Have you gone from self-cleaning to manual clean oven?

needinfo1November 15, 2012

I've been looking at some of the semi-pro type ranges and notice most of them are manual clean. I've had a self -cleaning oven for twenty years and recall how much I hated to get out the oven-cleaner to do that job. I am not a cleaning fanatic by any means and use the self-clean feature on my oven periodically (the rest of the time it has spills in it).

If you were used to using self-cleaning and you have purchased one of the higher-end ovens where you have to clean it manually, have you regretted losing the self-clean feature? I know I still need to wipe out the ash with my self-cleaning, but that is a lot easier than cleaning an entire oven.


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Not too thrilled about cleaning the inside of our Wolf 36" AG range, but the trade-offs were worth it (the burners, gas oven, NO automatic cooling fan--ours is controlled by an on/off switch).

I do find it to be less onerous of a task if I stay on top of it. Even if I let the back wall go (through a few roast chicken dinners for ex.), I try to clean the inside of the oven door each time, and at least wipe down the floor of the oven. Keeps the grunge down to a manageable level.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:26AM
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Agree with cat_mom. I went with a non-self-cleaning AG 30" NXR, choosing it over an induction range. Winding up with a non-self-cleaning oven was one of the tradeoffs I made in choosing between the competing aspects and attributes of the stoves.

I keep up with oven cleaning because I've always thought a clean oven heats more evenly. The folks at Modernist Cuisine have confirmed this with testing. Keeping after it does make the task less onerous as cat_mom says. I've noticed that the fancy blue porcelainized oven interior seems to hold on to oven gunk less the liners on my former major-brand stoves. I've usually been able to simply wipe out the oven interior. I've had to resort to Barkeepeer's friend a couple of times with meat spatters and sweet-potato drippings. Although the stove maker cautions against using commercial restaurant oven cleaning products, it is apparently permissible to to use products like Affresh and Easy-Off Fume Free. I haven't tried those yet. We will see after Thanksgiving.

What I have been doing is a modified version of the steam-cleaning function that seems to be turning up in new major-brand stoves. You basically put some water in the bottom of the oven, turn the heat to high for a short period of time (say, 20 minutes), let the oven cool and wipe out the interior. Both GE and Samsung stoves have this as an additional self-cleaning option on their induction stoves. Whirlpool/Maytag/Kitchenaid stoves call if "Aqua-Lift" and have it as their only self-cleaning method in their induction stoves and several models of gas stoves.

"Aqua-Lift" and the other steam options are not really self-cleaning, though. More like a cleaning assist. Just makes it easier to wipe out the oven interior after it cools down.

On the importance of letting the oven cool down before wiping it out, note that the user manuals for Wolf stoves say not to put cold wet sponge on hot oven walls because the thermal shock may result in crackling the finish.

A couple of additional thoughts.

First, the last time I had an all-gas stove (two decades ago), the self-cleaning function wasn't all that effective. I still had to finish up with some scrubbing which is pretty much like what I'm doing now. Recent testing by Consumer Reports shows that self-cleaning functions on some models of gas stoves works better than the self-cleaning functions on other gas models but, on the whole, self-cleaning in gas stoves runs the gamut from mediocre to outright bad. According to CR, 30" pro-style dual fuel stoves tend to be on the low end of effective self-cleaning (Wolf's 30" dual fuel having particular problems.) Interestingly, though, the 36-inch models do better with all of them being very good at self-cleaning except for Viking. So, depending on the model stove you choose, you still might be looking at drudgery similar to what you face with a stoves that lacks self-cleaning. If you want self-cleaning, it a a good thing to check on how well it works on the particular stoves you are considering.

Second, there have been a lot of recent postings here about not using self-cleaning because of concerns that its high heat may damage or contribute to the early demise of the proprietary electronics that run most (if not all) stoves with self-cleaning functions. Whirlpool/Kitchenaid had a bad couple of years with this. (Sometimes, self-cleaning tripped a self-protecting heat-overload breaker inside the stove and sometimes it cooked the boards.) Also, FUD -- fear, uncertainty, and doubt --- has led other folks to refrain from using the function. If FUD affects you, then it does not matter whether or not the stove you buy has self-cleaning.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Wow! I really thank both of you for taking the time to post a reply. Yes, I too am wondering about the trade-off for getting a non-self-cleaning. My husband, of course, wonders what the big deal is with giving up self-cleaning. But, then he has never cleaned the over other than to turn on the self-clean feaature. I am the one who follows up with that as far as doing the wiping out. My current range is a dual fuel, so I have the electric cleaning which does okay but not great. But, as I said, I am not a clean fanatic either.

