Updated August 23, 2018
If you’re a busy mom like me, it might be hard to imagine being without your electric oven’s self-cleaning feature. After all, my oven’s ability to scorch itself clean saves me a lot of time and effort. That has to be a good thing, right?
Not so fast. You may want to reconsider relying on your electric oven’s self-cleaning function, especially if it has a hidden heating element. Here’s why:
Many models of ovens now offer hidden heating elements. While this makes the ovens easier to clean when something drips, there can be a downside.
As an oven self-cleans, the internal temperature typically climbs to about 1000° F, much higher than the 350° to 500° range we usually use when cooking. When the elements are enclosed, this excessive heat has less room to vent, which can burn out control panels and/or pop fuses.
In addition, hidden heating elements can be more difficult (and therefore more expensive) to fix or replace.
How much more? Only about $2 per year more than electric ovens without the self-cleaning feature, according to energyguide.com. Turns out that, because self-cleaning ovens are better insulated, energy consumption is reduced during cooking. But still. It does require a lot of energy to heat an oven to red-hot temperatures. If you do decide to use your oven’s self-clean feature, do it on a cold day at least.
Most manufacturers will recommend removing the racks before flipping the switch to self clean. If you don’t, you risk marring their shiny coating, making it more difficult to slide the racks in and out of your oven. So, even though your oven may be cleaning itself, you still have to clean the racks separately if you want to keep them shiny and functioning optimally.
If you do decide to self-clean, remember that your oven will be unavailable for use for several hours, so night-time will probably be best. And depending on how dirty your oven is, as the gunk burns off you may have to deal with strong smells or even smoke. You should also know that concerns about the possible release of toxic fumes have also been raised.
While using your oven’s self-cleaning feature might not be the best choice, you also don’t want to coat your oven with harsh cleaning chemicals that can burn eyes and lungs or even contaminate food.
Your best option is to use a heat-activated enzyme-based oven cleaner that safely dissolves baked-on grime and deposits in just minutes. This type of Earth-friendly cleaner is suitable not just for ovens and grills, but pots and pans too.
You can even use it to clean the oven door!