cooking · FAQ · Ovens · Ranges

Cooking tips: Checking oven temperature

Before you trust your oven to your family’s turkey and pie this Thanksgiving, make sure the oven heats to the correct temperature.

Some manufacturers say that using an oven thermometer (available at most hardware stores) isn’t accurate because once the door opens, the temperature changes, I think it’s probably a better measure than trying to decipher how far off your oven is by experimenting on baked goods or other methods.

First, check your thermometer’s accuracy by sticking it in boiling water for a minute. Boiling temperature is 212 degrees F, so if that’s not what your thermometer reads, note the difference.

Next, put your thermometer in the oven and select 350 degrees. Check the thermometer after about 20 minutes. If it doesn’t read 350 degrees (after factoring any difference you found in step one), you know whether your oven temperature runs high or low and how many degrees.

If you were smart enough — or organized enough — to save your Use & Care manual, your manufacturer might include instructions on how to calibrate your oven so that the temperature settings can be adjusted for accuracy. Otherwise, just make a mental note and select a 355 degrees (for instance) next time a recipe calls for 350.

Many ovens now come with built-in temperature probes, which offer another great way to ensure your meat cooks perfectly.

And the best way to ensure consistent temperature in your oven is to minimize opening the door by using your oven light. Having the oven door open for just seconds can decrease the temperature by 25 degrees!

FAQ · HOW TO · Refrigerator

Refrigerator moving advice

Here’s a true Frequently Asked Question, pulled from the “I used to answer phones at the store” file.

I’ve fielded many calls inquiring if it’s OK to put a refrigerator on its side when moving it. Certainly, the manufacturers don’t recommend it. But sometimes it’s necessary, right?

So, when you can’t transport your fridge upright, GE suggests laying your top-freezer refrigerator or bottom-freezer refrigerator on the side opposite the hinges, so the door will remain closed. If you have a side-by-side fridge, place it freezer-side down (that door is less likely to come open).

When you bring the fridge inside its new home, keep it unplugged and upright for the same amount of time it spent on its side. If the refrigerator spend more than a day on its side, let it stand for 24 hours before plugging it in.

Also, GE suggests wheeling the refrigerator on its side when using a dolly to avoid damage to the front or rear of the unit.

And please, remove all the racks and cover your beautiful Warners’ Stellian refrigerator with a moving blanket. We love appliances too much so see you damage them on accident.

Cleaning · Dishwashers · FAQ · HOW TO

HOW TO: Troubleshoot (almost) any dishwasher problems

So easy, a baby could fix it! (I know, cheap excuse to indulge my "photos of babies playing in appliances" habit.)

I won’t necessarily admit that I hate my dishwasher lately, but I will project some anxieties onto blog readers via a dishwasher troubleshooting roundup (!!!).

Whether your dishwasher leaves you with cloudy dishes, wet dishes or still-dirty dishes, my top 4 blogs about dishwasher problems should contain your remedy.

Top 4 dishwasher troubleshooting blog posts

1. Dishes not drying

2. Dishes not clean

3. Dishwasher leaving white film on glasses

4. Food residue left on dishes

Unfortunately, you can’t troubleshoot small and noisy, so watch for an upcoming Things I Want, dishwasher edition.

Cleaning · cooking · FAQ · HOW TO · Ranges

Gas stove troubleshooting: Stove won’t light

Need a light?

Despite a general dislike for most of the appliances I inherited with my first house, I feel lucky to have a gas stove (or range, as in appliance jargon).

I love cooking, so I appreciate the power and responsiveness of gas.

However, unlike their electric counterpart, gas ranges can’t just be dialed on; their burners must be ignited.

I occasionally struggle with lighting my burners — and I know I’m not alone — so here’s what to check if you’re struggling.

Burner cap
A lot of ignition problems and uneven flames result from food spills and related dirtiness. Routine cleaning and general unslobbiness will avoid this.

After a spill, use a nonabrasive plastic scrubbing pad and mildly abrasive cleanser or soap  to thoroughly clean the cap.

