How to Repair an Oven that is Burning Food

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The oven is a great appliance for any home. If you’re a hobbyist chef, you rock the house with homemade recipes. Even non-chefs enjoy the ability to toast whole sandwiches and make canned cinnamon rolls.  So if your oven is consistently burning food no matter how exactly you follow the heating instructions on a recipe, it’s time to take action. No one should have to deal with overcooked food or burnt spots, and we can help you solve the problem.

An oven that is burning food can be fixed, you just have to hunt down the cause and repair the malfunctioning part. We can help you along every step of the way. 

Run Some Tests

First, let’s get some information about your oven, By knowing how and why the oven is burning food, you can more easily hunt down the cause and solution. There are two tests that are very helpful when trouble-shooting your oven – the bread test and the burnt-smell test.

The Bread Test

The bread test tells you if your oven is heating evenly or unevenly. Make a flat cake or a pan of cornbread in a pan wide enough to span much of the oven. Preheat the oven according to instructions and pop in the bread. When the bread is done, examine it. You can also do this with pans of toasted sugar. There are a few signs to look for:

  • Overcooked on One Side
    • The heating element is going out
  • Burnt Spots or Raw Spots
    • Your oven has hot-spots
  • Overcooked Top or Bottom
    • One of the two elements is overheating

The Burnt-Smell Test

The burnt-smell test is related to oven smoking and burning materials inside the oven. It might not be that your food is burning, but that there’s always a burnt smell or bitter flavor on the food you cook. If this is true, there is one way to find out for sure: clean. Run the self-cleaning function. Use chemical cleaner and then rinse it completely out. Soak and wire-scrub the racks.

Remove any lingering smells or burnable materials from your oven. Then cook something. If the feeling of being burnt is gone, then your problem doesn’t require a screwdriver. 

Recalibrate the Oven

Maybe your oven is getting hotter than it should. You can test this specifically by placing an oven-safe thermometer inside the oven. Set the oven to 350. If the thermometer doesn’t read 350 in 10 minutes, then recalibrate your oven. Follow the instructions for your oven brand, marking the temperature up or down by the offset amount. This should solve your problem. 

Clean the Thermostat Controller Knob

If your oven temperature is controlled by a knob instead of a panel, clean the knob. Grease, grit, and other cleanliness issues can cause the knob to misalign from the correct setting. Remove the knob and inspect it for damage. Re-mark or replace the markings around the edge if they are unclear. Soak and scrub the knob, then wipe down the post it was set on and the surface underneath. Replace the knob, ensuring that it is aligned properly, and test the success of your work. 

Replace the Thermostat or Sensor Probe

If you recalibrate the oven and clean the knob, but the internal temperature is still off, then the oven thermostat might be malfunctioning. The oven thermostat tells the oven how hot it is inside. You can replace the thermostat after the oven cools. After you acquire a new thermostat, unplug your oven, then switch out the wires with the new thermostat and place it back in the same slot. The thermostat is usually in the upper left corner of the oven chamber, sticking through a small hole. 

Center the Oven Racks

If the burning always happens on the top or bottom of the food, sometimes the easy fix is just to move the level of your pan. If the top is burning, move to a lower oven rack. If the bottom is burning, raise your oven rack so that your food is further from the hot element.

If your oven racks don’t go that far, the tracks might. Non-chefs often forget that you can move the oven racks themselves. When the oven is cool, fully pull out your oven racks and place them nearer where you want them based on element heat balance up or down. 

Clean the Vents and Grates

The even heating of your oven, especially avoiding hot-spots, airflow. If the vents and grates of your oven are clogged, then your oven may not be functioning at it’s best performance. Wait for your oven to cool and check on the vents both inside the chamber and in the door. If they seem clogged, grimy, or manually closed somehow, make sure they are open. 

Replace the Heating Elements

If you determine that the trouble is your heating elements (one or both) then you may need to replace them. If none of the other fixes have worked, then your elements are the last remaining and most likely cause of your burnt food troubles. You can choose to change your oven element or elements by letting the oven cool and unplugging the back. From there, remove the mounting screws and brackets holding the faulty element in place. Pull the element out and, as you do so, disconnect the wire harness. Install the new element by connecting the wire harness, then aligning and fastening the brackets.

If you are not comfortable changing your heating element, you can call an appliance repair technician to safely perform the repair with the right parts and knowledge. 

Replace the Selector Switch

Last but not least, it might be the elector switch. If you replace the heating element and the heat is still wrong, your problem might be the selector switch which is internal, between the control switch and the elements. Most people will want a technician to crack open their oven and replace internal components like the selector switch.

—If your oven is heating unevenly and you’re not sure why, we can help. An appliance technician can perform an inspection of your oven to determine the source of your problem and quickly take care of the repairs so your oven heats evenly.

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