A gas or electric range with self-cleaning features offers you an easier path to a clean oven than you'll find on a range that relies entirely on manual effort. Nonetheless, self-cleaning proceeds more smoothly if you ready your oven for an optimal outcome. Light soil requires less prep work than the buildup from extensive broiling, but the time you take for some advance pretreatment pays off many times over in the effort you save later.
A self-cleaning oven runs at extremely high temperatures for of two hours or more, heating soil until it burns off the walls of the oven cavity. To reduce the smoke produced during the self-cleaning cycle, get in the habit of wiping up spills and drips as soon as your oven cools after you prepare a meal. Use warm water and a nonabrasive cloth to tidy up, not harsh scrubbing pads or regular oven cleaner, as these damage the oven surface and interfere with the self-cleaning process.
Leave the door gasket alone, however, as it's the one part of the oven you shouldn't wipe, moisten or scrub. If your range includes a warming drawer, turn it off before you start a cleaning cycle, and let your oven cool if you just finished cooking. On a range with a steam-cleaning cycle for treatment of light soil, pour some tap water in the bottom of the oven cavity to provide the necessary moisture.
During the cleaning cycle, the range door latches so you can't accidentally open it while it operates at high temperatures. The latch won't disengage until the oven cavity reaches a temperature selected by the manufacturer for safety. If you treat the entire cleaning cycle as a complete timeout from using the range and keep your own and your children's hands away from the hot appliance, you maximize safe operation. For safety's sake, protect pet birds from exposure to the fumes produced during the self-cleaning process by taking them outside or to another location. The first time you self-clean a new range, expect the process to produce some smoke and odor.
Self-cleaning cycles treat the oven cavity, not its contents, and aren't intended to operate with cooking utensils left inside. Before you start, remove shiny metal racks to avoid discoloring them with a bluish tinge in the high heat of the cleaning process and making them difficult to slide inside the oven. Porcelain-coated racks can tolerate the heat exposure. The best way to clean oven racks relies on good old-fashioned elbow grease. A brisk scrubbing in the sink with warm, soapy water removes soil without altering the racks' appearance or performance.
When the self-cleaning cycle ends and the door unlatches, expect the oven interior to be warm, as if you'd just finished cooking a meal. After you open the door, you may see small amounts of fine-grained dust or ash on the floor of the oven cavity. This normal byproduct of the cleaning process represents the residue from soil that burned up at self-cleaning temperatures. Wipe it out with a clean, damp cloth before you put the oven racks back in position. If your oven still isn't as clean as you want it to be, repeat the self-cleaning cycle or use a longer cleaning cycle the next time you run it. Most self-cleaning ranges offer multiple cycle lengths, selectable when you start the process. After a steam-cleaning cycle for light soil, wipe up excess moisture before you use the oven to cook.
Photo Credits: Heidi Monner/Demand Media
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