Baking up a big dinner for the whole gang was well worth the effort. You've got the dishwasher taking care of the dishes, and you can put your feet up – cleaning the oven can wait. But behind the dark, tightly closed oven door, it’s easy to forget about the baked-on stains from meat juices and oil – till you next open the door and remember!

If you have the time for regular cleaning and maintenance of your oven it'll save you a fair amount of elbow grease down the track, as opposed to letting the grease bake on time after time. The good news? Not only do you have a happy cleaning crew, you also now have the option to buy an oven that'll help you with the cleaning and maintenance.

Self-cleaning ovens

The two main options at your disposal in this category are pyrolytic and catalytic.

Pyrolytic ovens

An oven that cleans itself – what a dream! The big plus for pyrolytic ovens is that the cleaning process is chemical-free and does a great, thorough job on your oven, particularly in hard-to-reach places.

They're generally more expensive, but if you bake a lot and tend to have lots of meat juice and fat splattering around, who wouldn't consider buying an oven that can clean itself afterwards?

How it works:

  • The oven heats up to about 500°C – converting food residues into ash, which you wipe away.
  • The oven door automatically locks and is only released when the temperature falls to a safe level.
  • The outside of the oven gets hotter than usual – so it's a good idea to keep kids out of the kitchen.

Unfortunately not all the hard work is done for you:

  • Before using the pyrolytic function generally all runners, shelves and other accessories need to be removed and cleaned separately – which can be fiddly and might still take some elbow grease.
  • It's worth cleaning off any big pieces of dirt beforehand, and giving the internal side of the glass door a wipe.

Catalytic liners

This one works by absorbing fat splatters. It's important that there's good coverage of disposable liners over the oven – both sides, back and roof is ideal.

To put the liners to action:

  • You need to regularly heat the oven to 250°C for an hour to burn off any splatters.
  • Once the oven is cool, wipe them with a damp cloth.

These liners should last a long time, but you might eventually need to replace them at an additional cost.

If you're looking for an oven that has a pyrolytic function or self-cleaning liners, you'll find these as a criteria in our freestanding oven reviews, our wall oven reviews and our double oven reviews.

Steam cleaning

Each of the steam ovens we tested offer this function.

  • Fill the baking tray with water
  • During the cleaning cycle it will loosen baked-on food and grease
  • Once it's finished wipe the oven clean with a soapy cloth

Removing stubborn grease marks even after the steam-cleaning cycle can be difficult and may still require an oven cleaning product or mixture for a thorough clean.

Oven cleaners

If you don't clean and maintain your oven regularly you'll need a lot of time and elbow grease, or a specially formulated oven cleaner.

Like other household chemical products, oven cleaners are dangerous – if you get them on your skin or in your eyes it can cause severe irritation, deep burns or even blindness. They need to be handled with care.

  • Have the kitchen well ventilated when using an oven cleaner to avoid breathing in any fumes.
  • Follow the instructions – if it says to wear a face mask or safety glasses then do it!
  • Wear a long-sleeve top and gloves to prevent your skin coming into contact with the cleaner.

Cleaning and maintenance tips for all ovens

  • Soak metal runners and shelves in warm water with either a dishwasher detergent or washing powder.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner to remove the ash after a pyrolytic clean, then wipe the walls of the oven with warm, soapy water.
  • Try to clean your oven regularly – you'll find it won't take as much effort as it would if you were to leave mess baking on for a while.
  • If you're using an oven cleaner, spray all the surfaces and leave the roof till last – if you spray the roof first you're likely to get it dripping onto your arms.
  • If you want to do away with the chemicals used in an oven cleaner, use bi-carb soda and vinegar. The bi-carb removes stains while the vinegar cuts through grease.
  • When you're cleaning the stainless-steel exterior, clean small sections at a time to prevent streaking. There are different ways to clean stainless steel. Try:
    • hot water and a microfibre cloth
    • vinegar and a paper towel
    • methylated spirits and a paper towel
    • citrus-based all-purpose cleaner and a microfibre cloth.

Ease of cleaning and maintenance forms part of the ease-of-use score in our ovens test, if you'd like more information on a particular model.