What is a Self-Cleaning Oven?
A self-cleaning oven is one that uses extremely high temperatures to burn any spills or splatters inside the oven. Many of self-cleaning ovens heat up to around 850 degrees Fahrenheit in order to turn any foreign matter stuck on the walls, floor or door of the oven into ash. You can then wipe out the residue with a damp cloth. Self-cleaning ovens are increasing in popularity because they don't require harsh chemicals, backbreaking scrubbing or hard work.
How Self-Cleaning Ovens Work
A self-cleaning oven will usually have a simple button or series of buttons to press in order to activate the cleaning mode. The owner's manual can instruct you on exactly what you need to do. Once the cleaning mode is activated, the oven heats itself up. Electric current feeds into the oven and is routed through the coils that snake along the top and bottom of the inside. These coils heat the oven interior while an internal thermometer gauges and reports the temperature inside. Most self-cleaning ovens feature extra insulation in the walls and front of the oven for safety reasons as well as extra efficiency.
Once the oven hits a set temperature, an automatic lock is engaged. This mechanical interlock keeps the oven door closed tight while the oven heats up, reaches the optimal temperature, then turns off and cools down. The entire process takes about three hours. The auto lock is disengaged when the oven has reached a reasonable temperature again. The temperature level that triggers the auto lock is set by the manufacturer, but most ovens engage at around 500 degrees when in self-cleaning mode.
Tips for Self-Cleaning Ovens
Note that there will likely be some smoke during the first part of the self-cleaning phase, especially if you have quite a bit of baked-on mess. Some owners of birds report that self-cleaning ovens create fumes that are deadly to birds, probably arising from the heated Teflon-coated interior. To be safe, remove any pets from the floor level where the oven is located. Finally, wait until the oven has cooled completely to clean out the ash, as you can severely burn yourself by touching the hot metal oven racks, walls or door.