A self cleaning oven is the epitome of modern kitchen convenience. If you have never used one before, then you’re missing out! Have you spent an hour or more of your time scraping out old food products that have dripped onto the bottom of the inside of your oven? Well, if you had had a self cleaning oven, then you wouldn’t have had to slave over your appliances (except for the part when you were cooking of course).
General Electric claims to have invented the first self-cleaning oven (the P-7) in the year 1963 (according to their website at www.geappliances.com). Regardless of who or when it was invented, this particular appliance is a blessing to homemakers everywhere, not to mention everyone else who makes use of any kind of oven whether it be in a residential or commercial setting. Basically, one of these ovens does not require cleaning of the inside by hand, although it still needs some attention to the stovetop and glass front panel. Instead of cleaning the inside with chemicals, the user simply selects the self clean cycle and that’s it: a clean oven (well, after a short waiting period).
Self-cleaning ovens range in price (typically) from about $1200 to $3000 (USD). The wide range in price leaves room for all of the additional features that these products can include. The most advanced ones might have more processing power than the computer that you’re using to view this page (ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration). Most ovens now-a-days have the self clean feature built in, although sometimes the models on the low end of a brand’s product range lack the feature and force you to clean by hand. Purchasing an oven with this feature is a MUST for a modern, fast-paced life that doesn’t leave much time for menial tasks.
Sounds Like Magic… How Does It Work?
There are basically three interior coatings that an oven can utilize.
- Pyrolytic ground coat
- Ground coat
- Catalytic continuous clean enamels
Pyrolytic Ground Coat
Ovens equipped with a pyrolytic ground coat utilize a very high temperature (about 1000 Degrees Fahrenheit) to actually burn food that has dripped or splattered onto the sides of the inside of the oven. The leftover food matter ends up as a pile of ash at the bottom when the self-clean cycle is finished. The special coating protects the appliance from the incredibly high heat.
Ovens that have a non-self-cleaning coat require chemicals for cleaning. They cannot necessarily withstand the temperatures required for an oven to clean itself automatically.
Catalytic Continuous Clean Enamels
This type of coating acts as a catalyst for the burning of foodstuff at regular cooking temperatures. Instead of using a cleaning cycle, ovens with this coating continually burn off matter through normal use.
A somewhat unintended (but positive) consequence of the self cleaning oven is the fact that it must be insulated to a greater degree than a typical model. This, of course, is to safely handle the extreme temperatures necessary for it to function correctly. The extra insulation means that the oven will run more efficiently for everyday cooking and baking. (To save even more energy, a good tip is to run the self-clean process after baking, so that the oven is already heated to a high temperature. It takes a lot of electricity/gas to heat up to 1000 degrees!)
A very important safety feature included on these types of ovens is a “mechanical interlock”. As its name implies, this is a feature that keeps the door closed and locked during the cleaning process. It will keep the door locked for up to three hours after the cleaning, until the temperature cools to less dangerous levels. Once the cleaning is engaged, a user will be unable to operate the appliance.
Additionally, one must remove all racks and sheets from the oven before cleaning. The high temperatures can burn certain coated items, releasing toxic fumes. Smoke detectors can also be an inconvenience, as the oven may emit a scent and some smoke, possibly enough to set off your detector. It may be a good idea to disable a detector before the cleaning cycle, but always remember to re-arm it afterward!
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