Lye is the common name for sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and is a corrosive alkaline substance. While it can be dangerous if not used properly, it has been utilized in food and soap for years and is the only way to achieve the perfect crust found on our Bavarian soft pretzels.
Lye has been and continues to be used in many foods including: black olives, century eggs, hominy, and of course soft pretzels. When cooking with lye it is important to use food grade lye which meets strict standards set by the FDA.
Lye can cause severe chemical burns if it comes into contact with the skin which makes it imperative that you always wear protective gloves. It may also stain surfaces so work slowly and deliberately. Lye has no impact on stainless steel so ensure anything coming into contact with it (bowls, spoons, whisks, tongs, etc) is stainless steel. Lye reacts with aluminum including aluminum foil to produce harmful gasses so never use these two materials together.
You can dispose of a lye and water solution in your sink by slowly pouring it down the drain while cool water is running. Let the water run for 30 seconds after the lye has been poured to flush out the pipes. Wash all utensils in cool soapy water (while still wearing gloves) and finally wash the gloves in cool soapy water.
Remember as with any chemical to keep it out of the reach of children or pets who may attempt to ingest it.
You can buy food grade lye here at a great price.
This is a great recip-thanks. Believe it or not, if you cook down Baking Soda in an over for about an hour, it turns Sodium Bicarbonate into Sodium Carbonate. By driving off the H+ it becomes more alkali and works great for this application if you can’t find lye or don’t want to use it.