A Marvel of Modern Technology

Yesterday I saw a self cleaning oven clean itself for the first time in my life. It was pretty amazing. Having seen it, I don’t expect I’ll ever own an oven that can’t clean itself.

I grew up in what some would consider the dark ages of technology. I’m sure many of you can’t even imagine the way that I used to live. I didn’t have a self cleaning oven, I didn’t have a machine to wash my dishes, to cool the house we used a swamp cooler and fans, we only had 1 TV without cable, and when we got the internet the connection speed was 28.8KB per second. Technology has come a long way since then.

The apartment I live in now is the first one I’ve lived in that has had either a dishwasher or a self cleaning oven. I’ve lived there for seven months now. I still regularly think about how nice it is to not have to wash the dishes by hand (though I do miss it sometimes, too). Yesterday was the first time I used the self cleaning feature of the oven. It sure beats doing it by hand.

So for those of you who have never cleaned an oven by hand, let me tell you about how awful it is. In the old days you had to buy a really powerful chemical oven cleaner. You would spray the stuff on all the surfaces of the oven and let it sit for several hours or over night while it ate away all of the crud that was on the surface of the oven. If you were in the same room while the oven cleaner was sprayed it would burn your nasal passages and make you feel nauseous and light headed. If you were the one actually spraying the oven cleaner it’d be powerful enough to almost kill you. After you sprayed the stuff on the oven then you had to breath the fumes for hours. Hopefully you don’t have to stay in the same room, prepare food, or have to sleep in the same house during the process.

Then you have to wipe the oven out. By this point the fumes have subsided to only making you slightly ill, but you have to use gloves because if you let the stuff touch you it will eat your flesh off. You have to clean out all of the crud and foamy chemicals from the oven. You either have to use a roll of paper towels or a disposable rag, because anything you use is not going to be coming clean and you want to be able to take it straight out to the trash. You’d better not miss any bits of chemicals, either. You think the stuff is normally bad? Try heating some up in an oven—it’s pretty toxic.

After all that the oven is usually pretty amazingly clean. Still, sometimes it doesn’t take quite all of junk off and you have to repeat the whole process. And when you get done, the smell of oven cleaner usually permeates the air for days. About the time it dissipates, you bake something again and it returns.

Now with the progress of technology they did invent “fume free” oven cleaner. It’s not a very accurate name, but it is at least marginally better than the old fashioned stuff. At least I don’t know anyone that’s died from using the fume free type. In fact I know of very few people who have been hospitalized from it.

So you can imagine how excited I was to simply set the oven to “Clean” and let it do all of the work. It did take over 4 hours and it did get a little smokey in the apartment. And it certainly got a little hot. I wouldn’t want to do it during the summer when you can’t open the window to let in cool air, but even then it would be a heck of a lot better than the fumes I’m accustomed too. And the amount of heat that came out of the oven exhaust vent under one of the burners was perfect for roasting marshmallows (and it didn’t impart any underlying flavors to the marshmallows).

The results were pretty astonishing. I had spilled a pan-full of steak grease and drippings on the door of the oven a month ago. It’s been smoking and burning on ever since then. After the oven got done cleaning itself yesterday, everything that had been cooked onto the surface of the oven had been reduced to a thin film of white ash. It wiped right out.

I really kind of want to go spill something on the bottom of the oven just so I can clean it again. My mother is going to be so envious when she finds out my oven cleans itself.