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Why We Use Degreasers For Food Messes

For those who work in a commercial food setting or just love to cook at home, it is common knowledge that when cleaning food caked surfaces, you use a special cleaning agent called degreaser. In many of those cases, the how or why is ignored, since it gets the job done. However, the reason degreaser is used on cooking surfaces and in ovens is important to note, if only so you know why you should not use other cleaning products on them.

What is a degreaser?

Any grill or oven cleaner will contain two major components: a surfactant and enzymes. A surfactant or detergent is a chemical that helps the molecules of water attach to the molecules of the mess you are trying to clean so that when you wipe the water away, the mess goes with it. A surfactant is the main ingredient you will find in any cleaning products. What makes degreaser especially effective is the presence of enzymes. Scientists synthesize these for inclusion in cleaning products like grill or oven degreaser.

Why it works better:

The real power of degreaser is in the enzymes. Grill and oven cleaners include a variety of specialized enzymes that each work on different substances. Amylase breaks down starch, lipase breaks down fats, and protease breaks down proteins. By breaking down these substances, they become easier to scrub away with the surfactant.

Not only is degreaser more effective at cleaning up food messes better than regular cleaning supplies, it is also safer to use. Grill and oven cleaners contain a much smaller amount of the surfactant element than regular cleaning supplies, which are potentially toxic. Relying primarily on enzymes rather than detergents means that there is a smaller chance of contaminating food that will be prepared next, or having it evaporate into the air when the cooking surface is heated again, which could potentially create a poisonous gas and become a danger to the cook. Traditional cleaning agents are not recommended for cleaning stoves, grills or ovens for this important reason.

How to use it:

Grill and oven cleaners work best when the surface to be cleaned is heated to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray the surface thoroughly with the degreaser and allow it to sit for 20 – 30 minutes. This wait time is important because the enzyme actions that make degreaser so effective on burned on food particles take time to work. When the food residue is softened by the cleaner, wipe away with a dry paper towel. Once this is complete you can wash the grates with water and dish soap to sanitize.