Yes, self-cleaning ovens have been around for a while, but they're pretty neat and deserve a second look. You probably already know that the standard self-cleaning cycle uses very high heat, often over 900 degrees Fahrenheit, to turn oven grime into easy-to-clean ash. What you might not know is that self-cleaning ovens usually have better insulation than conventional ovens. The insulation is designed to handle the higher temps necessary for superheated cleaning, but an added advantage is that it helps your oven cook more efficiently the rest of the time, too.
The energy savings may end up being a trade off if you use the self-cleaning option a lot, but if you get into the habit of using pot lids (and believe in the liberal use of aluminum foil), you'll have access to self-cleaning technology when you need it -- and net yourself a better built oven.
Another choice you might want to consider is a continuous cleaning oven. It has a rough textured, specially treated interior surface. Regular baking temperatures act with an onboard catalyst to oxidize gunk trapped in tiny depressions on the oven's walls. It's a great idea that works pretty well with small spills but may not be as effective on tough ones containing burned-on, sugary goo. If you pamper your oven, though, and usually avoid diabolical spills that need special handling, this feature will keep your oven cleaner without the long downtimes associated with self-cleaning ovens (about 3 to 5 hours).
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