Make sure the cap is completely dry before replacing it over the burner. Take care that alignment pins are lined up with with the cap.

(I know I usually would never say this, but) Don’t put them in the dishwasher.

Burner ports

Burner flames should be about 1″-1.5″, with a proper shape like the flame labeled “A” in the adjacent spiffy illustration. The flame should be blue, not yellow.

If these aren’t the case, your burner ports could be clogged, so you should clean it, following these steps:

  1. Make sure all the controls are off and the stove is cool. Don’t use oven cleaners, bleach or rust remover.
  2. Clean the burner cap as instructed above..
  3. Clean the gas tube opening with a damp cloth.
  4. Clean clogged burner ports with a straight pin as shown. Do not enlarge or distort the port. Do not use a wooden toothpick. If the burner needs to be adjusted, call appliance service.
  5. Replace the burner cap, as shown in the first illustration.
  6. Turn on the burner. If the burner does not light, check cap alignment. If the burner still does not light, call appliance service.

Knobs

(This one falls under the “duh” category, but you never know…) Push in the burner knob before turning to light to ensure that it’s set correctly.

Cleaning · Dishwashers · Energy Efficiency · FAQ

The bad habit that can waste 20 gallons of water

You might not wash your dishes before you wash your dishes, but even rinsing is completely unnecessary.

Energy Star, a joint program by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, cautions people to scrape, not rinse. Pre-rinsing dishes can waste up to 20 gallons of water.

Energy Star dishwashers and today’s detergents are designed to do the cleaning so you don’t have to pre-rinse.

And if your dirty dishes are going to sit overnight, use your dishwasher’s rinse feature. It uses a fraction of the water needed to hand rinse.

Speaking of a using a fraction of the water, a dishwasher built before 1994 wastes about 8 gallons of water per cycle compared to owning a new Energy Star-qualified model. So if you replace one of these old dishwashers with an Energy Star dishwasher, you’re saving enough water each week to wash two loads of laundry in an Energy Star qualified clothes washer.

So be lazy: scrape, don’t rinse!

Cleaning · FAQ · HOW TO · Microwave · Uncategorized

HOW TO: remove burnt popcorn smell from your microwave

Burnt popcorn smell lingers in microwaves so badly, an office I worked in banned it from the break room. It’s notorious, but completely removable.

If your microwave harbors its own dirty Pop Secrets, try this cleaning tip we got from Frigidaire (hat tip to Sarah from our Customer Service Department):

Microwave Odor Removal

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • grated lemon peel
  • several whole cloves

Combine together in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and boil for several minutes in the microwave on full power. Allow hot mixture to sit in the microwave until cool. Wipe interior with a soft cloth.

Though this tip wasn’t specifically written for burnt popcorn, I can’t think of much else that smells up a microwave. Help me out in the comments below!

Cleaning · FAQ · Uncategorized

Should you put aluminum foil in the oven?

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Don't shoot yourself in the foot trying to keep a clean oven.

Warners’ Stellian‘s expert service guy, Gene, passed on a cautionary tale to me yesterday after he ordered a new, $90 oven floor for a customer.

A well-meaning woman lined the bottom of her oven with aluminum foil, to catch all the food that bakes into the oven.

Instead of having to scrape it all off, she could just pull out the aluminum foil and voila, no more mess.

Except she ended up with a bigger mess when the aluminum foil melted onto the oven.

For years, people had lined their ovens with tin foil to speed clean up. But these days, we don’t use tin foil. We use aluminum foil. And aluminum has a much lower heat tolerance, apparently.

And aluminum foil-maker Reynolds warns against it.

From the Reynolds FAQ webpage:

To avoid possible heat damage to your oven, we do not recommend using aluminum foil to line the bottom of your oven. Rather, we recommend that you place a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil on the oven rack beneath the pie or casserole you are baking. The foil should be only a few inches larger than the baking pan to allow for proper heat circulation. The foil will catch any drips before they reach the oven bottom.

There you go. Smart play on Reynolds part, right? Because you know people will end up getting rid of the sheet of foil and using a new one next time…