When it comes to cookware, some things are better off dirty.
We know this to be true in the case of cast iron skillets, clay dishes and woks. Building up a layer of cooked-on oils and fats can work as a natural non-stick coating as well as add rich flavour to foods like eggs and bacon. For this reason, thick metal cookware shouldn’t ever be cleaned with soapy water or scrubbed with abrasive cleaners.
This has lead to a question for many homeowners – is the same true of my oven? Will allowing the metal to soak up flavour help enhance my cooking, or give it a smoked taste? Well, the simple answer is no.
There are a number of reasons for this, most importantly that an oven is a machine, not just a metal box. It’s also made of much thinner metal than cookware accessories, which means the effect of cooked-on food is very different. Instead of soaking up oils and fats, spills in contact with ovens will just turn into black carbon, which instead of nicely flavouring your food will actually make it taste bitter.
It would be different if your oven was a pizza oven, or was heated by coal or burned wood, but with a generic electric or gas oven no delicious smoky smell will be passed on – this isn’t smoking after all, but last month’s frozen pizza chunks which have been turned into carbon.
There are several reasons not to allow your oven to get to this state, other than a bad taste in future cooking. When an oven is dirty, the heating elements have to work much harder, which can result in uneven cooking or undercooked food; and even if it’s cooked properly, you will probably have used around double the amount of energy. It’s also terribly unhygienic, as bacteria can easily grow in the cooked-on carbon and then make its way into the food you are preparing.
Here are some ways to avoid accidentally smoking your food:
- Cook pizza on a pizza tray or stone, not directly on the rack! Put another baking tray underneath if you think there may be spills
- Use a roasting bag or wrap to prevent food from roast dinners splattering onto the walls of your oven
- Wipe up spills immediately to make it a much easier process!
- If the oven is too hot to wipe, pour ordinary table salt onto a spill, covering it by a few millimetres, then leave. A couple of days later, use a spatula to scrape the salt easily from the oven interior, taking any stains with it!
Not sure your oven ever needs a good clean? Try out this particularly messy recipe for berry cobbler, perfect for summer, and then it definitely will!
¾ Cup of milk
2 free range eggs
125g butter at room temperature
1 Cup self-raising flour
½ Cup caster sugar
Firstly, preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 350°F, 180°C or fan-assisted ovens 160°C. Mix together the sugar, butter, flour and eggs in a large bowl and mix with an electric whisk for a couple of minutes. Add the milk and then stir it in.
Either line the bottom of a pie dish or baking tray, or spray with an oil which has no taste, like canola. Pour the batter in and then cover with berries – the cake mixture will rise up around the berries as it cooks.
Bake for forty five minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched gently. When it’s ready, try to resist eating until it’s cooled down a little, or just pair with ice cream!