19

I just discovered a sheet pan in my oven that must have been there for well over a month or more. It looked like it had been used to bake chicken and there was a burnt outline of the pieces, but there was no mold, only a rancid oil smell. I took the pan out and have had the oven on at 450 degrees for about an hour. Is the oven safe to use to bake cakes and cookies?

3
  • 17
    A rare exception to the "when in doubt throw it out"
    – eps
    Dec 16, 2021 at 22:52
  • 2
    If you have a self-cleaning oven, run a cleaning cycle. That heats the interior to something like 800 degrees, which essentially incinerates anything organic still in the oven.
    – chepner
    Dec 17, 2021 at 18:19
  • 4
    If that were unsafe I had died long ago. Dec 18, 2021 at 14:58

2 Answers 2

52

The oven is safe. When you bake chicken plenty of fat ends up on the inside of the oven, the chances are there's more on the oven walls than the pan you left in there. You don't need to run the oven for hours to make it safe -- by the time it's up to temperature any nasties will have long been fried.

The pan should be fine, too, after a good soak and cleaning.

3
  • 6
    I'm pretty sure that lots of people have left dirty/used dishes in their oven for weeks or even months in the past, and if it was a cause of illness and death, we would know about it.
    – Stuart F
    Dec 16, 2021 at 20:43
  • 8
    Your cookies may taste a little ... chickeny if the oven is particularly messy. Dec 16, 2021 at 21:07
  • 7
    Source if the op is interested: ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/60701000/FoodSafetyPublications/… (pdf) . The vast majority of food molds and bacteria are killed at 160 F within minutes, even the more hardy things like botulism will succumb at 250 - 270 F aka sterilization temp (which is why you use a pressure cooker when canning)
    – eps
    Dec 16, 2021 at 22:58
11

For complete peace of mind you might choose to do an oven clean. It is not required, but will help you feel more confident.

There are spray-on products which will foam up sit inside your cold oven overnight and soften/lift grease and baked on grime. Next day you can wipe it off with a damp paper towel or cloth.

You can spray this cleaner on your tray/s and shelves as well, it won't harm them. Likewise, the inside of the window can be sprayed this way.

Do be aware that these cleaners are strong and nasty. You want good ventilation, no kids/pets in the kitchen, and a window of a day or two where the oven won't be needed.

If one night doesn't get it all, you can simply repeat. I once had to do 4 cleaning passes on an oven that hadn't been cleaned for many years.


Some fancy modern ovens have a "self clean" function which means they run at a very high temperature for a while. This may or may not not be able to remove the smells.

You should read the manual for your oven to see if it has such a function, and whether that prevents doing a chemical clean.

5
  • 5
    To extend Criggie's warning about cleaners being nasty: Wear gloves. I'd go a step further and wear a face shield (or at least eye protection). I admit I'm a bit paranoid, but I know people who were seriously injured by unexpected splashing.
    – Brian
    Dec 17, 2021 at 18:39
  • 6
    @Brian I don't think safeguarding your eyes from caustic chemicals is in any way paranoid. Some warnings are stupid ("Warning: This fishing lure contains lead, and is harmful if you eat it"), but not oven cleaner warnings. Dec 17, 2021 at 22:29
  • 1
    Any cleaner brings with it some health risk, as opposed to rancid fat. This makes zero sense from a health perspective. Dec 18, 2021 at 15:01
  • 1
    @WayneConrad: Some people might not be aware that some fishing lures contain lead.
    – Vikki
    Dec 18, 2021 at 19:21
  • 2
    @WayneConrad I wonder how many more injuries are caused by people ignoring warnings (because of desensitisation) than those often redundant warnings prevent…
    – Tim
    Dec 19, 2021 at 1:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.