JWVideo is your NXR the one that is sold by Costco? I have seen that online but would never buy a range I hadn't seen in person. So, doing some semi-steam cleaning seems to help? How long have you had this range? I'm guessing not long enough to have had it get super dirty after a long period of usage.

cat mom--I asked this question because I really am worried that if I go this route I may end up kicking myself after a year or two, wondering why in the world I didn't go for the self-cleaning. But, even though you dislike cleaning the range you think it was worth it. That is affirming to hear, and I know there are always trade-offs in every purchase. I assume if you had it to do over again, you'd make the same choice.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 12:57PM
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I went in the opposite direction as you're asking. I bought an AG range with self-clean and I have never been happier. There are no computer boards to fry so I have zero concerns about any damage it could cause. I've had my range for over a year now and I've run the self-clean feature three times. I'll probably it again right after Thanksgiving and then maybe right after Christmas if I'm hosting again. I use the oven often, especially the rotisserie inside the oven. So it can get messy. I love that all I have to do is wipe off the little carbon dust and that's it. Heat and fumes are not an issue because I run the hood on low while the self-clean is doing it's thing. If I ever have to buy another range, I'd want self-clean again.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:30PM
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"JWVideo is your NXR the one that is sold by Costco?"

Yes. That is where I got mine.

"I have seen that online but would never buy a range I hadn't seen in person."

Me neither, usually. But it was recommended by friends who have had a 36" NXR for three years. (I haven't seen their stove in person, only pictures, but I've known them for a long time, since we were kitchen drudges in college, so their judgment carries weight). It was recommended to me by another friend who used to run hotel dining rooms on the coast. There were detailed reviews here in what must now be a dozen threads. And, I was buying it from Costco, which means that I could take it back for a no-questions asked full refund if it turned out to be a piece of junk (far from it, though) or if I simply did not like it after a couple of months of use.

"So, doing some semi-steam cleaning seems to help?"


"How long have you had this range? I'm guessing not long enough to have had it get super dirty after a long period of usage."

Going on three months. I do oven cleaning about 5 minutes a week, so far. I don't let it get grungy ("super dirty") because I do a fair amount of baking this time of year and want to keep the oven heat even. The oven gets used pretty regularly because I host Sunday dinners for a crowd of 6 to 12 every week. When I've done pork and beef roasts or a couple of beer-butt chickens, the spattering on the top, back and sides pretty much wiped right out (with the steam assist which also seems to help with the convection fan). The bottom oven pan (the one that covers the lower heating element, lifts out and goes to the sink when there is burned on stuff (chicken spatters and burnt on sweet potato drippings). Cleaning the oven door and glass is the same was it was with my late GE dual-fuel stove.

But, I've got a bit or marathon coming up with Thanksgiving (20-pound turkey, bubbling sweet-potato casserole etc.), followed by a julbord and Saint Lucia's day. We'll see how hard it is to clean after that marathon. Experience to date is that the cleaning won't be that much more onerous. If the semi-steam-clean does not work, then there is the old trick of a dilute ammonia solution in a bowl for overnight. And if that does not work, then I'll look into the Fume Free Easy Off. So, your husband notwithstanding, real men do clean ovens without power tools. To be sure, this was a bit easier with my former GE dual-fuel stove's self-cleaning electric oven function. So far, cleaning has been merely less convenient than it has been outright onerous. Again, keeping up with it is what makes the difference, I think.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:13PM
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I believe jscout has a Capital Culinarian which is in the same price range as the Wolf AG stoves and does have a self cleaning function. So, if you have that kind of budget, you do not need to forgo self-cleaning functions in order to get a pro-style stove.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:20PM
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JW is correct, I have a Capital. Capital is generally less expensive than both Wolf and Viking. Price-wise, it's more in line with Thermador, Dacor, DCS, etc. There are quite a few brands with self-clean, in both AG and DF. Personally I'd choose AG for self-clean and sacrifice DF.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:49PM
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Okay. I am a bit lost here.

"Personally I'd choose AG for self-clean and sacrifice DF."

What is AG? DF refers to dual fuel, correct?

jscout says, "AG range with self-clean.." Does this AG refer to? I was thinking perhaps all gas but then I just returned from the appliance store where I was told that pretty much if one wants self-cleaning the range has to be dual fuel. So, maybe my guess that this refers to all gas is wrong.

And, your brand is Capital, correct? Which type in their series do you have--the Culinarian?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:56PM
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AG means all gas.

Self cleaning choices are limited for stoves in the 30" size; most of the self cleaning models are the dual fuel ones. I believe capital and a couple of 30-inch gas models with self-cleaning and maybe one of the DCS models was too.

You get more choices if you are looking at 36" stoves. Bigger budget, too.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 7:08PM
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So, out of curiousity, I just looked at the pricing at AJ Madison for pro-style all gas stoves with self-cleaning ovens.

Holy smokes! Prices have jumped!

