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Here's how to clean your oven

No one wants to clean their oven–it has a bad reputation for being a time-consuming and messy task. But, it's an important task. Not only does a dirty oven affect the outcome of your favorite recipes (it can even drip a little grease into your pie, if you're not careful!), it can also be a hazard in the kitchen for potential fires. So, when you notice some built-up grime and blackened bits, take 30 minutes or so and tackle your oven. With these tricks, you may even spend less time. Here are a few ways to get that oven sparkling:

1. Use the self-cleaning function.

If your oven isn't over-the-top filthy – or, if you aren't up for using any elbow grease – you may want to just use the self-cleaning button on your oven. With this function, your oven locks and heats up to over 500 degrees in order to burn away grime. Some ovens can heat up to almost 1000 degrees. Although this can be an easy option, you should be forewarned – running the oven for the full self-cleaning cycle (usually four hours) on such a high heat can lead to fuses melting or popping, smoking inside the oven, or even a fire, depending on the age of your appliance. If you do opt for this cleaning method, only use the function for an hour or two at a time.

2. Make use of that baking soda in your pantry.

If you want to avoid the chemicals, there are several ways to DIY clean your oven. Most of them start with rubber gloves, as cleaning a gunky oven by hand can certainly get a little messy. To start, remove everything from the oven. If you're one of those closet-starved Americans using your oven for storage, be sure to empty it completely before proceeding. This includes racks and oven thermometers; everything needs to come out.

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Next, make a paste with baking soda and water. According to the Kitchn, you'll only need a few tablespoons of water for each 1/2 cup of baking soda that you use. Coat the inside of your oven with this baking soda paste, getting in all those cracks and crevices (you may need a spatula to assist you on hard-to-reach spots). Don't forget the oven door! Let the baking soda sit in your oven overnight – here's a good chance to try out one of our delicious no-cook dinners – or for at least 12 hours. While this is happening, you'll want to go ahead and clean your oven racks. They can usually be tackled with dishwashing soap and very hot water, but you may need to let them soak a bit if you have especially cooked-on bits. The Kitchn recommends a bathtub – really.

Back to your oven. The next day, take a damp washcloth and brush away the chunks of baking soda paste that have now dried in your oven. Scrape off as much of the paste as you can. Now, for baking soda's favorite partner: vinegar. Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar and spritz it on the oven's walls, coating any spot that still has the baking soda residue. Just like your favorite science project, the baking soda-vinegar reaction will cause some foaming in your oven. Use the washcloth to wipe out this foam, repeating until all of the baking soda is gone. You may need to spray the vinegar a few times on trouble areas to really clean it up. Once you've wiped it all out, replace the racks!

Out of baking soda? Try lemons with this hack from our friends at Real Simple:

3. Buy a fume-free oven cleaner.

If you decide your oven needs a more industrial clean and baking soda isn't cutting it, you may want to opt for a store-bought oven cleaner. Oven cleaners are notoriously smelly and chemical-laden, so you need to be a bit choosy, especially if you have a small or enclosed space. Fortunately, there have been brands that have introduced fume-free oven cleaners, which work to soften hard bits and clean your oven in as little as a few minutes. Two recommended fume-free options are Carbona Biodegradable Oven Cleaner and Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner. These products cost around $10-$13. For something a little stronger that has a good reputation in commercial kitchens, Mr. Muscle Oven and Grill Cleaner is a solid (and unscented!) choice. It'll cost you a little over $15. But, when it comes to cleaning your oven effectively and safely, paying a few extra dollars is worth it.

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