Raise your hand if you’re happy your oven has a self-cleaning feature. That’s almost all of you, right? Except for those harboring a nostalgic yen for Easy-Off? Boy, do manufacturers know this. Most consumers simply won’t purchase a new oven without that nifty self-cleaning feature. Here’s what else manufacturers know: in practice, people aren’t so fond of the lengthy cycles, high heat and strong odors. This uneasy relationship has spurred new alternatives that employ steam cleaning and low heat, but these upstarts aren’t nudging out traditional high-heat self-cleaning options quite yet. They’re still not widely available and, at least so far, wimp out on tough stains during testing.
Keeping ovens clean is certainly important to good baking performance, because cooked-on debris can cause smoking, uneven heating and off-tastes in foods. Because most ovens still blaze stained interiors for several hours at 900 to 1,000 degrees, it’s crucial to deploy these super-hot cycles intelligently. Five steps boost cleaning effectiveness, increase safety and extend your oven’s life span:
Self-clean sparingly: Self-cleaning is a tough process that pushes an oven’s components to their limits – and sometimes beyond. It’s a dirty little industry secret that many repair calls begin with a self-cleaning cycle, especially on older models (one reason to avoid deploying this feature before holidays or guests). Instead, soapy water and a scrub pad often quickly remove new spills. Avoid corrosive oven cleaners that can damage self-cleaning interiors.
Customize cycles: Some ovens offer tailored cycles with shorter times and lower temperatures. These gentler options often vaporize debris and baked-on crud without vaporizing your oven’s thermostat.
Remove racks and other items: Racks can lose their sheen, warp or become difficult to slide if left in place. Other items, which can’t be removed once the door automatically locks as the cycle starts, may be accidentally incinerated along with that cherry pie spill. More than one homeowner has lost a favorite wooden spoon after leaving it in a self-cleaning oven.
Remove items from atop the stove, open windows and switch on vent fans: Self-cleaning ovens become hot to the touch, heat items on the stovetop, warm the room, and give off smoke and fumes, particularly in the first part of the cycle. Vent the heat and gases to the great outdoors as much as possible.
Remove sensitive people or animals: Fumes can be strong and sometimes harmful, particularly to birds.
Finally, expect to pay a bit more for electricity when you burn off the remains of a turkey dinner or drippy cheese pizza. It’s pricey to heat a large appliance to the temperature of lava.