8 Surprising Ways to Use Baking Soda to Cook or Clean
Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is one of the most versatile kitchen ingredients around. While most people use it as a leavening agent in baking, baking soda can also be used in the kitchen for surprising cooking uses, as well as for cleaning. Depending on what it's combined with, the basic structure of baking soda (remember acids and bases in chemistry class?) can help break down foods or cut through built-up grease.
If you have a dirty oven, sheet pan or even a smelly refrigerator, baking soda can be used to clean all of these. And if you're looking to use up that box of baking soda while you cook, you might be surprised to learn that dishes like beans and bagels can benefit from baking soda. Here are eight tried-and-true cooking and cleaning hacks using baking soda.
Related: Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder
5 Ways to Use Baking Soda to Clean
I am a big fan of one-pan dinners because they're convenient, but it does mean my baking sheets get dirty really quickly. Thanks to a combination of baking soda and vinegar, though, I can jump-start the cleaning process. While it does require hard scrubbing, the baking soda combo acts as a catalyst and makes removing burnt food stains much easier. Get step-by-step instructions for how to clean your baking sheets.
You might not automatically think of using baking soda to clean drains, but a combination of baking soda and vinegar is often effective. The chemical reaction between the acid and base cuts through any built-up grease and soap that has accumulated in the pipes. Make sure to flush hot water through the drain after pouring down the baking soda and vinegar combination. Check out this video for an easy tutorial. (And learn how to use baking soda to clean the rest of your sink.)
If you've ever looked in your oven, seen that it was messy and closed the door to avoid cleaning it, welcome to the club. Luckily, you can tackle those dirty spots head-on with a paste made from baking soda and water. It's a food-safe option and won't leave an unpleasant smell behind like a combination of baking soda and vinegar might. Get step-by-step instructions for how to use baking soda to clean your oven.
Baking soda can work in two ways in your refrigerator. First, to combat any food odors, it's recommended to stick a box of baking soda on your refrigerator shelf, where it will absorb any unwanted odors. I prefer to use these refrigerator packs that stick on the wall of my fridge instead of an open box that could easily be knocked over ($9 for a pack of two, Amazon). Put one in your freezer too to help keep your ice cubes tasting fresh as well.
Second, baking soda can be used to clean the interior of your refrigerator. According to the American Cleaning Institute, a combination of baking soda and water is a great cleaning solution for the easily scratched interior surfaces of a refrigerator or freezer.
With glass stovetops, it can be tricky to see all of the stains. But a combination of baking soda and vinegar can help remove stubborn leftover food remnants. Get step-by-step directions for how to clean your glass stovetop.
3 Ways to Use Baking Soda to Cook
If you're looking for a fun project, making bagels is a great option. And the key to achieving that chewy, NYC-style bagel (the best style, in my opinion) is to boil your bagels. Boiling your bagels in a mixture of water and baking soda will create a basic environment that will help your bagels brown. Check out this recipe for boiled bagels from our sister site MyRecipes.
Adding a little bit of baking soda when cooking dried beans is great for a number of reasons. First, it can help make you less gassy (learn the science behind how adding baking soda to beans affects them). Second, it will make your beans cook faster because the natural sodium ions of baking soda help soften the structure of the beans. And, finally, it can improve the texture of beans when you soak them overnight in a mixture of baking soda and water. Get Michael Solomonov's recipe for creamy hummus.
Once you parboil potatoes in water with baking soda, you'll never go back. According to a New York Times recipe developed by J. Kenji López-Alt, adding baking soda to raise the pH of the water affects the pectin, which makes the "surfaces of the potatoes become extra-starchy, which increases crispness significantly." And who doesn't love a crispy potato?