Why Is Dried Egg So Hard to Clean Off?

We wanted to know why cleaning an egg-crusted plate is always a brutal task. Barry Swanson, an Institute of Food Technologists spokesperson and professor of food science at Washington State University, was able to break it down.

He says that eggs are unique due to their high concentrations of both protein and fat. Cooked, dried egg residue is 45.8 percent protein and 41.8 percent lipid (fat). When dried, both proteins and fats are still very sticky, so they adhere really well to porous surfaces, such as ceramic plates. Washing the residue off is so tough because the “combination of lipids and denatured proteins is insoluble and for the most part impenetrable by water,” explains Swanson. The egg proteins also contain “charged” amino acids, which adhere more strongly.

When it comes to cleaning off egg residue, Swanson’s best advice is to soak the dish in hot, soapy water before you try to wash it because most detergents have fat solubilizing and wetting agents that can penetrate and break down the protein-lipid mix.

CHOW’s Nagging Question column appears every Friday. Got a Nagging Question of your own? Email us.