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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: 23 November 2023

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 with a damp cloth
  • They're more expensive than normal ovens, but are becoming more affordable and more common

Aside from a packet of Tim Tams that never runs out, a self-cleaning oven is probably the one thing that would make your kitchen complete. 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 operate 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. 

"An oven with a pyrolytic cleaning function will make cleaning your oven easier," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair

"Since the majority of ovens have the grill inside the oven, if you grill and roast a lot of meats and vegetables then you should definitely consider an oven with this function."

How much do pyrolytic ovens cost?

We've tested a range of pyrolytic wall ovens, ranging in price from $1149 for a basic Omega model all the way up to $9499 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 $1049 for a Beko to $2199 for a Miele.

In our most recent oven review, most of the ovens had a pyrolytic cleaning function

CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair

Regular wall ovens we've tested typically range from $543 to $2499.

"Ovens with the pyrolytic cleaner feature are becoming more affordable and more common," says Fiona. "In our most recent oven review, most of the ovens had a pyrolytic cleaning function."

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 the catalytic liners provide good coverage: ideally covering both sides, the back and the 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. 

Pyrolytic ovens won't do all the work for you – but they'll take care of most of it

Pay close attention to the glass. Remove any baked-on residue and grease, otherwise it will bake onto the glass and be impossible to remove. And clean the exterior glass door well, as any marks there can also bake on and be difficult to remove.

We've tested several 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. Other models may offer pyrolytic accessories like shelf supports. 

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 – but you should still take a couple of precautions.

First, 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. 

Second, 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 normal 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. 

"Look for an oven that has at least two pyrolytic cleaning modes: a light soil clean and a heavy clean," says Fiona.

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. 

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.