If you’ve been cooking things right to the recipe, but your oven keeps burning your food, it probably isn’t your fault.
For various reasons, ovens can end up malfunctioning and going well above the temperatures we ask of them. This can be due to issues with the heating element or even the fan. The good news is that these are fairly easy to fix – and often without any professional help.
If your oven keeps burning your food, the first solution is to use an oven-safe thermometer. Test the oven’s temperature by setting it to a set point and comparing with the thermostat after some time. Typical fixes can include deep cleaning the oven, replacing the heating element (don’t worry, this is easy), and replacing the thermostat.
That’s the quick summary – but it’s worth diving into the details on this one! Read on and let’s cover the various fixes for an oven that keeps burning your food.
Is Your Food Burnt on the Bottom?
When baking, it is extremely common to burn your food on the bottom a little bit. Some heating elements are located on the bottom of the oven, which means that the bottom of the baked food is exposed directly to the heat.
First, make sure there isn’t something that you can do to prevent the food from burning. For instance, if the middle and top of the food isn’t undercooked, decrease the temperature or shorten the overall bake time. If you have multiple baking racks, try to place your food on a higher rack, which will put more space between the food and the direct heat (aka the heating element).
Also, keep in mind that silicone and glass cookware is always better, as metal pans tend to equate to darker foods. If you only have metal pans, line them with parchment paper first.
If you have tried the above and your food is still coming out burnt, then there may be an issue with the heating element, meaning replacement. However, there are some simpler fixes you can try first. See those below.
Is Your Food Burnt on One Side?
When food is browning (or burning!) unevenly, this tends to be a sign of inadequate temperature regulation throughout the oven. If your oven is equipped with a convection fan, this should be your first attempt at fixing the problem. Improved airflow within the oven space can often improve the evenness of the baking, resulting in your food no longer burning on one side.
If this does not fix the problem, you could always flip your food half-way through the baking time. However, that’s complicated and time-consuming! One problem that may be causing one side of your food to burn is clogged vents and/or grates. Check out how to clean them below, along with other repairs to repair your oven when your food is burning.
Is Your Food Over- or Under-Cooked?
If your food is coming out of the oven overcooked, reduce the bake time, or turn up the heat. If your food is coming out of the oven undercooked, increase the time, or turn up the oven temperature. It’s really as simple as that.
However, if this does not work, there may still be an issue with the oven. It could be getting too hot—or not hot enough, the thermostat may be defective, etc. Check out some repair tips below.
Steps to Take to Repair Your Oven That’s Burning Food Constantly
Now that you understand what it is that your oven is doing and have tried some simple fixes to repair it, you can move forward with some more complex troubleshooting and repairs. The good news is that an oven that’s burning your food can be repaired. You just have to figure out what’s causing the burning of your food and repair it.
Here are some things that you will want to do to get your oven back on track.
Step #1: Test the Oven
There is a chance that your oven is getting too hot. To determine if this is the case, you simply need an oven-safe thermometer. Place it inside the oven, set your oven to 350 degrees, and wait. If, after about 10 minutes, the thermometer doesn’t read 350 degrees, then we’ve confirmed that the oven’s not matching up to your thermostat.
While this can be fixed due to recalibration, the underlying issue may need fixed first.
Step #2: Clean the Vents and Grates
Your oven relies on sufficient airflow in order to heat evenly and avoid hot spots. Therefore, if the vents and grates are clogged, there is a very good chance your oven will be unable to function well.
Once your oven cools down, check the vents in the door and inside the chamber. If they appear clogged or grimy, clean them with warm, soapy water and a sponge or soft cloth. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and pads. If they seem closed, open them up.
Step #3: Clean the Thermostat Controller Knob
If you have an oven that uses a knob to control the temperature instead of a panel, take the time to clean the knob thoroughly. Grease, food particles, and other debris can get stuck around the knob that causes it to get off track.
Remove the thermostat knob so you can inspect it thoroughly for any signs of damage. If the markings on the knob are unclear, remark them. Soak the knob in warm, soapy water and scrub it down. Wipe down the surface and post on the oven before replacing the knob. When you replace the knob, ensure it is properly aligned. Test the knob to see if your problem is solved now.
Step #4: Replace the Heating Elements
If it’s been determined that the heating element is what’s causing your food burning issue, it will likely need to be replaced. Depending on the extent of the problem, both of your elements may require replacement. Most likely the heating element will be the problem if none of the other fixes have worked for you.
Before diving into this step, you’ll need to order a new heating element. Don’t worry – you can just look up your oven’s brand and model number online to find what heating element it uses, then order a new one. Since it’s just one small part this should be pretty cheap – at least under $50 at the most.
To replace a heating element, first allow the oven to cool down completely and then unplug it from the wall. Next, remove all mounting screws/brackets that hold the defective element in place. Pull out the element, disconnecting the wire harness as you do. Install the new heating element by hooking up the wire harness, aligning the brackets, and fastening the screws.
Not everyone is comfortable replacing the heating element in their oven. If that’s you, reach out to an appliance repair technician to perform the repair for you safely and efficiently.
Step #5: Replace the Thermostat
If you have performed the aforementioned steps and are still having issues with the internal temperature of your oven, the thermostat may be defective. The thermostat is responsible for telling the oven the temperature it is inside of the oven space.
The thermostat should only be replaced once the oven has cooled down completely. Unplug the oven and switch out the old wires with the new wires for the new thermostat, placing the new thermostat in position. As a general rule, you’ll find the oven thermostat in the upper left corner of the oven.
If this is not a repair that you feel comfortable performing on your own, contact a professional to handle it for you quickly and safely.
Step #6: Recalibrate
If all of the above has failed to fix the issue, you may just need to recalibrate your oven’s thermostat. This just means realigning it so that it’s reading temperatures and adjusting the power correctly.
This can vary from model to model, so I recommend finding your oven’s manual and looking for a section named Recalibrating in there. If you can’t find the manual, just search “[Brand] Oven [Model #] Manual PDF” on Google (replacing the brackets with your oven’s info).
If none of the aforementioned steps have repaired your oven and it is still burning your food, there may be an internal component that needs to be repaired or replaced. This type of task will require a professional who has the knowledge and expertise to perform such a repair.
However, it is our hope that one of the steps that you performed took care of the food burning problem and your oven is now fixed, which means you aren’t burning your food any longer! It also means that you weren’t the problem! Baking is not a perfect science, but it doesn’t mean that you are the one messing the food up.
If you run into any future problems with your oven or other household appliances, consider checking out some of our other articles and guides that you may find to be useful.