Our Adventures in Oven Cleaning

Several months ago we posted a survey about how you clean your ovens. Many of you are self-cleaning oven fans, it turns out. We gave ours a whirl recently, after we got tired of the sticky roasted chicken grease splattered everywhere.

Well, it did not go as planned. Not at all. A neighbor complained, the super showed up... Read on. Maybe our pain can be your gain.This is what our oven looked like before. Most of that gunk is chicken grease.

BEFORE:

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And here's a shot of the bottom, done with a flash. That's a neglected spill that's hardened into what looks like ceramic bird poo.

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We read the owners' manual for our self-cleaning oven, but we still made a few mistakes. First and foremost, we don't think we ran the cycle long enough. Our oven allows us to reduce the time of the self-cleaning cycle, and we went with 3 1/2 hours instead of the standard 4 1/2, thinking our mess wasn't that bad. Even though we got a fierce blast of heat in our kitchen and a heavy burning smell (hence our neighbor's concern that the building was on fire, which led to the super visiting), we ended up with this:

AFTER:

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We thought we were supposed to open the oven and find a fine, white ash that we'd easily wipe off. Nope. We got a darker, stickier version of what was originally there.

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So we got out our sponges, even resorting to steel wool at one point, and started scrubbing. After a while, we sort of gave up. The only thing that did burn to ash was the spill at the bottom of the oven. Behold:
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This is what the oven looks like now, after we put some elbow grease into it with soap, water, and sponges.

WAY AFTER:

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But this is still unacceptable for an oven that is less than a year old. We're wondering if we should run the cycle again, for the full 4 1/2 hours, or just go with another cleanser or maybe a paste of baking soda. Frankly, we put more work into this than we bargained for.

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Another mistake: Even though we read it in the instructions, we forgot to take out the racks. And, as the manual promised, they got dull and mottled and no longer slide as smoothly as they once did. We're hoping a little vegetable oil rubbed into the sides (another tip from the manual) will help.

So, to wrap up, the lessons we learned:
• Remember to take out the racks.
• Possibly tell your neighbors (or at least the super) what you're up to, if you live in an apartment building.
• Run the full cycle.

OR, maybe our self-cleaning oven just doesn't self-clean so well? What would you suggest we do at this point?

Related: Our original survey: How Do You Clean Your Oven?

(Images: Elizabeth Passarella)

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