When we tell people how dirty our oven is after roasting a chicken, they are incredulous. No one believes that, after roasting a Zuni-style chicken (meaning that chicken is bone dry, with no added fat) or some skin-on breasts, our oven is covered in greasy brown splatters. Trust us, we have cooked a lot of chickens, and we're almost certain we're doing it correctly. We always get the same result.
But rather than wallow in feelings of inadequacy about our dirty oven, we're determined to find an easy way to clean it. We tried the self-cleaning feature, which you can read about here. Now we're trying that age-old trick of baking soda paste. To be honest, we always read "Just baking soda and salt!" and think, "Yeah, right."
Do we sound too negative? Sorry. It's just that we love roasting chickens, and when we face an oven that looks like this...
...we start to think that it's a lot of work to clean up after a Zuni bird.
When we posted this tip for using ammonia, people balked. Too toxic, too smelly. Reader LoriSF recommended 1/4 cup of baking soda with 2 tablespoons of salt, plus enough hot water to make a paste. We made a bit more, using the same ratio. Here's ours:
We smeared our paste on the door, on the floor of the oven, and as much as we could on the sides.
Now. Maybe we put it on too thick. Maybe we left it too long. (LoriSF said five minutes, but we've read everything from minutes to overnight. We went with an hour.) And when we started wiping it off, this is what happened:
We cannot stress enough how much of a MESS we made. The baking soda paste had hardened, so instead of wiping our oven clean, we were scrubbing down thick, crusty gunk that got everywhere. Down into every nook and cranny. Behold:
We got out our vacuum cleaner to try to pick up some of us. One should never have to use one's vacuum to clean the oven. But, did it work? Well, somewhat. This is the end result:
Not bad, but it took a lot of scrubbing. And it was definitely not worth the mess we made. We simply can't imagine doing this once a week after we roast chicken. Then we remembered another reader recommendation, for Ecover's Cream Scrub. Apparently it's great for getting sinks and tubs shiny and, we were hoping, for working miracles on ovens. Plan B! So we squirted some on a sponge and went to work on some spots that were still covered in splatters.
We didn't really get great results with the Ecover, either. The baked-on splatters stayed put, although the Ecover was much, much easier to use. We're now thinking we might warm up the oven in an attempt to soften the gunk and start over with Ecover.
But we're convinced that the only way to get grease off an oven is with steel wool. However, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Is the only way to remove this stuff to tackle it immediately after the chicken comes out of the oven? Because, frankly, we don't see how another day or two makes a difference, but maybe that's our mistake. Are we just hoping for too-perfect results?
We hope these adventures are helpful for the rest of you. If you've got another tip, we'll be happy to be the guinea pigs.
Related: Survey: How Do You Clean Your Oven?
(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)