Today’s post is another in a series that Fiesta Farms will run, in keeping with our newest ad in Edible Toronto’s winter issue, concerning household food waste. Check out this video, from acclaimed director Andrew Nisker for some more tips on how to reduce food waste in your home.
Note: This article is for non-self cleaning ovens. For directions on cleaning your self-cleaning oven (!) follow manufacturer’s directions
Just think about how much food waste could be avoided if you never burned another recipe again. All those blackened cookies or crusty casseroles that could have been enjoyed instead of tossed. A clean oven can go a long way towards ensuring the food you make comes out perfect and ready for the table. Here we take your through the process that will get your oven clean and ready for the onslaught of holiday baking. Illustrated with images of beautiful vintage ovens to get you in an oven-loving mood!
With the holidays coming up over the next few weeks, our refrigerators, freezers and stoves are going to be used a lot, so to make storing, preparing and cooking your holiday bounty a pleasure rather than a nightmare, now would be a good time to make sure all these appliances are in tip-top shape. Is there anything more disappointing than burning a batch of cookies because the temperature in your oven was slightly off, or having your bread come out of the oven underdone, or tasting vaguely like last night’s baked fish? Most often these frustrating results can be avoided altogether by tackling that other task you have been avoiding; giving this reliable workhorse a little TLC.
We use our stoves and ovens every day, yet cleaning them is a chore that most of us dread. There are many reasons for keeping your oven clean; first of all, a clean oven looks great and encourages you to use it. Your oven will heat up faster if the surfaces are not clogged with baked-on mess, the temperature stays more accurate and more constant, there is no lingering odour or smoke from previous uses that can affect the taste of your current meal and you can actually see through the window in the oven door to check on your baking.
We know that there is a whole industry devoted to manufacturing cleaning products for your oven. Some are so toxic that you have to ventilate the whole house for a day and wear a gas mask while sticking your head in the oven to reach the nethermost corners.
The thought of cooking in an oven that was recently slathered with toxic sludge is off-putting to say the least. Most commercial oven cleaners are corrosive and poisonous, made with lye (usually sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) that can burn your eyes and skin and make less than ideal playthings for toddlers. Have you ever noticed the toxic smell that wafts through your stove and kitchen the first time you heat up your oven after using these products? Have you ever wondered how healthy this might be? Then there’s the environmental impact that these products have, both in their manufacture and in the disposal of the cans that they came in. Why not consider a safer and more natural solution to your oven-cleaning woes? Natural cleaning products may take a little longer than the “guaranteed to clean in one hour” napalm that you are tempted to use, but it’s totally worth it.
Here are some tips for cleaning your oven the old fashioned way, using natural products that won’t have you gasping for air. The first thing you should admit is that this will not be a quick job, not really. It’s best to tackle this project some evening, let the cleaning solution work its magic overnight and finish it the next morning. This will cut down on elbow grease and cursing.
Pastes and or solutions made of baking soda and mild acids like white vinegar or lemon juice really do work, and it makes sense; we bake with all of these ingredients so it seems like good karma to use them to clean too. You might remember the volatile/ chemistry set volcanic reaction that occurs when you mix baking soda and vinegar; this bubbling activity works wonders on burnt surfaces and hard to reach corners and crevices, and is ideal for your oven-door window too. We all know that baking soda is great for absorbing odours, so it performs double duty as a mild abrasive and bubbling cleanser as well as an effective oven deodorizer.
For really badly burnt-on messes, make a thick paste out of baking soda and vinegar or lemon juice and schmear it on the blighted area. Use a plastic or silicon scrub brush or old toothbrush to schlep the mixture into cracks and corners where the messes lurk. Let it sit overnight and wipe up the next morning. For really stubborn areas, you may have to reapply, or use a silicon spatula or egg flipper to scrape off the mess if it is really thick. Warming your oven to about 200 degrees for about half an hour while the solution is on is also a good way to dislodge and soften burnt on messes, and if you use lemon juice, your oven will smell like lemons instead of poison. Sweet. Just don’t leave the oven on too long or you will end up baking even more goo onto your stove walls.
Your oven will be born again, a little shinier, happier and brighter and less likely to let you down, you can rekindle the fire between you and your stove.
Now that your oven is clean and ready to be put to work, here are some tips to maintain it and to make it more reliable. Following these simple rules of thumb means that you will never be duped by the likes of Hansel and or Gretel.
1) When baking pies or casseroles or anything that might bubble over, place it on a cookie sheet so that any bubbling over goes onto the cookie sheer rather than the racks or oven floor. This also makes the pot or pie-plate easier to put in and take out of the oven.
2) Do a quick and painless wipe-down the interior of your oven periodically with a little vinegar and baking soda; making this a habit every couple of weeks will eliminate the need for a major undertaking.
3) Make sure you clean the light bulb in your oven as well as the window on your oven door. You want to be able to see how beautifully your cake is rising!
4) Make sure that your oven door is sealing properly when it is closed; sometimes the hinge can get misaligned and leave a gap between door and stove.
5) Always make sure your oven is properly pre-heated. There’s a reason that this is usually the first direction in most recipes. If your oven is barely pre-heated, the element will come on once you put in your dish and may result in scorching and will mess with accurate temperature and cooking time.
6) Check to make sure that your oven thermostat is working correctly by investing a couple bucks in an oven thermometer. If you are preheating your oven to 400, make sure the temperature is accurate; maybe you have to dial up 425 to get the oven to 400. Conversely, an oven thermometer will ensure that your oven is not overly hot.
7) Invest in an electronic meat thermometer, one that has a wire running out of the oven to a thermometer that sits outside of the oven. This will eliminate the need to open the oven door often to check on the meat temperature, which will in turn affect the even temperature of the oven. This will ensure that your meats are cooked to the correct and safe level of “doneness.” These usually cost about thirty dollars and are one of the best kitchen helpers ever, so much so that referring to it as a gadget is an injustice.