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Here's what all the settings on your oven mean

An easy primer for the baking novice.

cleaning your oven
The self-cleaning option on your stove is a great way to keep it clean, but beware, it only self-cleans to a point.
Alina Bradford/CNET

If you haven't been cooking all your life, and you've just started to try your hand at it, all of those oven settings can be confusing. Here is a quick primer on what each button does on a basic oven and why you would use it.


This button is pretty self-explanatory. It's for simple, straight-forward baking. You tap on this button and then enter the temperature. Some ovens have arrow buttons to higher or lower the temperature while others have a keypad.


I would highly suggest you use your oven's built-in timer whenever you cook. Some ovens have a bake timer and a regular timer. They work the same, but the difference is the bake timer only works when the baking mode is engaged and the regular timer can be used to time anything, even non-cooking tasks.

Press the bake time or timer button, then use the arrow keys or the keypad to enter in the baking time. Once you have it set, press the start button. Some ovens don't have a start button. In this case, you'll need to tap the timer button again. When the alarm sounds, either press the timer button again or the clear/off button to shut off the alarm.


Don't get the timer button confused with the clock button. The clock button is used to set the clock that displays when the oven isn't in use. To set the clock, tap the clock button, use the arrow keys or the keypad to type in the correct time and then tap the clock button again. When the electricity turns off or the oven gets unplugged, the clock will go back to reading 12 o'clock and will need to be reset.


Depending on where you live, this button's name could vary. In the US, this button is labeled as broiling. In the UK it is labeled as grilling. Either way, they work the same. These buttons activate only the overhead heating element. This setting is used to cook, toast or brown foods quickly. Since the top heating element is only being used, the top portion of your food will brown while the bottom will not.

Most ovens allow you to control the amount of heat provided by the broiler. Some simply give you the option of a high or low setting, while others let you enter a more specific temperature using the arrow buttons or the keypad.

If you choose the high setting, be warned. The broiler can turn a loaf of garlic bread into charcoal in less than just a few minutes, so watch your food carefully when using this button and lower the rack so that it isn't close to the heating element.


The warm button is just what it sounds like. Tap that button and your oven will warm up your food or keep your food warm until you are ready to serve. Basically, it just sets your oven to a low temperature.

If you have been cooking in the oven and it is still hot, though, pressing warm will not instantly lower the oven's temperature to a warming level. The oven will still be hot and may over cook your food. Switch to warm when the dish is a few minutes from being done. It will finish cooking using the remaining heat from the cooking mode and will stay warm.


Most ovens have a self-cleaning mode. This name is only half right. While it does make the oven easier to clean, you still need to do a little work.

When you activate this mode, the oven door locks itself shut. Then, the temperature in the oven rises to a very high temperature to turn any food particles inside to dust.

This process lasts around 3 hours, so don't make any plans to use your oven during this time. Also, the burning of food particles can make your house smell awful, so be sure to open some windows while the self-cleaning mode is on.

Afterwards, let the oven cool down, then wipe the inside clean with a damp cloth. Leave the oven door open to air it out for a few hours before cooking in it again.