A self-cleaning electric oven uses intense heat to burn away food residue, often heating to more than 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The process requires several hours to complete and cool down, and it can produce unpleasant fumes and smoke during the cycle. Upon completion, all that is left inside is ash.
While each oven's controls are different, the self-cleaning cycle usually involves setting the temperature dial to the self-cleaning cycle and engaging a specialized door lock to keep the oven sealed during the cleaning process. This is to prevent possible injury due to the incredibly high temperatures involved. Leaving pans or other materials inside the oven during this cycle can result in severe damage and possibly start a fire.
Another type of self-cleaning oven uses steam cleaning to remove baked-on residue. These ovens generally heat to a lower temperature than a traditional self-cleaning cycle, and the cycle lasts for only an hour or so. However, these ovens are not quite as effective at removing food residue and often require multiple cycles or hand-cleaning to remove the worst messes.
Cooks should open windows for ventilation during a self-cleaning cycle because the fumes can be unpleasant, particularly when there is a large amount of build-up on oven surfaces. In addition, the fumes created can be lethal to birds and small animals, so any potentially susceptible pets should be kept in another portion of the home while the self-cleaning cycle completes.