Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cleaning ovens for Pesach Part II

(Modifications after Mark's comments in blue)

This post is in reply to a comment left by Mark about my post on cleaning ovens. First, thanks for the comments.

I'm sorry you were frustrated by my answer but I do have a serious point.

Unless you are makpid to keep your oven clean during the year or have a self-cleaning-oven it is very difficult (if not impossible for some models) to clean and kasher an oven for Pesach. My advice is based on many years of experience kashering ovens. I am not being lazy or trying to avoid hard work.

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to go to your Rav or the local Orthodox Rabbi and describe your oven to him. He will tell you how to kasher or indeed if your oven can be koshered for Pesach. The rules quoted in certain books are suitable for the previous generation of ovens and may not be applicable to yours.

What follows are some general notes:

In order to get the oven clean enough to kasher one must remove all the grease and food remnants from every corner and nook and cranny. In order to do this you will need extra strong oven cleaner and grease remover and scrubbing cloths, in fact a whole army of tools which are not cheap.

The ovens from 10 years ago were difficult to clean. They were similar to industrial ovens found in today's restaurant or catering kitchens, made from solid steel parts which can put up with a lot of abuse. Today's ovens which are made from cheaper materials with rubber and plastic bits everywhere are even more difficult if not impossible to clean. Trying to clean to the level where you can use your oven for Pesach will destroy many modern ovens. For instance, applying oven cleaner to the inside of the door will melt the plastic and rubber parts between the glass and the frame which act as the door insulation. In short, the oven won't work or will become dangerous to use. There are hidden rubber parts inside the door to cushion and insulate the door to keep the temperature in. Oven cleaner will melt these.

The racks also have to be cleaned until there is not a speck of burnt food on them. This takes a lot of time and elbow grease.

This should take you at least an entire day to clean the inside and outside of the oven. Believe me, it's more work than you think.

The oven should be left for 24 hours (after its last use), then begins the koshering process.

The oven should be put on its highest temperature. Wait until the thermostat light goes off. Then keep the oven on that temperature for a further hour.

After this the racks will need "libun" – flame torching. However, One LOR who I spoke to said that if libun is too inconvenient then it is sufficient to place the already cleaned racks in the oven while the oven is being kashered. (This is only if food has not been directly cooked on the racks).

The gas hobs will also need "light" libun. (Beware! Trying to blow torch many modern oven tops will melt them). Many of them come with rubber feet. If you try and clean these they might stretch and will not fit back in the gas hobs tripods again.

In Geula and other Chareidi places you can get inserts for your oven. These are basically metal boxes with racks inside. They are expensive. You slide these into your oven instead of or in addition to koshering it. However these inserts are obviously smaller than the oven itself. The inserts come with a whole at the back for the oven fan to work. They are suitable only if your fan is in the right place. If your fan will be covered up then the fan/oven will burn out. In addition to this, many modern ovens have a sensitive thermostat which measures the temperature of the oven walls. Placing these inserts into the oven will confuse the thermostat. At best, your food will not cook properly. At worst you will burn out your thermostat and perhaps your oven.

In summery, trying to clean a modern oven may very well result in you destroying it and having to pay NIS 3000-5000 on a new one.

Do yourself a favour. Save one day's cleaning and spend NIS 400 on a Pesach oven and gas top. That's a one time purchase. I hope you see now that my previous post was in fact good advice.


sara said...

perhaps good advise, but contrary to accepted rabbinic opinion in its stringency.
indeed one should consult with the local orthodox rabbi before declaring that it takes a full day of labor to properly clean an oven .
the rules that you have established for the level of cleanliness are your own and not that of the LOR .

noam said...

Indeed the Local Orthodox Rabbi confirms that
the oven need not be as if it is new, just clean.
you have his phone number I assume ?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply to my comment.
B"H I have a son who is smaller tham me so he is able to get down on his knees and clean all the corners of the oven and look for chumetz and was able to clean our oven within two hours.
I suppose since we look after the oven during the rest of the year it must be a big help.
As i said thanks again for your comments to my comments.

Reb Mordechai said...

Thanks for your comments Sara. If your LOR has given you instructions and you have carried them out then you can ignore all my comments. Listen to him, not me. I can only advise from my own eperience and from constantly consulting with local Rabbonim. None of what I have written is my own chidush. I am always willing to learn. If you know how to clean an oven sufficiently that doesn't involve using oven cleaner which might destroy modern ovens then please let us know.

Reb Mordechai said...

To Mark,

You could be right. If you indeed look after your oven during the rest of year and make sure that all spills are cleaned up then it's possible I suppose to clean the oven in two hours. I stand corrected. I wonder how many of us actually are makpid enough to keep our ovens that clean thoughout the year?