Cleaning your oven (without running the self-clean cycle)
Cleaning the oven is not a household chore that I look forward to, but I always love the outcome. Not everyone has a self-cleaning cycle on their oven, and others just don’t like to use it. I’m not a fan of oven cleaning sprays, and their smells, so I lean towards one or two different methods, depending on how dirty my oven is.
Steam cleaning is a great way to quickly clean and refresh your oven. If you do it regularly, you can may not need to do any heavy-duty cleaning at all. If your oven has a steam cleaning feature, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean with steam. But, if it doesn’t you can still clean your oven using steam.
Removing the racks isn’t required when steam cleaning, but I recommend it. That way, any splatters on the oven walls can be wiped clean and you can clean your racks separately. You will need to leave one rack in your oven, on the lowest rack position. Place 2-3 cups of water in an oven-safe glass baking dish along with 2 lemon halves. (If you don’t have lemons, limes or grapefruit will also work. Oranges are a bit stickier due to their sweetness, but can also be used.) Place the dish with the water and lemons on the lowest oven rack and set your oven at Bake 300°F. Once the oven is preheated, leave it on for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes has passed, check the oven for cleanliness. If it seems like it needs a little more time, check the water level in the pan, and add more if needed. Continue with the cleaning for up to an additional 30 minutes (60 minutes total). Turn off the oven and allow it to cool down enough that you can still feel the warmth of the oven but won’t burn yourself. Remove the pan of water and lemons and wipe down the inside of the oven with a clean, damp rag to remove any residue on the oven.
Clean your racks by handwashing in your sink. Dry thoroughly before putting them back into the oven.
The baking soda method:
For an especially dirty oven, I’ll remove the racks and wipe down the inside of the oven with a soft, damp rag. Then I’ll mix up a paste of baking soda and water (generally ½ cup baking soda and 2-3 tablespoons of water) and spread that throughout the oven, avoiding any electrical elements or gas inlets. You can even use this paste on the oven door. Close the oven door and let the baking soda & water paste sit for 10-12 hours or overnight. In the morning, mix up a 3:1 vinegar solution (3-parts water, 1-part white vinegar) and put it into a spray bottle. Spray the dried baking soda paste with the vinegar solution. It will foam up a bit, that’s okay. Wipe it all out with a clean, damp, soft rag. This should remove your heaviest soil, but if not add a bit more baking soda to the remaining spots and spray with the vinegar. Use a gentle scrubbing sponge to remove the remaining stains and wipe with a clean, damp rag. I like to leave the oven open to dry. This way I don’t have any lingering wet smells when I open up the oven to use it.
To clean your racks, place them in the sink (or bathtub if too big for the sink), and sprinkle with baking soda. Pour vinegar over the racks (no need to dilute), then fill the sink or tub with warm (not hot) water. You can let these sit overnight as well, or just a couple of hours. Rinse & wipe clean and then wipe dry before putting back into the oven.
How often should you clean your oven? Twice a year is recommended, but it really depends on how much and what types of food you cook. However often you clean yours, hopefully these tips help you make it sparkle!