In the old days, manual cleaning was the only option when buying a new oven. Getting down on your kitchen floor and scrubbing the inside of your oven using harsh oven cleaners was the only way to get it clean. In the 1960s, self cleaning range models were introduced by General Electric. Many consumers love the self cleaning feature, but as time has passed, consumers have demanded alternatives. Steam clean oven models were born to meet the need for a less harsh, faster, and more energy-efficient oven cleaning option.
(Before we continue: if you want more info to help you choose a new kitchen range, check out our range buying guide!)
Before you purchase a steam clean oven, you should understand how steam cleaning differs from self cleaning.
A self cleaning cycle typically runs two to three hours. During the cycle, the range will be locked and will heat to an extremely high temperature inside - 900 degrees or more! This cycle essentially cleans the range by burning all of the stains and caked-on debris away with the help of an enamel coating on the interior. At the end of the cycle, you'll simply need to clean out the ash from the interior and then touch-up clean any remaining stains.
Self cleaning ovens have some drawbacks, including high energy consumption, long cycle length, unpleasant odors from incinerated foods, and the fact the the oven will be emanating heat into your kitchen during the cycle. Not ideal if you need to run a cleaning cycle on a hot summer day!
Steam cleaning offers a gentler alternative. To operate a steam clean oven model, you simply put about one cup of water into a reservoir in the oven designed for steam cleaning. Once you select the steam clean oven cycle, the oven will run for about 30 minutes or so and use a moderate temperature (about 250 degrees) along with the water in the reservoir to steam away caked-on food stains. The cycle is shorter, uses less energy and heat, and doesn't product the noxious odors of self cleaning.
So what are the drawbacks of steam cleaning? Steam cleaning does not have the power of traditional self cleaning and therefore can't penetrate heavily caked-on food the way self cleaning can. For this reason, it is important to steam clean more regularly than you would run a self clean cycle and generally keep up on the interior maintenance of your oven. Some consumers have also noticed that steam clean works well for debris on the bottom of the oven, but is not as effective for debris on the sides or in corners.
Pro Tip: If you want the best of both worlds, choose and oven that offers both self cleaning and steam cleaning like the GE PGB930SEJSS.
We hope you enjoyed this discussion of steam clean oven pros and cons. This feature can be found on many mid- to high-end stoves from a variety of brands. Let us know what kind of range you end up purchasing and which cleaning technology you prefer. We’d love to hear from you!
Editor's Note: This blog was originally written in January of 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy as of the publication date noted above.