May 9, 2006

If it's stainless, try the Barkeeper's Friend as suggested above (or Bon Ami). That stuff is great for cleaning anything off of stainless.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:40 AM on May 9, 2006

(Not sure what the British equivalent is though--these are very mild abrasive cleaners here in the US.)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2006

I use water and time if I'm lazy. If I am not lazy, I use a wooden spatula... came with a sushi kit. It has sharp edges and I just scrape the stuff off, whatever it is. ALso, a chopstick, the blunt end.

In general, use a scraper harder than the substance you are scraping and softer than the substrate (stainless steel) you want to preserve. Use smaller surface areas to concentrate what force you can apply, and be patient. It can take no more than a few minutes to dislodge most of the big areas, and the small ones yield to the scrubbing sponges. For absolutely brutal materials, 3M makes an extremely abrasive pad.... not green but sage colored, that I have used to polish stone.

Last, 1 tbsp of bleach in a cup of water for a soak will loosen damn near anything organic. Do not mix with amonia, BTW. Dishwasher soap is also better than dish soap.

Whatever you do, don't try and use a pad to scrape off the stuff initially.... use a tool. Save the pad for the last few bits, when it won't immediately clog.
posted by FauxScot at 11:41 AM on May 9, 2006

Yep, soak in cold, NOT hot water with some dishwashing detergent for 20 mins, then clean with a scourer. It'll come straight off.
posted by bifter at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2006

It's not really wax that's your bugaboo, it's the protein component of the egg whites, perhaps (depending on how she cooks) also binding in the protein and fat from the egg yolks. It's pretty easy to avoid the mess by learning to cook eggs differently, but I've been around enough women who do this to theorize that there is something about the taste of eggs that have been crusted to metal with no fat or water, that they find appealing, to think you've any real chance of changing her ways on this. You have the following options:

1) Get a new G/F, that doesn't do this. Seriously. You can train dogs not to bark, but you can't get a woman with this nasty predilection to stop.

2) Make her clean up her own egg mess. Experiential data point: Never happens, and the mess in the sink is just gross while you're trying.

3) Depending on your pots, get some diatomaceous earth cleanser, and more importantly, a stiff brush, with bristles of appropriate hardness for the surface metallurgy of your pots. Nylon bristles are generally so soft as to be safe for all cookware, but if you have stainless steel or iron cookware, you may be able to use soft bronze brushes without scratching the pots. At any rate, start with the brush, and quickly remove as much of the cooked on gunk as will come out immediately under a stream of running water. This should take no more than 30 to 45 seconds, and you'll be leaving a film of egg gunk stuck pretty tightly to the pan. The point of this first step is to get out as much of the cooked egg as possible, leaving behind, only the film. Once this first step is done, apply a dab of your cleanser to a clean brush, and work it around the pot's surface. The diatomaceous earth will quickly loosen the cooked egg film, and the soaps in the cleanser will suspend it for rinsing away, so don't do this under running water. Just scrub with light pressure on the brush, while agitating as rapidly and evenly across the surface as you can for about 1 minute. Rinse thoroughly and wipe.

Cussing under your breath is entirely optional.
posted by paulsc at 11:55 AM on May 9, 2006

Get a non-stick pan.

Also, IMO, scrambled eggs are best cooked slowly (like 10 minutes) over very low heat, if you have the time. Add a splash of water to your eggs before cooking. Stir regularly. They come out very creamy, but not runny. Cooking scrambled eggs over high heat dries them out if your timing isn't perfect.
posted by mkultra at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2006

What penguin said. Cold water.
posted by smackfu at 11:56 AM on May 9, 2006

1) Designated egg pan. "It's the egg pan. YOU wash it." (resentful glaring)

2) No matter what the tricks employed, the only thing that will keep eggs from sticking maddeningly to plain stainless steel is to literally float them on a layer of butter or oil so they never really touch the pan. So grease 'er up! (until your veins clog up and you can't eat eggs anymore at all)

3) If all your cookware otherwise matches the stainless, then just get a small cast iron or nonstick pan and use it only for eggs. (No stick, less grease, you know who/what to blame.)
posted by bartleby at 12:14 PM on May 9, 2006

I make phad thai a lot, and the scrambled eggs tend to stick to my stainless steel pans if I don't use a well-seasoned wok. Solution? When the food's done cooking, put it on a serving platter, throw a few cups of water in the pan, and return to the stove over medium heat until it boils for a few minutes. Most of the time, the egg that's stuck to the bottom floats up as a solid sheet of its own accord.

