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What is a pyrolytic (self-cleaning) oven?

And is it worth paying extra for an oven that cleans itself?

pyrolytic oven
Last updated: 05 December 2019

Need to know

  • Pyrolytic ovens work by heating up to 400–500°C, which burns off baked-on residue
  • The process leaves just ash behind, which you can vacuum or wipe out of the oven
  • They're more expensive than regular ovens, but they take the effort and time out of cleaning your oven

Aside from a packet of Tim Tams that never runs out, a self-cleaning oven is probably the one thing you'd love in your kitchen. In case you're thinking it sounds too good to be true, it's not: pyrolytic ovens do indeed clean themselves with minimal human input. 

Whether you're allergic to cleaning products or just the cleaning itself, a pyrolytic oven could be for you. 

Here's how they work and what you need to know about them. 

How does a pyrolytic oven work?

Each time you cook in your oven, you end up with fat splatters, meat juices and all sorts of grease and grime coating the walls, ceiling and doors in your oven. Once these get baked on, they can be difficult to clean off – hence the need for highly caustic oven cleaning products to get your oven sparkling clean again (or at least less dirty, depending on your oven cleaning skills). 

Pyrolytic ovens tackle the grime in a different way: they burn it with fire. Well, more specifically, the oven heats up to about 400 to 500°C, heating the baked-on bits until they carbonise and turn to ash – a process called pyrolysis. 

How much do pyrolytic ovens cost?

We've tested a range of pyrolytic wall ovens, ranging in price from $999 for an Ikea model all the way up to $7499 for a pyrolytic Miele oven with all the bells and whistles. 

By comparison, the catalytic wall ovens (we explain the difference between these and pyrolytic ovens below) we've tested will set you back anywhere from $749 for a Euromaid to $7399 for a Miele.

Regular wall ovens we've tested typically range from $599 to $1300.

What's the difference between pyrolytic ovens and catalytic ovens?

The other main type of 'self-cleaning' oven is called a catalytic oven. It helps keep the oven clean with the use of catalytic liners, which contain minerals and chemicals that absorb fat splatters.

It's important that there's good coverage: ideally, both sides, back and roof. But some only have liners on the back wall or just the sides. Remember, wherever the liner is, you won't have to clean!

You'll need to regularly heat a catalytic oven to 250°C for an hour to burn off any splatters. Once the oven is cool, wipe the catalytic liners with a damp cloth. If you tend to use your oven regularly at temperature above 200°C, then the liners will likely stay in good shape and won't get saturated with dirt and grease. 

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

Does a pyrolytic oven do all the cleaning itself?

While pyrolytic ovens are often called 'self-cleaning', unfortunately they won't do all the work for you – but the good news is they'll take care of most of it. 

Depending on your oven, you'll need to remove the shelves and side runners and wipe down the inside of the door before running a pyrolytic cycle. It's also a good idea to clean off any large pieces of baked-on stuff before using the pyrolytic function, and clean the exterior glass door well, as any marks will bake on and be difficult to remove.

We've tested several Miele models that come with accessories you can leave in the oven while cleaning, including side runners and roasting racks, which saves you having to remove them and clean them separately. 

Once the pyrolytic cleaning cycle has finished, you'll need to vacuum or wipe away the ash. That's it. 

Are pyrolytic ovens safe?

Yes, pyrolytic ovens are safe, but you should take a couple of precautions.

The outside of the oven will get hotter than usual, even if the door has extra insulation, so it's best to keep tea towels off the door and keep kids away from the oven while it's running a cleaning cycle. 

Pyrolytic ovens may also generate smoke if there's a lot of residue to burn off, so good ventilation is important. 

During a cleaning cycle, the oven door will automatically lock to prevent anyone inadvertently opening it. It will stay locked until the temperature falls to a safe level.

Is a pyrolytic oven worth the money?

It really depends how much you hate scrubbing your oven! Pyrolytic ovens do cost more than regular ovens – but can you put a price on never having to clean your oven again?

Pyrolytic cleaning does a thorough job on your oven, particularly in hard-to-reach places, so not only will it save you time and effort (not to mention negating the use of caustic oven cleaners), it'll probably do a better job than you could do yourself. 

How long does pyrolytic cleaning take?

A pyrolytic cleaning cycle will take around one to three hours, depending on the oven settings. Many models have several settings for cleaning cycle options that you can choose depending on how dirty your oven is. 

How often do you need to do a pyrolytic clean?

Depending on how often you cook, you'll need to do a pyrolytic clean every second month, and it's also a good idea to clean up spills and large bits of food as soon as you can to avoid them getting baked on in the first place. 

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