We Tried 5 Popular Methods for Cleaning Casserole Dishes — And the Winner is Also the Fastest

published Feb 26, 2022
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

Let me set the scene for you: It’s the morning after a big dinner party, and all of the baked-on casserole dishes you left to “soak” haven’t quite cleaned themselves. You scrub and scrub, but the grime and grease don’t seem to be disappearing at all. What do you do?

First, don’t stress. Even the sauciest, cheesiest, and most burnt-on messes can be cleaned off to reveal a sparkling-clean dish. You just have to know which tools to use. I ran a quick online search and found a number of articles touting dozens of ways to clean ceramic casserole dishes. The trick was figuring out which of these reigned supreme (and wouldn’t take five rounds to work or lead to unnecessary scratches on your dish). Out of all of the suggestions out there, the five main ones seemed to be the following: a Magic Eraser, vinegar, dish soap and baking soda, Bar Keepers Friend powder, and a dryer sheet. Of course, I decided to try them all!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

How I Tested the Methods for Cleaning Ceramic Casserole Dishes

I wanted to make sure that, for each cleaning method, I was cleaning the exact same stains. I thought about making five lasagnas, but then thought about having to make five lasagnas and backed away. Instead, I poured a can of creamy chicken and mushroom soup with barley into a casserole dish, then baked it at 400°F for 20 minutes. I did this five times, as I only have one ceramic casserole dish. After removing it from the oven, I let everything sit until it was cool and congealed. Then, I got to work!

The ratings: I ranked each cleaning method on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best method of the bunch and 1 being the least effective. I factored in how well each worked, plus how much elbow grease and time each method took. The results were actually kind of surprising! 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Casserole Cleaning Method: Vinegar Bake

  • Total time: 1 hour (15 active minutes)  
  • Rating: 1/5

The method: Preheat your oven to 350°F, then fill your casserole dish with equal parts white vinegar and water. Place the filled casserole dish in the oven and bake for 45 minutes before removing. Once the dish is cool, use dish soap and water to wipe up the remaining grime. 

How it went: This is the one I was least looking forward to, for a couple of reasons. It required keeping the oven on, and I don’t totally love the smell of vinegar. So, naturally, I didn’t love the smell of baking vinegar filling my whole kitchen. When I took the dish out of the oven and emptied out the water/vinegar mixture, there seemed to be no difference in the dish. When I started scrubbing, it even seemed like some of the burnt food had been further cooked into the dish. Eventually with some intense scrubbing with a sponge then a scrub brush, I was able to clear off the stains (except for one super burned-on corner). Overall, this method just seemed like a time killer and wasn’t remarkably quicker or easier than the other options. 

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Casserole Cleaning Method: Dryer Sheet

  • Total time: 21 minutes (6 active minutes) 
  • Rating: 2/5

The method: Fill your casserole dish with a bit of warm water (a shallow 1/2 inch is enough!). Place a dryer sheet on the surface of the water, and let it float for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove and wash the dish with warm, soapy water.

How it went: I know it’s not possible for this strategy to have made it tougher to remove baked-on stains, but it sure felt like it. I let the dryer sheet float for the allotted amount of time, and when I removed it and poured out the water, everything looked the same. I tried using a standard sponge to clean off the remnants, but after a few minutes, it was clear that the stains weren’t coming off. I ended up switching to a scrub brush, and after a few more minutes, I was able to get nearly everything off. Overall, I wasn’t impressed.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Casserole Cleaning Method: Magic Eraser 

  • Total time: 7 minutes
  • Rating: 3/5

The method: Wet the Magic Eraser then squeeze out excess water (do this 2 to 3 times). Take the wet Magic Eraser and wipe the casserole dish down until food comes loose. Wash with soap and water, then dry. 

How it went: I cut the eraser in half because using the whole thing felt a little unnecessary. I wet it and started scrubbing and was surprised by how little came off at first. I kept going and after three or four more rounds of wetting the eraser then wiping the pan, things started to move. I had to dig into the eraser with my nails to get the tougher parts in the corners, but eventually with enough elbow grease they came off. This didn’t work as fast as I wanted it to, but it did eventually remove every single bit of burnt-on food.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Casserole Cleaning Method: Baking Soda and Dish Soap

  • Total time: 20 minutes (5 active minutes) 
  • Rating: 4/5

The method: Sprinkle baking soda over the bottom of the casserole dish, then add a few squeezes of dish soap. Fill the casserole dish with hot water, and let everything sit for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape off the remaining food. Repeat the whole process again as needed. 

How it went: I didn’t love the whole waiting and watching thing, but I have to admit that by the time I rinsed the baking soda and soap off the dish, the food basically fell right off. It took a few swipes with a sponge to finish off the rest, but this was quick and simple. Sure, not the most surprising solution, but boy did it work!

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Casserole Cleaning Method: Bar Keepers Friend

  • Total time: 3 minutes 
  • Rating: 5/5

The method: Rinse your casserole dish with water then sprinkle powdered Bar Keepers Friend lightly across the bottom of the dish. Let sit for 30 seconds, then scrub the dish with a damp sponge and rinse. Wash and repeat if needed.  

How it went: I was excited to try this one because it clearly takes the least amount of time of the bunch. On the first rinse, post-powder, most of the stains stayed put, but after working with a sponge for a couple of minutes, every single bit came off. Even the really burned-on parts disappeared. For the sheer time-effectiveness alone, this one was the clear winner!