Every time the oven is preheating, the smell of charred food rises. Wisps of faint smoke fill your kitchen. The smoke detector sets off, forcing you to open your windows and create a flow of air by fanning your dish towels. This may go on for days, weeks, or even months. But it is time to face the truth, dear friend.
It is time to clean your oven. My condolences.
Most people do not enjoy cleaning ovens, especially if the oven does not have a self-clean setting. Because of this, oftentimes food drippings build up over time and mutate into a type of charcoal-epoxy goo that tests even the most patient of cleaners and strongest of agents. People abandon all sense and throw both harsh words and chemicals—and precious time—at this central and hardworking appliance.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s the easiest way to clean an oven.
Things you will need: 1” metal putty knife, steel wool, sponge with scour pad, towel, water, 2 buckets, and your choice of cleaning agents. Vinegar and baking soda (combo 1), or water and a natural-based powder like baking soda or a gentle surface scrub (combo 2), is recommended.
1. Remove the racks and scrape any loose chunks from them with the putty knife. Get the racks to a place where you can apply a soaking solution, either outside or in a tub or sink (be prepared to clean the tub or sink afterwards if you choose this route). If you are using combo 1, wet the racks with vinegar and sprinkle with baking soda. If you are using combo 2, wet the racks with water and sprinkle with powder. Rub the racks to create a paste and let the paste sit on the racks for at least 20 minutes.
2. Use the 1” putty knife to scrape as much of the raised charred food and goo as possible from the oven. With a hand broom, vacuum, or paper towel, remove the loose chunks from the oven. If you are using combo 1, wet the oven with vinegar and sprinkle with baking soda. If you are using combo 2, wet the oven with water and sprinkle with powder. Rub the combination over the entire oven to create a nice paste on the surface. Start at the back, move to the sides, upper and lower parts of the oven. Don’t forget the door!
3. Take a break. Let the paste sit in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
4. Fill one bucket with warm water and fill the other with a little bit of water. One is your clean bucket and the other is your dirty discharge bucket. Dip the steel wool into the water and scrub the oven. Start with the door and move inwards so that you minimize the mess. When you need to rinse the wool, dip it first into the discharge bucket and then into the clean bucket. Once the grime has come off, switch to the sponge to remove the powder residue and polish the surface. Use your clean bucket for fresh water and rinse in the discharge bucket. Use the water liberally! Dry with the towel. Repeat on the inside of the oven, working strategically on one surface at a time.
5. Once the oven is clean, turn to the racks. Use the steel wool first to scrub off the most difficult spots, then switch to the sponge to remove any remaining paste. Dry and reinstall the racks.
That’s it! Congratulations on your clean and fresh oven! Now cook yourself an awesome meal—you earned it!