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Don't toss it! 7 tips you'll learn from your oven manual

Is an oven complicated enough to need a thick instruction guide? For newer models with enhanced technology and fancy upgrades, the answer is a resounding "yes."

Do you know where your oven manual is? It's the booklet you might have flung to the side as you ripped through cardboard to get to your new stainless-steel oven. If you didn't throw your instruction guide away, it's probably stuck to the bottom of your junk drawer beneath rubber bands, loose screws and soy sauce packets. Fish out the guide to the oven you have, or hang onto the manual of the oven you might buy one day, because it's time to acknowledge that we really do need to read the instructions.

It seems silly to need a book full of instructions for an oven, a basic kitchen appliance. But manufacturers have loaded newer oven models with a medley of upgrades to improve your cooking, enhance the oven's appearance and give you better food. Updated features have made the oven instruction manual required reading in order to get the best meals possible.

Before I test an oven, I review its manual to learn how the manufacturer recommends I use the model to get the best results. I've read quite a few oven manuals and discovered good information that has helped me in the CNET Appliances Test Kitchen. Here are seven tidbits from oven manuals that make these guides worth hanging on to (and not just stuffing in the junk drawer).

What all those bake/broil/roast settings mean

This KitchenAid double-oven range can steam bake, slow cook and roast. You just have to know when to use each tool. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Gone are the days when your oven just baked or broiled. Some new models, such as the KitchenAid KFDD500ESS dual-fuel double-oven range, can roast, slow cook and steam bake, along with baking, roasting and broil with and without a convection fan to distribute hot air. The oven manual, which is sometimes called the use and care guide, will outline the appropriate situations in which to use each setting. For example, convection broil on the KFDD500ESS is ideal for thick or uneven cuts of meat, while the convection roast feature works best for whole chickens and roasts.

When to 'burn in' an oven

Dacor recommends in its manuals that you "burn off" residue before you use its ovens. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Did your oven give off a funky smell when you first used it? You might have needed to "burn in" the oven before you used it. This technique, which the manuals for Dacor's RNRP36GS and ER30DSCH ranges recommend, involves letting the oven cook with nothing inside for about an hour to "burn off" any debris that might've worked its way inside during manufacturing or packing. The instruction manual will let you know if this technique is necessary for your model and how to properly burn off residue.

Proper rack positions

Rack position is important when it comes to cooking in an oven. Manuals provide recommendations on which rack level to use for various dishes. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Use and care guides include a lot of information about oven racks, and for good reason. The position of your food in an oven affects how well hot air circulates around your dish and how evenly it cooks. Manufacturers number the rack levels and make recommendations on the position you should use in different scenarios, such as when you are using two racks or roasting a large piece of meat. This information is important enough for the Kenmore 95073 induction range's manual to include a chart with several commonly cooked foods and the rack position you should use for each.

How to adjust factory settings

Don't like something about your range's display? Your manual will show you how to change it. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Adhere to military time, but your oven doesn't? Hate all the dings your oven makes? Is the display light just too bright? These are all settings that instruction guides will teach you how to change. The manuals for KitchenAid models such as the KFDD500ESS will even show you how change the temperature to display in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.

What type of cookware to use

Induction cooktops, such as this GE model, only work with certain types of cookware material. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

All cookware is not created equal. Instruction manuals detail the components of ideal cookware to use on your oven (hint: a flat bottom is super important) and break down the characteristics of cookware materials such as aluminum, cast iron and copper. It's especially important to read the manuals for induction cooktops, such as the GE PHS920FSS slide-in range: Induction cooking requires cookware made with magnetic material to work.

Open- versus closed-door broiling

Should you leave the oven door open or closed when you broil? Tyler Lizenby/CNET

An oven's broiler, located on the top of the oven cavity, applies lots of direct heat to food. This is an ideal tool for tasks like toasting bread or adding a grill-like char to meat. But with lots of heat comes lots of smoke. Some ovens, such as the Samsung NE59J7630SB , advise in the instruction manual that you keep the oven door partially open during broiling.

How to clean your cooktop

Smooth electric cooktops look great. But how do you keep them looking that way? Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Ceramic glass cooktops add a sleek look to electric ranges. Keeping up appearances is more difficult with this type of surface. Use and care guides provide plenty of information to keep your oven looking showroom fresh. Some highlights for keeping models like the Samsung NE59J7630SB electric range clean: invest in a ceramic cooktop cleaner, use a razor-blade scraper to (carefully) remove burned-on residue, and clean sugary spills immediately before they cause pits on your cooktop surface.

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