If you're buying an oven, you should confirm whether it has a self-clean feature or not, because the cleaning process is very different for each type. Regardless of what type you have, your oven will need to be cleaned and how often depends on how messy your cooking and baking tends to be.
Self-Cleaning Oven Cycle
A self-cleaning feature is an oven cycle that minimizes your efforts when it comes to cleaning the oven. And they generally do a very good job of cleaning the built-up grease, drips and burnt-on splatters that can take hours to clean manually.
I've used a self-cleaning cycle in several different ranges over the years and wouldn't be without one. This is not an expensive oven feature, but generally adds around $100 or so to the ticket price and is well worth it.
When a range model has a self-cleaning cycle, it usually is denoted on the control panel and in the product manual, but it also has a locking handle on the oven door. If you're not sure if your oven has such a feature and there's no locking handle, your oven does not have this feature and you must clean it manually.
Self-cleaning involves making sure there's nothing inside the oven except the racks, setting the cycle and locking the door. You should follow the step-by-step instructions in your manual - a great reason to keep it (manual). The length of the cycle varies too with the oven model, but is manually set for around three to four hours in duration depending how dirty the oven is. Some have delay or time start settings. Leaving the racks in during cleaning is usually optional. At the end of the cycle, the oven will automatically turn off and then requires a cool-down period at the end of which, the door can be unlocked and the oven ready to use.
There are areas that must be cleaned manually because they are outside of the heated areas. That's the inside of the oven door and around edges of the door and oven opening, close to the gasket seal. Care should be taken to not wash or get anything on this gasket which can wear it down more quickly. These areas are usually cleaned prior to starting the self-clean cycle. And to reduce the occasional smoke during the process, remove any loose burnt debris from the oven, before starting the cycle. Also, the oven light must be off during cleaning and sometimes instructions call for sliding a protective shield over the light inside the oven.
During cleaning, heat builds up considerably and dirt, grease, drips and such are burnt to ash during the process. Sounds scary, but it isn't. You should ensure though that there is no paper or linen in the range drawer because of this high heat. And with some models, manufacturers may recommend to pull the range out to allow at least 1" - 2" clearance on all sides due to the heat generated. Note that no cleaning sprays are used with self-cleaning, only high heat. Once the oven has cooled down, it usually needs a damp wipe to remove the gray/whitish ash film residue.
Easy Clean or Manual Clean Ovens
Some manufacturers offer an 'easy clean' oven which is a manual clean but one that might be easier than other models. So an easy clean should not be confused with a self-clean oven. Though the interior finish matters when it comes to scouring an oven, you still have to clean it by hand. There is no locking feature but the 'easy clean' finish should cut down on cleaning time, over the average manual clean oven.
If you have cleaned an oven, you know how much of a chore this is. A manual oven cleaning includes spraying the cool oven with a stinky oven cleaner - you should wear a mask, protective eye glasses and use rubber gloves. You leave it for a few minutes for the formula to break down crusted areas and then scrub the entire oven with a cleansing pad, while being careful not to get anything on the exposed element. Rinse wipe after cleaning to remove detergent residue and then clean oven racks, which need to be washed in the sink.
Why I Wouldn't Trade Self-Cleaning for an Easy or Manual Oven
- Chemical Fumes: Manual clean ovens require use of oven cleaners which are very strong, smelly formulas. Ventilate by opening the kitchen window or turning on an above-range exhaust fan. Make sure to wear protective gear such as eyeglasses, rubber gloves and mask if you have any problems with strong scents. A self-clean process uses no chemicals, simply heat to clean.
- Labor Intensive: Self cleaning tremendously cuts down cleaning efforts. Even though that cycle can take 4 hours, the oven is doing the cleaning automatically and you can do something more worthwhile with your time. On the other hand, a manual cleaning requires lots of elbow grease, bending and scrubbing.
- Time Saver: Self cleaning allows you to do other things. You can do the cycle in an evening, whereas a manual cleaning takes longer.
- Cost Consideration: You might pay a hundred or so for the self-clean feature, but with manual clean, you must purchase oven cleaners and scouring pads. Using energy during the self-clean cycle is basically a trade-off for time and effort saved.
Compare Prices of Ranges
Compare Prices of Oven Cleaners
Read More About Ranges:
What's Convection Cooking?
Slide vs Drop-in Ranges
Benefits of a Concealed Oven Element
Range Front Controls - Not for Everyone
Types of Cooking Ranges
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