One of the jobs this writer has always hated doing is cleaning the inside of the oven. I’m not alone in this: one sales rep for Enjo house cleaning products, who always begins her talk by asking the assembled potential buyers what their least favourite household chore was, says that the two chores that crop up most frequently are cleaning the glass shower front and cleaning the inside of the oven (cleaning the toilet ranked third).
What really puts me (and probably others) off cleaning the oven is those nasty harsh chemicals that you’re supposed to use with good ventilation, heavy duty rubber gloves and possibly a face mask. These really strong alkaline cleaners are ferociously strong and while they certainly shift the gunk inside the oven, they are pretty bad news environmentally.
So can you clean the inside of the oven without these nasty chemicals? The top of the oven is easy enough – a quick sprinkle of baking soda rubbed on vigorously with a soft damp cloth, followed by wiping off with a second damp cloth. Or else use an Enjo (or any other microfibre) cloth. But the inside of the oven? Is it possible?
Well, you can start making the clean-up job easier for yourself by developing some good habits. When you cook, make sure that anything fatty is covered so it doesn’t spit and spatter all over the place.
Use oven trays to stop things dripping, and watch out for things boiling over and rising over the edge of the pan. This should stop some of the gunge forming in the first place.
The second technique for lessening the chore of the domestic cleaningthe inside of the oven is to use a baking tray. Not for baking biscuits and scones, but as a disposable shield down the bottom of the oven.
Alternatively, use aluminium foil. In most electric ovens, you can lift up the bottom element and pop something into it, and this is what you should do. Any spills that do end up on this (and they always do) can just be hauled out when the time comes to change the aluminium lining. As an added bonus, this makes your oven more efficient, as the shiny aluminium reflects heat up so it heats your food rather than the bottom of the oven.
But you will still need to clean the inside of the oven properly. You need lots and lots of baking soda to do this, as you are going to have to coat the entire inside of the oven with a paste of baking soda and water. Don’t worry about the oven racks – just whip these out and do them separately. Leave that baking soda on the inside of the oven for half an hour. Then you go in and scrub all the paste and any gunk off. It will require some elbow grease and maybe a bit of help from a wooden or plastic scraper (or your fingernails). Another handy tool at this stage is a pot scrub made from those bags made from reticulated plastic that look like fishnet stockings (often, garlic and oranges come in them). These make great non-scratching scrubbers that never seem to wear out. Don’t use steel wool inside your oven or you will scratch it.
You can also use an Enjo mitt for cleaning the inside of the oven.
If you haven’t cleaned the oven for ages, you can loosen the grime up beforehand by putting an ovenproof bowl of water in the oven and turning on the oven so the water boils dry and goes to steam. This steam will loosen the grime. Leave the oven to cool down after this treatment before going in, but you only have to wait until it’s cool enough not to burn you rather than being completely cool – a bit of heat will help the cleaning job.