How to Avoid Oven Repairs During the Holidays

Written by Angie's List staff
Updated October 19, 2011
an open oven
Don't wait until you have a house full of guests before making sure your oven is working properly. (Photo by Steve Mitchell)

Cooking for the holidays? Test your oven to avoid emergency appliance repair.

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

It takes a lot of organization to prepare a Thanksgiving feast. You have to make your guest list, order a turkey and shop for food. But many homeowners don’t factor in whether their ovens are ready for all the work that the holiday season brings.

Angie’s List polled members and found that 38 percent of respondents will host Thanksgiving. Thirty-seven percent report using their oven only once a week or less throughout the year and over half of the respondents have an oven six years or older.

Video: Avoid Holiday Kitchen Disasters

Helpful holiday hints

"The holiday season is a big time for baking and many ovens will be working overtime,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “If you don’t use your oven regularly, you could be setting yourself up for problems. Appliance repair companies working on Thanksgiving may be hard to come by, and you can bet the emergency repair surcharge will be more than you want to pay. So check your oven before you get elbow-deep in your preparations to make sure it’s working properly. Even if you have a problem, it will be a more affordable, and a quicker fix than if you wait.”

While the majority of poll respondents reported cleaning or using the self-cleaning function on their oven once a year or more, it’s best to avoid running the self-clean cycle in the weeks leading up to your holiday feast.

“Highly-rated repair companies on Angie’s List tell me that ovens can experience problems after the clean cycle and repairs can cost anywhere from $50 to $400,” Hicks says. “One member engaged the self-cleaning function on accident while the Thanksgiving turkey was in the oven. The temperature went up to 700 degrees. He had to unplug the oven to get it to stop and his bird was ruined.”

You can also help conserve energy and save money while cooking your Thanksgiving feast. According to a separate Angie’s List poll, 46 percent of respondents open the oven door to check the cooking status.

“Opening the oven increases cooking time and wastes energy,” Hicks says. “Each peek inside can lower the oven temperature by as much as 25 degrees. Flip the oven light switch instead to check your foods.”

10 tips to avoid a recipe for disaster

1. Act now. Test your oven periodically before the holidays. If you find there is a problem, you need to give the appliance repair shop plenty of time to order the appropriate parts from the manufacturer. If you find the part costs more than you’d like to invest, you need to give yourself time to go out and shop for a new appliance before the holidays.

2. Check the temperature. A good way to check this is to buy a basic cake mix and follow the directions exactly, cooking for the exact time recommended. If the cake is dry or undercooked, the temperature might be off.  Do this test well before the holidays. If you do find a problem with a heating element, replace it immediately. In most cases, a bake or broil heating element can be replaced quickly without having to pull the oven away from the wall.

3. Keep it clean. The cleaner your oven is, the more efficiently it will work. Whether you own a gas or electric oven, the best way to keep it healthy is to clean it. Periodically installing clean drip pans for burners will help reduce cleaning time. Don’t just throw away dirty drip pans. Failing to replace these can damage the wires beneath and cause a short.

4. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Avoid running the self-clean cycle within two weeks of a holiday dinner. Many ovens have shown a tendency for their electrical components to fail after a self-cleaning cycle, in which the oven temperature reaches close to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do run the self-cleaning cycle, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Don’t sweat it. If an oven has moisture appearing on the outside of the oven door or appears to ‘sweat,’ it probably means you have a faulty door gasket. Gaskets maintain proper cooking temperatures and should be replaced at the first sign of a leak.

6. Shut the door. If your oven door does not close properly, heat can escape. Make sure the door closes tightly and evenly. If not, you may have broken or bent door hinges or door springs that should be replaced.

7. Flip the switch.  Don’t open the oven door to take a peek at what’s cooking inside. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature inside, by as much as 25 degrees, which increases cooking time and wastes energy. Instead, turn on the oven light to check the cooking status.

8. Consider the alternatives. Small appliances such as microwaves use about 50 percent less energy than conventional ovens and they don’t heat up your kitchen. Slow cookers are also great energy savers. They will cook a whole meal for about 17 cents worth of electricity.

9. Bake several dishes at a time. You can save energy by cooking several dishes at once. Just be sure to leave enough room for the heat to circulate.

10. Be safe. Whenever you perform extensive maintenance work on your appliances, take the necessary safety precautions. Shut off electrical and gas lines when working on them. Consult an appliance repair professional for major repairs. Remember, preventative maintenance can help extend the life of your appliances and ensure your safety.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.