Confession: I may, at first, seem like an unlikely candidate to tell you how to clean your oven. I never clean my oven. Technically, it gets an annual cleaning just after its biggest day of the year: Thanksgiving. The following morning, I make my way to the kitchen to survey the damage, press the self-cleaning button, chill out for the four-plus hours it takes to run its course, then sweep clean whatever burnt-off bits come loose in the process. No elbow grease, no nothing. So sue me.
If you clean your own oven with actual products and even the slightest bit of wrist strength, then you’ve already got me beat. Perhaps your oven gets a good cleaning a couple of times a year, which is plenty: most experts recommend doing it seasonally. But now, of course, when we’re cooking more than ever, even the most laid-back oven cleaners among us are beginning to notice increased grease and grime build-up. We may even feel like we can’t safely start cooking again until we deal with yesterday’s dripped bacon grease or pie filling. Since we’re about halfway between last Thanksgiving and next, this is as good a time as any to do a true deep-cleaning. After researching the best oven cleaning products available, I divvied up my oven floor using painter’s tape and cleaned each little box with a separate top-rated cleaner. If you're wondering how to clean your oven using the best products, here’s what worked best, what didn’t work at all, and everything in between.
The Best Traditional Oven Cleaner: Easy-Off
Most traditional oven cleaners are packed with grease-fighting chemicals—propylene glycol propyl ether, sodium hydroxide—that you don’t want near your food. And yet, they’re often our go-tos because they’re so effective. One of the best contenders is Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. After aerosol-spraying the interior of your oven, Easy-Off instructs you to close the oven door lest you be overpowered with fumes. (If you can get your hands on the Fume Free variety, it’s much milder, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you aren’t still inhaling the stuff that makes this cleaner work.) Then, wait at least 20 minutes—or longer, even overnight, for especially tough jobs—before wiping down. I stuck with the minimum 20 minutes, and my residual wipe-down was easy: most of the streaks came right off without any effort.
Runner Up: Carbona Oven Cleaner
I had similar results with another industry favorite, Carbona Oven Cleaner. Carbona is packaged in a traditional spray bottle, which allows for more precise aim on trouble spots. Like Easy-Off, Carbona recommends the 20-minute, door-closed method before wipe-down. Between the two, there wasn’t much difference, though Carbona is a bit more expensive.
The Best Eco-Friendly Oven Cleaner
If toxic chemicals aren’t your jam no matter how effective they are, try Method Heavy Duty Degreaser. I was seriously impressed with how the Method-treated patch of oven wiped clean compared with the traditional cleaners. Method suggests allowing about three minutes for the degreaser to set before wiping, and there’s no need to quickly close your oven, since there aren’t any hazardous fumes. Made primarily from plant-based ingredients with natural degreasers like citric acid, Method is an eco-friendly option and its vegetal scent is pleasantly inoffensive.
The Best All-Natural Cleaner
Packaged with a special scrubbing tool, Oven Scrub Natural Cleaner doesn’t apologize for asking you to do a little work on your oven’s behalf. (Truth be told, every one of the products I tried—even the traditional aerosols—required scrubbing out tough spots.) Scrubbing with this chalky natural cleaner is admittedly a little slow-going, but it’s surprisingly effective. The combination of pumice stone and coco glucoside go to work on grease stains, while a refreshing combination of essential oils with antibacterial elements (eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon and tea tree) help get things clean. And, no joke, this stuff smells so good, you’re going to want to stow it in your bath caddy instead of under your kitchen sink.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious