7 of the Biggest Mistakes You Make with Your Oven, According to Appliance Repair Pros

updated Nov 20, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you’re anything like me, your oven is one of the most commonly used appliances in your house. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to just take the appliance for granted. It’s a hard-working machine and it does its job, right? As powerful and long-lasting as ovens are, they can also be finicky if you don’t take care of them. Even simple misuse can prevent optimal performance, leading to anything from burned cookies to (in extreme cases!) a house fire. 

Want to take better care of your go-to appliance so you can enjoy whatever it is you’re cooking next? Start by resolving not to make these common mistakes with your oven.

1. Putting food in while the oven is preheating.

According to Uncle Harry Raker, an appliance repair pro of 50 years, people usually don’t give their electric ovens enough time to preheat. “Most electric ovens require at least 30 minutes to reach their desired temperature, and trying to put food inside before may result in an even longer cooking time,” he says.

2. Using the oven’s self-cleaning feature.

Yes, you still need to clean your oven on a regular basis. But Uncle Harry says there are smarter ways to de-grime your appliance than the built-in self-cleaning feature. “Most oven cooking stays in the range of 350 to 400 degrees, whereas this feature gets the unit up close to 900 degrees,” he says. “Such a drastic jump, especially for older ovens, can cause it to stop working.” Instead of opting for your oven’s self-cleaner, use your favorite oven cleaner product or a DIY mix of pantry items.

3. Failing to deep-clean it every three months.

Skipping that routine oven cleaning doesn’t just result in burnt smells. Stephany Smith, who works on the oven repairs team at the U.K.-based home maintenance provider Fantastic Services, says oven grime can also block the appliance’s heating element, resulting in inefficient baking. To prevent that, clean up the burned-on foods from inside your oven at least once every three months.

4. Neglecting rust on the racks.

Skipping maintenance on aging metal racks can also be problematic. Smith says exposed rusted coating can crack or break your baking dishes; plus, when rust chips off, the chance of your racks catching fire skyrockets. Keep your steel racks bright and shiny by soaking them in a soapy water and vinegar solution for 10 to 12 hours, then scrubbing the metal with a non-abrasive scouring pad. “This approach will help you to soften the rusty flakes and prolong the useful life of your oven racks,” says Smith. 

5. Cleaning a warm oven. 

It’s often said that a warm oven is easier to clean. Skip this advice. Even the top-rated oven cleaners can scratch an element or, worse, cause the oven to spark a flame if the appliance is warm. “A warm oven might be less arduous to clean, but in your efforts to get your oven neatly polished faster, you can cause a chemical reaction and spread of toxic vapor,” warns Smith. Your best bet? Make sure your oven has been off for at least a couple of hours before you go to clean it.

6. Not plugging the oven into a surge protector.

If you haven’t plugged your electric oven into a surge protector, Smith says cloud-to-ground lightning is a huge threat to its seamless operation. The key here: Protect your oven or any other appliance from thunderstorms and excess voltage situations by using a surge protector during the device-fitting phase.

7. Opening the oven while cooking.

We’re all guilty of cracking open the oven to check on cookies or dinner from time to time. According to Jordan Collins, a home appliance expert at Two Lions 11 in the U.K., opening the oven while you’re using the oven can lead to slower and less efficient cooking. “By letting the hot air escape your oven, you’re forcing it to work harder to maintain the desired temperature,” he says. “Additionally, the baked product may be ruined by the trembling that occurs when opening the door.” Instead of risking the demise of your food, use the oven light to keep an eye on it.