all them from their houses, and teach them to dream.” 

― Jean Toomer, Cane

Frequently, I traveled from Syracuse to Boston to my Auntie’s house. She is a Louisiana transplant. In the North, as she did in the South, she serves up all things Black Girl Magic. Many know her as a Harvard graduate in the doctorate in Chemistry program and a health center director retiree, but we know her as mother, friend, avid-traveler, and Louisiana soul food culinarian. She passes many traditions to me through using the kitchen as my classroom. One of our favorites to make, other than a delicious gumbo, are her peach blueberry pies. My favorite part is peering into the oven door and watching the crust turn golden brown as the sweet fragrance of the Southern delicacy fills the house.

These pies hold hundreds of years of Southern Black culture and deliciousness in every bite. In making these delicious pies with my Auntie, making sweet potato pies another Auntie in Syracuse transplanted from Mississippi, or whatever baking tradition your family holds, the ovens help us with the work. These ovens symbolize the imaginary miles I’ve tread to get to the South. These behind-the-scenes maestros are often forgotten in the process of baking something to perfection. These ovens should be taken care of and cleaned because they make it happen in the creation of these favorites.

In this post, you will learn why it is imperative to clean your oven. There are tips on how to clean your oven in the way your Auntie and ‘dem would clean it, as well as the store-bought essentials to take care of your cooking device. These are the things we laid out for your oven-cleaning journey:

  • Importance of Cleaning Your Oven
  • Guide to Store bought and DIY Cleaners
  • How to Clean it Effectively
  • Dishes Cooked to Perfection that Make this Process Worthwhile
Mac and Cheese being baked in the oven.
Let your cooking be the symphonic sounds of baking rather than the crackles and pops of food residue burning in your oven. Image courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

The Care and Keeping of Your Oven

How to Maintain and Keep Your Oven From Breaking Down

Therefore, neglecting to clean your oven can cause inefficiency. Fight against grease and encrustation in your oven by cleaning it regularly. While it may seem like a tedious process, the lack of cleaning may lead to making temperatures harder to reach. Also, you oven could stop working altogether which puts culinary dreams to a halt. Say goodbye to baking your pie, getting your fall-off-the bone barbeque ribs, and eating crumbly, sweet cobblers. Ovens should be cleaned based on how frequently you use them. The recommendation for the average cook is every few months and for the avid chef or baker at least once a month to stop it from becoming inefficient is satisfactory.

The three signs that you need to clean your oven is the appearance, odor, and smoke of your oven. 

This housekeeping necessity is important to create culinary masterpieces. Take care of your important instrument by practicing hygiene for it. One important tip in loosening the baked-on, caked-on, grit from your oven is by putting a bowl of water in the oven and putting the oven on high for twenty minutes. The steam will help remove the residue of food’s past. Also, please clean off residue because you do not want your current dish to have the aroma of a previous one--nobody wants leftover baked fish smell on a pound cake.

When cleaning, make sure to remove the individual racks to clean them separately and get to the entire body of the oven. After cleaning, throw your oven mitts and potholders in the wash, as well. Come against questionable chunks with store bought and DIY cleaners.

Store bought Oven Cleaners

What to Use In Addition to Your Self-Cleaning Function

The self-cleaning function on an oven is only useful if your oven is moderately dirty. Master this function by making sure there are minimal food crumbs and baked on grit because this could start a fire. After the heat of this function gets rid of some debris, make sure your oven cools down and remove the racks and apply the store bought oven cleaners that can be of assistance. These are the items you will need to clean your oven thoroughly: gloves, sponge (to dedicate to purely oven cleaning), and oven cleaning fluid.

Some oven cleaners that get the job done and are reasonably priced are Easy Off Professional Fume Cleaner, Mr. Muscle Grill and Oven Cleaner, Liteaid Astonish Oven and Cookware Cleaner, and Puracy Natural All Purpose Oven Cleaner. These are multi-surface cleaners that do the heavy lifting for you by removing resilient grease and stubborn grime. These brands claim to do the work fast--in a few minutes at most. Honor the ovens that you use to defrost, bake, and roast food in by giving it a deep clean with store products or homemade cleansers.

Before and After side-by-side photos of a dirty oven that was cleaned.
When you clean your oven right, your food has a better chance of turning out alright. Image courtesy of YouTube.

DIY Cleaners

New Uses for Baking Soda, Lemons, Vinegar, and More

Whether you use DIY cleaners because your skin is sensitive, allergies to breathing in certain chemicals, you want to save money, or want to be environmentally friendly, DIY cleaners are a great choice. First, soak the racks in a dish soap and water mixture, scrub it, rise it, and dry it. Then, there are a host of different homemade cleaners to try on the inside of your oven. Let not your oven become a composition of spills and splats, but be a maintained orchestron for your foods. So put on the gloves, and get going! You got this! There are many popular cleaners that can come straight from your home.

Here are Some Homemade Concoctions to Clean Your Oven Thoroughly:

  • Soda bicarbonate on the inner lining of the oven can break down the grease enamel. 
  • Another option are lemons and water. (When life gives you lemons, am I right?) This easily-found in the kitchen duo can do the trick. This household cleaning agent works because of the antibacterial properties in lemons. However, this may not be the best method to use if you have an excessive amount of caked-on grime.
  • Baking soda and water is another safe alternative to chemical products from the store. This antacid breaks down the tough grease stains when dissolved in water.
  • Combination of hydrogen peroxide, lemon, vinegar, dish soap, and baking soda can be your own cleaning product (these at-home cleaning techniques can be as basic or complicated as you want them to be).
Person with gloves on and a spray cleaning their oven.
Clean it and make sure it says clean. Image courtesy of Compact Appliance.

Preventative Oven Cleaning Tips

Proper Stewardship of Your Oven

Beyond cleaning the oven once, there are several things you can do to extend the life of your oven and keep it running well. Even though many forget to clean their ovens, this valuable lesson in proper stewardship of appliances you own is Adulting 101. It will decrease the likelihood of your oven breaking and needing a replacement.

After the cleaning of the oven is done, consider employing these preventative oven cleaning tips to make your job easier:

  • Line your oven in oven sheets (these can be bought at the store). Oven sheets create a spill barrier that is easier to clean or dispose of in comparison to cleaning the whole oven.
  • Use roasting bags for meat so that when it cooks the fat does not squirt on the oven and that it cooks the meat more evenly.
  • Get your oven professionally cleaned once in a while to get it to sparkle and give it an occasional tune-up.
  • Do not clean under the oven service knobs because this can tamper with the function of your oven and you will be calling a technician for maintenance when you do it wrong.
  • Inspect your oven’s burners to make sure that there are no shorts in the circuiting. This is important because a short may cause a fire or not cook your food properly.
Barbeque ribs with the sauces used around it.
Make sure after you clean, to prevent messes in the oven by wrapping the meat and doing the sauce and rub prep work at the start of the cooking process. Image courtesy of Southern Living.

Oven-Baked Success

Why Maintaining Your Oven is an Important Step in Producing Amazing Food

During Thanksgiving, my family spends time at my grandma’s for her famous oven-baked ribs. She spends all day slowly cooking them so that the meat is tender. In other words, she puts her foot in it. This tradition originates from her parent’s Georgia and South Carolina origins, which comes to life at our table. Her secret is not only what she does to cook the ribs, but how she takes care of her oven. During the subsequent meal, not one time do we think about the oven that allowed this process to go smoothly, but we would definitely notice if things went awry. 

Hopefully, these oven care tips lead to your successful family meals. Let us know what dishes you have made in your recently cleaned oven
Hero image courtesy of The Red Head Baker.

Jun 17, 2020