For most of us, cleaning the oven is a household chore that doesn’t need to be done on a weekly basis. (Hooray!) But over time, those spatters and spills from food, grease, and liquids combine to create an unsavory crust that needs to be removed.
Luckily, scrubbing your oven is much less of a headache than you might think—even if you choose not to use the self-cleaning feature. Read on for helpful maintenance tips and a step-by-step guide to cleaning your oven.
Put down the aluminum foil
No one likes to clean ovens, and one traditional shortcut around that is to place aluminum foil on the bottom to help keep it clean. But that’s actually not a good idea.
“You might think this trick makes future appliance cleaning easier, but it can block airflow and interfere with the heating element, which can cause oven failure or make recalibration necessary,” says Doug Rogers, president of Mr. Appliance. “Instead, just stay on top of regular oven cleaning to keep the inside looking good.”
He also says that putting aluminum foil on top of the rack to grill a piece of meat can potentially be dangerous. A significant amount of grease might accumulate on one part of the foil, and at high temperatures, grease becomes flammable.
“So this cooking technique dramatically increases the risk that grease could catch fire,” Rogers says.
Use liquid cleaners carefully
If your oven is extra dirty and caked with crud, you’ll probably need to use a liquid cleaner. But be careful about what type you choose. You can’t just reach under your sink and use your handy all-purpose spray on your oven.
“These cleaners are abrasive in nature, wearing down protective sealants that keep the oven in its best shape,” says Orion Creamer, founder of the Big Chill kitchen appliance company.
Look for a store-bought oven cleaner or use a DIY solution. Creamer suggests combining baking soda and a touch of water to make a paste.
“Simply coat the oven’s interior, let it soak in overnight, and revisit with vinegar and a scraper in the morning,” he says.
What about self-cleaning ovens?
Many ovens have a self-cleaning feature, which makes getting rid of moderate messes a breeze. When you run a self-cleaning cycle, the oven locks and heats up to between 900 and 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature breaks down any crust and grease into a powder that’s easy to wipe out after the cycle is done.
However, if your oven has too much buildup, running the self-cleaning cycle can cause those baked-on bits to smoke up or potentially catch on fire. That’s why the self-cleaning function should be used only if the mess inside the oven is mild.
If you opt for self-cleaning, remove the racks and set aside two to four hours to keep an eye on your oven in case anything goes awry. (Don’t even think about leaving the house while it’s going on.) Refer to your oven’s manual for self-cleaning instructions.
The right way to clean your oven
Don’t want to use the self-cleaning feature? No problem. You can get your oven just as clean with cleaning solution and a little elbow grease.
Julie Finch-Scally, founder of the Duster Dollies cleaning service, recommends the following steps. Before cleaning, remove the racks and supports and place them on the bottom of the oven. If there are open elements in the oven, cover them with foil. Put on rubber cleaning gloves and plastic safety goggles (if you’re using a store-bought cleaner). Oven cleaner is quite caustic, so these two safety barriers are necessary.
Spray the inside of the oven and the racks with the cleaner. With the oven door closed, let the spray sit overnight if possible; otherwise, let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the racks. Clean them individually in a sink of hot soapy water with a stainless-steel scourer. Once clean, leave the racks to dry on a kitchen towel.
Remove any black liquid residue from the bottom of oven with rags or paper towels. Wipe down the sides of the oven with hot soapy water and a sponge or a stainless-steel scourer. Using clean hot water, wipe down the inside of the oven to remove any residue. Dry the inside with a dish towel.
Remove the foil coverings, and replace the racks. Turn on the oven; the heat will eliminate any smells from leftover spray.
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