The Problem With Pie: Sugary Spill-Overs in the Oven

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Dear Home Ec 101,
I was baking a pecan pie for my sister-in-law when smoke suddenly started to fill the kitchen. When I looked in the oven, I noticed that some of the syrupy filling had spilled over onto the bottom of the oven, but the pie was done, so I took it out and didn’t think to even wipe up the sticky mess. It has since encrusted itself to the bottom of my oven and whenever I try to preheat the oven, it fills our home with smoke. In the oven’s user’s manual, it says not to run the self-clean cycle without cleaning up any spill-overs, because it’s a fire hazard. Their solution: clean up spillovers with a “warm, soapy cloth.” Well, a warm soapy cloth doesn’t do squat. It also states not to use abrasive cloths such as steel wool and not to use any oven cleaners. As a result, I’m on my third week with no oven and my poor husband even missed out on a birthday cake.  I am desperate to use my oven again.
Any solutions?
Crispy Critter

How To Manage A Sugary Spill In The Oven

Dear Crispy Critter,

A razor blade will probably be your best bet to scrape away the sugar. Hardware stores typically carry these near the painting supplies and should run you in the neighborhood of three dollars. Sometimes they are called glass scrapers. Use this ONLY if you have a smooth finish in your oven.

Lisa has had great success with baking soda. She mixes a paste with baking soda and water before and liberally coats the debris in the bottom of the oven and leaves it on for 12 to 24 hours. After grimacing because it’s not as clean as she would like, she will mist it with white vinegar from a spray bottle to get it to bubble and remove the rest of the grime. The vinegar (acid) reacts with the baking soda (base) to gently foam away stuck debris, and it also helps to deodorize the sticky burnt-on sugar smell. Wipe it off, and when you have removed all of the leftover sugary sludge, take a clean damp cloth and repeat wiping until all the baking soda is removed.

sugary oven spill

For those of you with what is referred to as a perpetually cleaning oven that has a rough finish, the sugar will eventually bake off, don’t leave the oven unattended until most of the residue is gone.

In the future, place a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil on the rack below any dishes likely to spill over. And, if it does spill over, you’re not stuck scrubbing your baking pan.

If you still find yourself with a spill, immediately and liberally soak the spill with salt. The residue should easily wipe away once the oven is cool.

Good luck!

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13 thoughts on “The Problem With Pie: Sugary Spill-Overs in the Oven”

  1. You can also take a washcloth soaked in hot water and lay it over the spill for about 15-20 mins then remove the top layer of the spill. Repeat as many times as it takes to get rid of the build up and vow to use a cookie sheet underneath next time.

  2. Thanks for the advice! Makes me want to clean it now, if it wasn’t 9:30 at night. We always forget until we’ve pre-heated the oven that it’s going to smoke.

  3. Yeah, I’d go for the hot water on a rag approach too. It takes a little longer, but it also doesn’t require much effort. Stick in the rag when you start the evening dishes, take it out when you’re done. (Uhhh…unless you have a dishwasher, I guess.)

  4. Every holiday my dad yells at my mom for leaking pies (he is the cleaning service at their house). Today I baked my first pie and sure enough…blueberry filling all over the bottom of my oven. Since my dad isn't here to clean up after MY messes, I'm thrilled to have your article. Thanks, Heather!

    -Amy, the not always resourceful mommy 🙂

  5. I place aluminum foil underneath my pies to catch the inevitable spills. The spill still burns but the cleanup is easy. I just crumple the black-laden burnt sugar encrusted foil and toss it.

    • The foil trick can backfire terribly on you if you have a newer Kenmore oven. We tried placing foil in our new oven to protect from spills. The bottom pan heats so hot it literally melted the foil which then bonded permanently to the oven floor. You would think the manufacturer would make this known via a warning tag or such.

      • The manuals instructions say not to put anything on the bottom of an oven with a hidden element. READ your manual! Place a baking sheet or aluminum foil on the rack below but leave room for air and heat to circulate around it.

  6. Salt worked the best on moms very syrupy apple pie spillover ,, loosen what you can, wet area first , sprinkle generously with table salt, ( I sprayed a bit of degreaser on it ) let sit about 10 minutes or so, scrape with spatula or ice scraper, repeat if needed. I was impressed at how well it cleaned the mess.

  7. so I placed a deep dish pizza on the oven rack directly per instructions and it caused leaks and smoking like your pies did. I asked my father to look at it because I’ll be home alone for two weeks and want access to the oven without it constantly smoking. He told me to set the temperature to 250 and burn it off. Not to bother any type of cleaning.
    What do you think?

  8. The spillage went on the foil but it caused a scared cat and shower interrupted close to bedtime. My husband cleaned it out and I took the pie out to finish the next morning. Apple pie with topping of sugar, butter and brown sugar.
    It was in only ten minutes. Do I start all over ?? I thought I would make a new crust in a bigger pan so I can save the apples and topping. There are two, 9 inch pie pans. Any suggestions ladies?


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