Monday, January 9, 2012

Spray oil (not)

I'm back home; the boys have been hugged; the husband has been kissed.  I get to see my friend tomorrow.  We're reconnecting.  We're feeding one another.

In the meanwhile, I'm back to thinking about trash yet again.  How to grease those muffin tins; that's the question.  Not earth-shattering, but there it is.

A decade ago, when I got serious about making muffins for the family on a regular basis, I ran into a sticky problem.  More accurately, I ran into 12 sticky muffins that refused to come out of the muffin tin.  I tried a lot of different ways to solve this problem, because I really, really didn't want to give up on muffins.  I can whip up a batch in 6 minutes of hands-on time, and muffins are a lot cheaper and more nutritious than cereal.

My dad makes wonderful muffins; it's part of our Christmas tradition.  He bakes them in heavy, cast-iron muffin tins (can you call something that heavy a tin??).  He avoids the stickiness issue by seasoning the tins carefully [foreshadowing:  pay attention to that seasoning part!!], and then oiling each muffin cup with vegetable oil rubbed on with a paper towel.

I tried the oil and paper-towel technique with my own brand new muffin tins -- that is, with my supposedly non-stick tins.  Didn't work.  I tried cupcake papers.  Not only were those expensive and trash-producing, but the paper stuck to my muffins.  The only thing that worked was cooking spray.  I don't like aerosol cans, but every other technique that attempted to keep the muffins from creating a huge sticky mess failed. (I even tried a homemade mix of veggie oil and vodka in a spray bottle recommended by the Tightwad Gazette.  Fun, but no.)

I've always felt conflicted about that spray bottle sitting in my cupboard.  The latest issue of Consumer Reports gave me yet another reason to ditch the can.  In a list of five "Time-worn habits to break", it cautions against "Using cooking spray on non-stick pans".  Apparently the cooking spray damages the [supposedly] non-stick coating.

Wanna see?
Formerly silver-colored muffin pans.
They now are more non-stick than when I first got them,
even though the non-stick coating is all gone.
Both of those pans used to be silver colored; the coating is all gone in the cup area, and the top of my most-used pan has turn black from a decade of baking.  But see that brush?  I tried an experiment recently.  If I put a bit of oil in one of the cups and brush all the cups with that oil, the muffins slide right out.

Maybe what my muffin tins really needed was to spend some well-greased time in the oven.  That seasoning for my dad's cast-iron pans, it seems to be just as helpful for my mysterious-metal muffin tins.  It actually helps that I don't obsess about getting the tins spotless, because they stay mildly lubricated that way.

The brush-and-oil technique means almost no trash.  I'll leave the remaining jar of spray oil in the cupboard for my non-miser husband.  But for me, no spray oil any more.  


  1. We use a Misto sprayer to spray olive oil for greasing (my son is allergic to soy which is in all cooking sprays). It's refillable with the oil of your choice. I also have a set of silicone baking cups (reusable) that I adore - they are the easiest option for me and work great. We don't eat grains but we make lots of crustless quiche in our muffin tin and those have been a lifesaver.


  2. I am going to have to add this to my wish list for future gifts. Perhaps the pump sprayer I got wasn't "misty" enough? Thanks for the suggestion!
    -- MM

  3. What kind of vegetal oil are you brushing into the cups? Not all the veggie oils behave the same way.

    I don't (still) make muffins but I have the same problem with cakes. I hate to lose the portion that sticks to the recipient. I've tried butter some times and sunflower oil others, but without success so far. So, as long as recipes contain butter or oil, I rid off put it in the walls of the recipient. The result is the same and I save time.

  4. I forgot to mention that I have a problem with the silicone baking cups because I'm afraid they can release some chemicals of their own production process, even if they are labeled as for "food use".

    1. For cakes, I use first butter (because I am already putting butter in the cakes) followed by flour (also going into the cakes). This combo seems to do the trick. For muffins, I use vegetable oil, because that's what I put in my muffins. -MM