Scientist and author, Beth is also a keen home cook. She enjoys trying new recipes.
Keep Your Oven Clean and Spatter-Free
Here is a quick rundown of the top five tips for keeping your oven clean while cooking. I'll go into each one in more detail below.
- Cover food during cooking. This stops splashes and spills.
- Keep a roasting tin on the bottom oven shelf. This acts as a drip tray.
- Line baking sheets with foil. This provides a disposable lining.
- Clean spills immediately; warm grease wipes away easily.
- Clean oven regularly. This will allow you to use less caustic cleaners.
1. Cover Food During Cooking
I hate cleaning a greasy oven, and I’m sure you do too. The best way to stop grease and food spills being inside your oven, is to cover the food while it’s cooking. As the oven heats, liquids and fats your meal vaporize. This may look like steam, but the water vapor coming off a roast joint of meat is actually a fine spray containing a high proportion of grease. As it hits the walls and floor inside your oven, the aerosol spray cools and the fat condenses out.
The way to stop this happening is to wrap your food, either by using a lidded casserole dish or by using an oven roasting bag. I use this non-stick parchment roasting bag to keep my oven clean. It takes up very little storage space and is kind to the environment. The bag stops steam and grease escaping, and keeps my food moist and tasty.
Roast Crackling on Meat
The one downside of cooking food like this is that it prevents crunchy or crispy toppings being formed. If you're cooking a roast meal, and want a crisp crackling on the roast, you need to partially cook the meat first whilst it is covered with aluminum foil. Then after about three quarters of the normal cooking time, you can remove the foil and allow the final 15 to 20 minutes of direct heat to crisp up the crackling.
2. Keep Your Spare Roasting Tray in the Oven
This tip provides the perfect solution to two irritating problems. The first is where to keep the spare roasting tray that came free when you bought the oven? The second is how to make cleaning up the grease and food spills a little easier? If you keep the roasting tray at the bottom of your oven during cooking, any spills which do occur will be caught. It’s a ready-made drip tray. It’s much easier to take the soiled roasting tin over to the sink to clean it than to struggle with cleaning the base of your oven in situ.
3. An Alternative Spill-Tray
If you don’t have a roasting tray or your oven is too small to have a spare bottom shelf, there is an alternative. You can place each individual baking dish onto a baking sheet which has a lipped edge or rim. That way if your casserole overflows, the drips will be caught before they hit the hot surface of the oven floor. I find a Good Cook cookie sheet is ideal for this purpose. If you really want to save on elbow grease, line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then all you have to do to clean the sheet is to throw away the foil liner. Simple!
Safety Warning: Do Not Use Foil or Metal in Microwave Ovens
Don't use metal drip trays or aluminum foil liners in a microwave oven. You'll cause a short circuit and ruin your appliance. Use a plastic or silicone baking sheet instead. Make sure the sheet is microwave-safe before buying. I use this nonstick silicone liner. It's reusable and is safe to use in both microwave and conventional ovens.
4. Mop Up Spills Straight Away
The easiest way to tackle spilled grease is to remove it while the oven is still warm (but not hot). Wear protective gloves and make sure pets and children are not nearby. Use absorbent paper kitchen towel to remove as much of the spill as possible. Then use either baking soda or a store-bought oven cleaner to remove the remaining fat. Finally wipe clean the oven surfaces with hot water to remove any chemical residue.
5. Clean Your Oven Regularly
If your oven has a self-cleaning function, using it regularly will prevent a grease build-up. However, over time, you may need to supplement this with a manual deep clean. By cleaning your oven often and tackling it before it becomes a nightmare, you should be able to use less dangerous cleaning materials. A good standby is to use ordinary household baking soda with white vinegar. The video above shows how to clean your oven this way.
There are many branded oven cleaners on the market, but they can be very caustic and must be used with care. Make sure you protect yourself by wearing cleaning gloves and work with the kitchen extract fan on, or windows wide open. You should read your oven's instruction manual to check which cleaning chemicals are safe to use on your particular cooker.
How to Get a Spotless Oven
- Address top-of-oven messes as soon as they occur. Use hot water, a scouring pad, and washing-up liquid.
- More serious grime can be removed using cold water, baking soda, white vinegar, and wire wool.
- Remember to wear rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.
Better Tasting Food and a Lower Fire Risk
Cooking in a clean oven smells better and makes your kitchen a safer place. If grease drips and spills are allowed to build up on the oven floor and walls, they could potentially ignite and cause a house fire. Although this rarely happens, why take the risk? Even if the grease only smolders it will taint the taste of any food cooked in the oven.
The best way to keep your oven clean is not to allow it to get dirty in the first place. Cover food and don’t overfill the containers. Clean up any spills as soon as you notice them. Use baking soda to clean the oven; this is a cheap and easy way to remove grease build up. If all else fails, a proprietary oven cleaner will shift stubborn residues.