Oven racks make life easier when it comes to cooking. With a variety of levels and rack types available, replacing your oven racks can seem daunting at first. This article walks you through the different uses for oven racks as well as how to replace and clean an oven rack.
How often should I replace my oven racks?
There is no set period for how long an oven rack should last. Your oven racks should be replaced when they are damaged or showing signs of serious wear and tear. Replacing your oven rack is simple and does not require any tools. When you need to replace an oven rack, simply pull the old rack out, and replace it with the new one.
Oven racks vs. oven trays
Modern ovens generally feature a number of slots on the sides of the oven, which allow for oven racks or oven trays to be slotted into.
Oven racks are metal racks that are designed to fit into your oven. They are most typically used to place oven dishes onto while cooking to keep them at the right position in the oven. Oven racks are able to be removed easily by sliding them backwards to allow space for bigger dishes to go into the oven.
The fact that they are able to be removed so easily means that they can be taken out and cleaned or replaced with no hassle.
Oven trays, also called baking trays, are metal trays designed to fit into your oven. They are usually made of aluminum or steel, and some models have a non-stick coating. The sides may be rimmed, or completely open. In the case of having no rim, they are typically referred to as baking sheets instead.
Oven trays are able to be removed easily by sliding them back to allow space for bigger dishes to go into the oven. The fact that they are able to be removed so easily means that they can be taken out and cleaned or replaced with no hassle.
Which is the best oven rack to use?
There are three racking levels made possible in most modern ovens. Each level is best for a specific use.
The uppermost rack or top rack should be used for any dish that needs rich browning on the top, like broiled dishes, casseroles, or anything covered in cheese. It is important to keep a close eye when you have dishes on the top rack as they can burn faster than normal.
The top rack can also come in very handy when baking. For example, if you have two sheets of cookies to be cooked at the same time, you can keep one sheet in the middle of the oven and the other at the top, then switch them over halfway through cooking.
The middle rack serves as the default position. If you are unsure about where to put something, opting for the middle is your safest bet. The middle rack allows for good and even circulation of heat, making it ideal for most foods.
If you are cooking a lot of dishes at once, then it is a good idea to put the more delicate dishes on the middle rack as they are less likely to burn there. The more forgiving dishes can be placed at the top and bottom of the oven and then rotated halfway through cooking.
The bottom rack is the best place for dishes that need crispy bottoms. While the total cooking time will be the same, as the heating element is in the bottom of an oven, the close proximity will encourage the bottoms of the dishes to crisp up. This makes it the ideal spot for bread, pizzas, and pies.
How to clean your oven rack
Steam the oven – This is an optional step; however, it makes cleaning baked-on food and grime a lot easier. Using a heatproof bowl filled with water, set your oven to preheat with all your dirty trays inside. As the water heats up, it will turn to steam and loosen all the dirt on your racks and inside your oven.
Remember, you should not leave your racks in if your oven has a self-cleaning function.
1. Let it cool and take out the oven racks
Let your oven cool down until you are comfortable handling the racks. It is best if they are slightly warm. Take the outside or put them on the kitchen bench. You should separate the racks out so they are not stacked on one another.
2. Create the cleaning paste
Mix baking soda and hot water until you have a paste, and then apply this paste generously to the racks so they are coated. The baking soda will act as an abrasive, and the water will work to soften the grime.
3. Apply cleaning paste and let it sit
Once you have applied the paste, grab an old toothbrush and work the past in, making sure you get into any nooks and crannies. Let the past sit for a good ten minutes before moving on to the next step.
4. Scrub the rack clean, and rinse
Using your old toothbrush or a scrubbing brush, brush the paste off the racks. You should notice that the dirt and grime come away with the paste. You can use a damp sponge and some dish soap to ensure all the paste has been cleaned off.
Raise the oven racks in clean water to remove any residue and if there is still any grime, then you can soak them overnight before trying to clean them again.
5. Dry the clean oven racks
Once your racks are sparkling clean, towel dry them or pop them in the oven on low heat to get rid of the water, and then you are finished.