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Are You Misusing Your Oven? 5 Oven Troubleshooting & Tips

The way you use your oven could be affecting the way it functions! View our interactive photo for common oven issues, along with simple tips to correct them and get your oven cooking properly.

Admit it: You’ve put a pizza on your oven rack only to have it bubble over and make a giant mess. No judgment! It happens. Unfortunately, it can seriously harm your oven, though it’s not the only user error that can lead to malfunctioning. Remember to consult your owner’s manual first for information on how to properly care for your oven.

Belinda Martinez, an appliance pro at Sears Home Services, identifies the most common mistakes people make when using their ovens and provides tips to help homeowners avoid unnecessary repairs.

PROBLEM: Incorrectly positioning the oven rack

WHY IT’S BAD: Where you place your oven racks while cooking matters. Food on the lower rack will have a browner bottom, while something placed higher up will have a crispier top. When in doubt, use the center rack. The heat is distributed more evenly in the middle of the oven, resulting in better browning throughout the dish.

SOLUTION: For best results, use the center rack when baking and cooking, unless your recipe specifies otherwise.

PROBLEM: Lining the bottom of the oven with foil

WHY IT’S BAD: A host of issues arise when you place foil at the bottom of your oven. First of all, the reflection off the foil can create hot spots, causing something to cook unevenly or to cook too quickly. It can also fuse to the bottom of the oven, most likely voiding your warranty. As if that weren’t bad enough, in gas ovens, foil can block air circulation, which hinders the cooking process. When circulation is blocked, there’s a chance of carbon monoxide poisoning, too.

SOLUTION: Skip the foil on the oven floor, and use a cookie sheet or baking dish to catch spills.

PROBLEM: Not cleaning spills quickly

WHY IT’S BAD: Hoping food spills will just bake off? That’s a mistake. Not cleaning food or grease that has accumulated on the bottom of your oven can damage the heating elements and potentially the oven liner, as it gets very hot where the spill occurred. This can cause the appliance to overheat and even stop working.

SOLUTION: Clean any spills that have occurred once the oven has cooled completely. Try this DIY oven cleaning hack. To avoid future spills, place a cookie sheet or pan on the bottom rack while cooking to catch any wayward ingredients. Just don’t cover the entire oven rack with tin foil — it prevents heat from rising and will cause your food to cook or bake unevenly.

PROBLEM: Leaving the racks in the oven when you self-clean

WHY IT’S BAD: Keeping the racks in the oven during the self-clean cycle can damage the coating on the oven liner, as well as cause the racks to become discolored and make them hard to slide in and out.

SOLUTION: Remember to always remove the racks from the oven when setting the self-clean cycle. Here are a couple of ways to clean them: Place the racks in your bathtub or in a container wide enough to accommodate them. Then, sprinkle baking soda on the racks and pour vinegar over them. Once the foaming has stopped, fill the tub with hot water and leave overnight. Remove the racks the next day and simply wipe them clean or scrub with a brush for tougher grime. Then you just need to rinse off the racks and put them back into the oven. Another option is to place the racks in a large trash bag with ½ quart of ammonia. Then, seal the bag and leave overnight. When opening the bag the next day use caution — the fumes can be very strong. Once the racks are removed from the bag, rinse them off and reinsert in the oven.

PROBLEM: Not checking the oven door gasket

WHY IT’S BAD: A damaged oven door gasket can lead to heat escaping the oven, which causes the temperature inside to fluctuate. It also wastes energy because it makes the appliance work harder to maintain a consistent temperature. Keep an eye out for moisture on the oven door, as this is a telltale sign that the gasket is broken.

SOLUTION: Check the door gasket at least once a month to make sure that there’s no damage to it. If it is damaged, the gasket will need to be replaced.

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