How to Prep Your Oven for Holiday Cooking

With the holidays right around the corner, I’ve been busy cleaning my house and getting things ready for my holiday guests. One household task that’s also on my “to do” list is prepping the oven so it will be in tip top shape for cooking all that scrumptious holiday food. Taking care of the oven cleaning and repair tasks now gives me one less thing to worry about in the weeks ahead.

Clean the oven.
If your oven has drips and spills on the bottom, it’s a wise idea to clean your oven now. Oven spills can catch fire and fill the air in your kitchen with nasty smelling smoke fumes. The smoke will also get into your baked goods or holiday turkey, giving it an “off” taste that’s not very appetizing.

Most ovens have a self clean cycle that make cleaning a snap. To clean your oven, remove the racks and set your timer for 2-3 hours depending on just how dirty the oven is. After the self cleaning cycle is complete and the oven has cooled down, wipe up the ash on the bottom using paper towels. If you don’t have a self cleaning oven, use an oven cleaner to clean your oven instead. One of the easiest-to-use oven cleaning products on the market today is made by Arm & Hammer and is both non-toxic and non-caustic.

Check temperature accuracy.
Self cleaning can affect the temperature calibration. To test the oven temperature, place a portable oven thermometer on the center rack and set your oven to 400. Check the temperature after 20 minutes; if it reads 25 degrees higher or low, the oven temperature will need to be recalibrated. This is an easy DIY fix you can do on your own. (On-line recalibration instructions can be found using your favorite search engine). If you don’t have the time right now for this repair, you can use the portable oven thermometer to help achieve the proper temperature for baking.

Levelness.
A crooked oven will result in lopsided pies that not only look odd but will cook unevenly. You can check the level of your oven using a leveling tool. If the oven is lopsided, shim up the lowest side until it’s even again.

Oven lights.
Oven lights let you see how well your yummy casseroles or holiday cookies are browning. If the light is out, simply unscrew the bulb from its socket and head on over to the hardware store for a replacement bulb. Oven bulbs come in many different sizes which is why bringing along the bulb from home will ensure that you are purchasing the correct bulb for your model of oven.

Cooking holiday meals and baking gobs of cookies is stressful enough without having to deal with an oven that isn’t functioning very well. Taking care of these maintenance tasks before the holidays arrives is an easy way to make your holiday food prep a little easier.

More by this contributor:

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