Consumer Reports tests best self-cleaning ovens

Remember the holidays? Maybe you did lots of baking and roasting - perhaps even a turkey or two.

Now raise your hand if you have cleaned your oven since then. Or since LAST Thanksgiving, for that matter.

Fortunately, Consumer Reports tests ranges for their ability to simmer, bake and broil, but also for how well they self-clean.

When was the last time you cleaned your oven?

If you choose to ignore it, accumulated grime in your oven can produce smoke and odors when you bake - and the smell could transfer to the food you're making.

If you don't want to get on your hands and knees and scrub, Consumer Reports suggests you take advantage of your oven's 'self cleaning' feature. But are all ovens up to the task?

As part of CR's range testing, expert Tara Casaregola creates a tough-to-clean mix consisting of eggs, grated cheese, cherry pie filling, lard, tomato puree and tapioca.

It's painted inside the test ovens, and on the doors, then baked on for an hour at 425-degrees.

"We actually call this Monster Mash. And we make this test as tough as possible so that the really good cleaning ovens stand out," said Casaregola.

Testers find that high-temperature self clean cycles are the most effective, where the oven locks, and cranks the heat to 800-degrees or higher, turning the applied mess to ash that's easily wiped out once the oven cools.

"We found that the lowest- scoring ranges use a different, shorter self-clean process, that uses low temperatures. Our testers were able to wipe the residue from the floor of the ovens, but not from the sides," said Casaregola.

Turn on the vent hood and crack your windows to clear smells from the room. Remove the racks, or they can lose their finish and not glide as easily. Then start the cycle.

And plan ahead - the process can take from two to six hours to complete.

A few more tips:

- Consumer Reports says wiping up spills or other "light" cleaning interventions can extend the time until having to run the self clean cycle.

- Be sure to remove any pet birds from your house before using the feature, as the fumes can be toxic.
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