At no other time of the year does your oven see more action than during the holidays. Countless dinners will be prepared on it (and a few rounds of leftovers will be reheated too), so it’s no surprise that this is also the season where it gets dirtier.
You might be scrambling to get ready for the cooking madness that looms over us, but first, read these tips on how to keep your oven clean while cooking during the holidays to avoid nasty surprises afterward. Your family (and your nose) will thank you.
1. Don’t let spills become stains
If you’re an experienced oven-user, you know that stains are a pain to remove, especially if they’ve been neglected for a while. There’s no better solution to a problem than preventing it, so make sure to thoroughly clean up any spill that occurs, however small it seems. When treated immediately, most food spills will come off using plain hot water (don’t use cold or room temperature water while the oven is hot). The longer you let it sit, the harder it will become.
2. Get rid of chicken and turkey grease
Birds of all sizes are a traditional meal for family dinners during the holidays, so their grease spills are just as common. The easiest way to remove them is to absorb as much as you can with a kitchen towel while the oven is still warm (not hot). Then, after using caustic soda or your preferred brand of oven cleaner to wipe off the bulk of the spill, get rid of the residues with hot water. It’s important that you wear thick protective gloves during this process, and that your kitchen is well ventilated.
3. Keep all the food in closed containers
You might think that using a spill tray is the perfect solution to avoid getting the oven dirty, but if you’re cooking in uncovered containers of any kind, you will find grease on its surfaces still. This is because the liquids in your food start to vaporize, forming a greasy mist that sticks evenly to the walls. We recommend that all of your bakeware, especially for meats, is lidded, and that you wipe your oven walls with hot water and baking soda after every use while it is still warm. If all else fails, go for caustic soda.
4. Rely on your oven trays
Even if you’re not preparing food with it, an oven tray can be your savior during the holidays. Put it in the bottom shelf of your oven while cooking and, if any spill occurs, the tray will catch it (or at least most of it, which is still very helpful). You can even use a baking sheet, provided it isn’t shallow enough to cause spills of its own after catching enough drippings. If your oven doesn’t have multiple shelves or you’re hard pressed to find a spare tray, wrap the whole dish in aluminum foil, and all you’ll have to do is throw it away when you’re done.
5. Avoid the self-cleaning feature
You might think that self-cleaning ovens are an automatic win, but if you didn’t use it at least a month before cooking with it, beware. Turning it on means that your oven will reach temperatures of up to 1000° Fahrenheit, which is usually enough to turn most food bits inside your oven to dust (given it’s not too dirty), but it can also lead to oven failure, depending on your oven and how often it’s used, something you definitely don’t want that with the holidays so close at hand.
6. Get a helping hand
Cleaning the oven can be an exhausting chore, and if you pile on the fact that you’re also preparing a sizeable dinner, then it’s pretty obvious that having a little help is a necessity. Teach a member of your family how to clean it by themselves, that way you work together to finish the job quicker or rely on the other if one is too busy with another task.
If you apply all these tips organically to your cooking routine, then “how can I keep my oven clean?” won’t be the nagging question in your mind this year. However, if you’re too pressed for time or want to avoid those nasty caustic oven products, getting professional, eco-friendly help is always an option.