In your case, besides encouraging you to let the mess-maker take care of the mess, I'd try heating the pan with water in it while you eat breakfast, then rinsing the eggs out when you're done eating. It's about the right amount of time.
posted by bloggerwench at 12:26 PM on May 9, 2006

We use a cast-iron pan and just about everything (including fried or scrambled egg) will come off. Worst-case, it just takes a bit of a soak, and maybe a pot scrubber.

If you are having sticking problems with cast-iron, then it's not properly seasoned, as already pointed out.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2006

Teflon has been linked to cancer. If you learn to season your cast iron pan with salt and oil you will achieve the same results as a teflon pan without potentially poisoning your family. You'll also get yourself a dose of iron every time you use it.
posted by any major dude at 12:34 PM on May 9, 2006

Pick up a pan scraper (or a plastic putty knife). Scrape off what you can, then do the cold-water+soap-soak, then wash as normal.
posted by sluggo at 12:51 PM on May 9, 2006

Iron has been linked to heart attacks.
posted by caddis at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2006

Caddis, doesn't that seem more like a side-effect of a diet high in red meat? I find it hard to believe that it's the iron and not the fat in red meat that leads to heart disease.
posted by any major dude at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2006

Get a teflon / non-stick fry pan just for eggs. A little one will do, and it'd put you back less than $10.

I have a stainless heavy pan at home with the ridges on the bottom, and honestly, aside from soaking it all day with water, nothing else works. It's really only good for stuff like meats and veggies, and lovely for deglazing.
posted by Sallysings at 1:52 PM on May 9, 2006

Eggs have been linked to chicks. :D Give the alarmist posts a rest, willya?

Try egg substitute or hard boiled eggs?

Personally, I like poaching them in these these nifty plastic microwavable poaching...things
posted by catkins at 2:03 PM on May 9, 2006

Egg substitute is no better, in my experience. As others have said, it's the protein that sticks; Egg Beaters, Better 'N Eggs, etc., are just egg whites (pure protein) with a few other ingredients for color, texture, etc.

There are eggless "egg replacers" for use in recipes, but I don't know of one that's actually meant to mimic eggs in an egg dish.
posted by staggernation at 5:00 PM on May 9, 2006

I sometimes make scambled eggs in a stainless pan. I usually manage to clean up everything completely in less than a few minutes.

First, after you're done with the pan, get as much of the solid egg goo out of it as possible. I use a paper towel over the waste basket to dislodge as much as possible.

Then, I use a heavy duty scrubber pad. Not just a regular scrubber, a heavy duty one. The extra edge will cut through the remaining crap, but it does take some pressure. Make sure to rinse the scrubber often, as the goo will become lodged in it and it will lose its edge.

With these two steps I never have had to resort to soaking or anything involving much work. But it is important that no matter what you do, you do it fast after the cooking stops.
posted by Rhomboid at 5:09 PM on May 9, 2006

Just in case anybody is questioning cast iron pans based upon my comment above, it actually says in the link that the initial results are not fully proven. The science on Teflon is no better and that was my point. Use whatever pan you feel comfortable with, but eggs will stick to a steel or plain aluminum pan. Hard anodized aluminum and enameled cast iron clean nicely and as far as I know present no health issues, either real or potential.
posted by caddis at 6:01 PM on May 9, 2006

Chemicals used to make Teflon are found in people's blood. I'd avoid that route.

For me, no matter how much oil I use with an enameled cast iron (usually white), the eggs stick. (I guess caddis and I have had different experiences). With lots of oil on stainless steel, only medium stickage. Well-seasoned cast iron, nearly instantaneous cleanup.
posted by salvia at 10:42 PM on May 9, 2006

I was always taught to wash eggy stuff in cold water

YES! Use cold water first! Hot water cooks the eggs on more. I'm not a chemist, just someone who likes eggs.
Immediately put some cold water in the pan, and once all the egg is off, wash it with soap and hot water.
posted by Packy_1962 at 12:51 AM on May 10, 2006

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