Non-self cleaning all-gas 30" pro style stoves seem to run from around $3k to $4k with Wolf being on the high end. (Costco.Ca is offering a 30" blue-star with convection oven for about $2400 while Costco US is offering the 30" NXR for $1999.) Except for the odd JennAir and KitchenAid, and a Viking D3, anything with self-cleaining ovens in the pro-style category seems to be over $4500. The 30" Capital Culinarian with self clean is $5700 and the precision is over $6200. Ouch.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:43PM
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I'd never, never go to manual clean.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:52PM
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Hi needinfo, yes, I have the Capital Culinarian, a 48". It's an all gas range, AG. It's a fantastic range and I love it, worth every penny I splurged. The appliance store you went to is wrong about self-clean only available in DF. There are quite a few AG options. One of the best places to search is on AJ Madison. I ended up buying from a local highend appliance store and even they used AJM for research and comparison. Even though some brands (Wolf) have strict policies against listing prices online, you can get an estimate on their website. Just do a search and sort the list by price. AJM will show the product price-wise relative to the othe products that do allow online pricing. From that, you can extrapolate an approximate price.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 11:26AM
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We have visited several of the high-end local appliance stores in our large metropolitan area, and we haven't been overly impressed with the salespeople. We are finding they are somewhat helpful, but for the in-depth info we are looking for we have discovered we need to do out own research.

Yes, jwvideo, prices are incredibly high on these ranges, and self-cleaning adds a lot to the price. That is why I was considering the manual clean.

jscout--do you have the open burners or the closed on your Capital? Some of the ranges I looked at yesterday have the open, and I am starting to think I prefer them.

westsider--yes, kind of in my gut I agree with you, but then I start telling myself that it certainly is a big chunk of change extra to go to the self-cleaning.

Thanks all.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 1:32PM
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I had a self cleaning oven once, used it once. Was also the worst stove I have ever used.

Have had manual clean for about 30 of the 40 years I have been cooking. Makes zero difference to me.
My NXR is quite easy to clean, I try to wipe it out at least once a month and give it a good cleaning about twice a year.
I also use aluminum foil a lot to keep spills down to a minimum.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 4:00PM
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Has anyone tried heating the oven up and putting a pan of water in there to "steam" to ease oven cleaning? That is what one of the appliance salespeople suggested when I looked at the manual clean ovens.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:51PM
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Yup, that's one of the two ways I've tried for my improvised "aqua-lift." Actually, I also do that when baking bread to help crisp up the crust. I've also tried spritzing from a spray bottle directly on the stuff that gunks up the floor or walls. It does ease cleaning.

Once upon a time, when I worked in a commercial kitchen, we also tried the steaming thing with a dilute solution of ammonia, heated and left overnight. I see this recommended every so often here at GW. For example:



    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 8:05PM
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I have the open burners. I like them much more than the sealed burners. To the point where I would never buy a sealed burner range again, regardless of brand. For the record, I have used commercial ranges so I'm a little biased. When I planned my remodel I actually started with a commercial range, but after a couple of years of research and weighing commercial equipment in a residential setting, I finally settled on a CC.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:12AM
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I have manual clean AG Wolf. I love the stove, but when we move am looking at going to self-clean. I do not actually anticipate getting younger ;) I simply don't clean the oven--I know I want and need to, but have I done it?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:24AM
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"I do not actually anticipate getting younger ;) I simply don't clean the oven--I know I want and need to, but have I done it?" That's me in a nutshell; I'm not a clean freak and have so many other things I'd rather focus on.

And, I am looking at retirement in the next year or so. Maybe then I'd have more time to clean an oven, but maybe I still wouldn't be interested in it (and my joints would be getting stiffer and less flexible).

It is good to hear the range of opinions here and the tips are great too. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 12:43PM
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The discussion reminds me again how personal these choices are. I remember a wonderful phrase from a book (by Booth Tarkington, I think) which went something like this: a mild unpleasantness for one young man may seem the sheer brink of hell to another.

That's applicable here as you can see from the posts above.

For some of us, a self-cleaning oven is on the list of stove "must-haves." A stove won't even be considered without it. For others, like me, it was on my list of "wanna-haves" rather than "must-haves." (IOW, I miss having a self-cleaning oven but think I can live without it). Others, such as Nunya, are completely indifferent to self-cleaning; seemingly, he wouldn't use it if he had it.

I say all of this because opinions here at GW can sometimes sound like dogma -- because I think X, you should, too, and your contrary thoughts are mere subjective preferences. It has to be said that subjective preferences are important. They are none-the-less valuable for being subjective. Your own preference absolutely must be part of the process of choosing a stove. Just because I find manual oven cleaning is "not too bad" does not mean you should find it that way, too.

So, hopefully, the range of opinions is taken as helping you sort out our preferences rather than as telling you what to so.

There is only way to get better informed than this exchange of opinions and that is by actually cleaning an oven in a stove you are considering. But, even if you live someplace where dealer showrooms have operating stoves you can test out, do you think they'll be demonstrating that aspect anytime soon? ;>)

When I bought my NXR, I really had no idea how easy or how onerous "myself-cleaning" would be. That's one of the reasons I bought it from Costco. If "myself-cleaning" turned out to a royal PITA, I could simply return the stove for a full refund and get the self-cleaning induction range that I otherwise would have purchased. So, when you go shopping, it may be helpful to be up-front with the vendors about your uncertainty on this issue and to have a back-up candidate.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 3:41PM
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