Conventional, Self-Cleaning, Continuous-Cleaning & Steam-Cleaning Ovens
Apart from price, brand, style and functionality, any serious discussion about a new oven/range must include the important issue of cleaning ovens. While it may not be particularly glamorous , the issue of cleaning ovens should impact your decision just as much, if not more than other considerations.
The Conventional or Traditional Oven/Range
There are traditionalists out there who still prefer to clean their oven the old-fashioned way. (Yes, such people really do exist!) However, most people I know consider the task
Cleaning an oven with a microfibre cloth.
loathsome. Cleaning a heavily soiled oven is an arduous task because it involves the use of caustic chemicals that can damage floors and skin if proper precautions aren’t taken. These same chemicals are necessarily inhaled to a certain extent and awkward and uncomfortable physical positioning must be assumed to apply and remove the cleaner. On the plus side, the conventional oven is less expensive than its self-cleaning or continuous-cleaning counterpart. The high heat employed by a self-cleaning oven necessitates the use of more insulation and the locking mechanism used to keep the door shut until the high heat has dissipated both make a self cleaning oven more expensive to construct. If price is your main factor then a simple conventional oven may be the most advantageous choice.
Self-cleaning ovens use high temperatures in excess of 900 degrees Fahrenheit to reduce baked-on spills and debris to ash. It is this excessive heat which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to a self-cleaning oven. While the cleaning results are excellent, some newer electric ranges, unlike older ovens, have concealed elements above the oven ceiling and underneath the oven floor. On one hand, these concealed heating elements are superior because they prevent spills from landing directing on the element and filling the oven, as well as your kitchen, with smoke. On the other hand, it is more difficult to vent the high heat associated with the cleaning cycle away from the concealed heating element. The result is a more frequent popping of fuses and burned out control panels. More service calls may be required and, because the heating elements are more difficult to access, service calls are more labour intensive and expensive.
The oven walls of both traditional and self-cleaning ranges are coated with heat and acid-resistant porcelain enamel. The continuous-cleaning oven, also known as a catalytic self-cleaning oven, has walls coated with a finish which acts as an oxidation catalyst. The idea of the continuous-cleaning oven is to eliminate small splatters as they happen. The finish on the oven wall is designed to absorb and spread splatters so that cleaning is done at normal cooking temperature while cooking occurs. Larger spills however must be wiped up or they can burn and stain the finish. The continuous-cleaning oven never went over very well in North America as not everyone was pleased with the efficacy of the cleaning and the models tended to be more expensive. At present only one German Appliance brand markets a continuous-cleaning oven in Canada.
A relatively new and exciting innovation in self-cleaning ovens is the version that uses steam as opposed to high temperatures. Not to be confused with a steam oven – an oven which cooks your food with the use of steam – steam-cleaning ovens are lined with a non-stick coating, much like a non-stick ceramic frying pan. About a cup and a half of water is poured into the built-in basin in the floor of the oven. The oven goes on for less than an hour on low heat and voilá, soil wipes away. While steam-cleaning ovens are pricier than ovens without this cycle, most people seem very pleased with them noting the added cost is minimal when the benefits are factored in.
The high temperature self-cleaning oven, traditional range, continuous-cleaning oven, and steam-cleaning oven all have inherent advantages as well as disadvantages. Since everyone’s priorities are different when it comes to kitchen appliances and oven technology continues to advance, it would be good to get the readership to weigh in on this topic. What are your oven cleaning experiences as they relate to the various technologies?