Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oven cleaning 101

Now is the perfect time to clean the oven - I know it's not one of the most glamorous jobs, but it will make your cooking much more efficient. You see, when your oven is clean, all of the hot air molecules bounce around inside the oven and onto your food, baking or roasting your food to perfection - but when the oven is caked with stuck on grime, the molecules don't bounce around, they just plain old get stuck in the muck - making cooking much less even and much less efficient (Thanks, Alton Brown, for teaching me this!). Begin your busy cooking season with a clean oven and your goodies will turn out perfectly (or at least it won't be the oven's fault!)

Of course, the best and most effective way to clean your oven is to wipe up splatters and spills as soon as the oven cools down enough to wipe them up - but sometimes we don't notice them or we just plain don't have time to get to them right away. They get baked on more and more with each time we use the oven and, before you know it, baked on, caked on grime happens.

There are several ways to clean the oven:

If your lucky enough to have a self-cleaning oven (something I just got this spring - yipee!), all you have to do is ventilate the house (open some windows), remove the racks and set it to clean. In 2-6 hours, you will have nothing but ash in the bottom of the oven to wipe out and then you can start fresh.

A continuous-clean oven is doing just what it says, continuously cleaning itself - all it needs is a quick wipe-down with some super-diluted sudsy water and then a wipe with a clean, wet sponge now and then - easy enough.

It's a standard oven that will give you the headache - literally - when you spray it with caustic lye-laden cleaners. Not only are these cleaners smelly and messy, but they're just plain dangerous. The cleaner is almost impossible to completely remove from every crevice of your oven which leaves the oven smelling of chemicals for weeks after you use it - and the taste gets into your food. Who's dreaming of oven-cleaner flavored Turkey this Thanksgiving?... certainly not me!

Instead, grab yourself several boxes of baking soda (or better yet, get the big 5lb bag at your local warehouse store - you'll have enough for several cleanings). Sprinkle about 1/4 inch of baking soda all over the bottom of your oven until it is completely covered. Then, using a clean spray bottle filled with water, spray the soda in the bottom of the oven until it thoroughly damp, but not excessively wet. Close the oven door, place the bottle on the counter and just walk away... yes, just walk away. Do something else, dust, vacuum, go shopping - whatever tickles your fancy, but leave the oven alone.

When bedtime rolls around, give the bottom of the oven another good spray until everything is quite damp again close the oven door and go to bed and dream sweet dreams about how you're not filling your oven with lye and chemicals. How you're not going to have to wear a gas-mask to scrub that oven out and how you won't have to rope off your kitchen so the kids and pets don't come
near you while you're scrubbing. Dream sweet dreams about perfectly baked brownies and that beautiful roasted turkey.

In the morning, after you've had your morning coffee, of course, Simply scrape all of the soda off from the bottom of your oven. Sure, there may be a few minuscule spots that need a quick scrub with the sponge, but for the most part, it will all come off with the initial removal of the baking soda. If there's any gunk on the sides or door, use some of the removed soda and the scrubby side of your sponge to give things a quick scrub - it should come off quite easily. A thorough rinse with clean water and you're done!

 Wasn't that easy? A clean oven using nothing toxic to stink up your home or make your food taste funny - what could be better than that? Your food will bake more evenly, and more quickly what else could you ask for at this busy cooking time of the year?

If a dish boils over in the oven, sprinkle it immediately with enough salt to cover. When the oven is cool, wipe the salt (and burned-on food) away with a damp sponge.

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