If you’re not careful and keep your food inside the oven for too long, everything can end up burned and charred.
Sometimes, however, you can follow the instructions to a T and still end up with burned food.
In these situations, there may be a problem with your oven that you need to fix as soon as possible.
Here’s how to fix an oven that keeps burning everything:
- Check the oven trays.
- Calibrate the oven.
- Check the oven fan.
- Clean the vents and grates.
- Replace the thermostat or thermistor.
- Replace the heating elements.
In this article, I’ll go over all these fixes in detail to give you an idea of why they work and the potential underlying problem it addresses. By the end, you should have a clear understanding of different issues that can cause your oven to burn your food.
I’ll also equip you with relevant information on preventing this type of problem from happening. Let’s get started!
1. Check the Oven Trays
As strange as it may seem, the condition of the oven trays and their position inside the oven can cause your food to get burned.
For example, old oven trays that have lost their reflectiveness warm up food more quickly, resulting in a burned dinner.
Likewise, where the trays are placed inside the oven can also influence the heating of your food.
If the tray is placed near the upper heating element, you’ll notice that only the top of the food gets burned. Similarly, the food will come out charred underneath if placed near the bottom heating element.
Sometimes, the oven racks might be misaligned, causing the trays to go in at an angle. This can also cause uneven heat distribution, with one side ending up overcooked.
How To Fix
If your oven tray is old, get a new one. You should ideally replace an oven tray every five years. Be mindful of where you place the oven tray. If you notice only the top part of your food gets burned, put it on a lower rack and vice versa.
Also, remember that most ovens have movable racks. If the racks aren’t positioned near the middle, take them out and re-insert them to be as close to the center as possible.
Finally, when placing the oven tray on a rack, make sure it’s straight and not tilted at an angle. Otherwise, align the rack properly before putting your tray on it for cooking.
With time, due to the repeated heating and cooling cycles, the oven racks can get disfigured and won’t fit in the oven horizontally. In that case, I’d advise that you get a new oven rack.
2. Calibrate the Oven
Did you recently buy this oven that keeps burning all your food? If yes, it likely came miscalibrated from the factory.
As such, when you set the oven to cook at, let’s say, 350°F (177°C), the inside temperature might rise to 400°F (204°C). As you can imagine, temperature differences this high can easily burn your food.
That said, oven miscalibration isn’t an issue you’ll only encounter with newly purchased units. The calibration on your old oven can also go haywire for many reasons.
Nevertheless, it’s a fairly simple problem to diagnose and solve.
How To Fix
First off, you need to make sure that your oven is miscalibrated. Get an oven thermometer like the Rubbermaid Oven Monitoring Thermometer (available on Amazon). It’s capable of measuring temperatures between 60° and 580°F (20° and 300°C).
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Put the thermometer inside the oven and set it to cook at 350°F (177°C). Wait for 10 mins, and check the reading on the thermometer. If it’s around 400°F (204°C), that means your oven is miscalibrated and heats your food by an extra 50°F (10°C).
As such, you need to recalibrate the oven and adjust it accordingly.
Now, the exact process of recalibrating an oven will vary between models. I recommend checking the manual or paperwork that came with your oven and looking for a recalibration guide. However, if you can’t find the manual, it’s best to call a technician, especially if the unit is within warranty.
3. Check the Oven Fan
Most ovens have a fan, also known as a convection fan, installed inside to circulate the hot air. This ensures that the temperature inside the oven stays consistent and there are no hot spots.
However, if the oven fan has gotten old or damaged, it won’t be able to circulate the hot air properly. As a result, you’ll have burn spots or raw spots on your food.
Thankfully, diagnosing an issue with the convection fan is super easy. The fan should be visible through the oven door. As such, just turn on the oven, don’t put anything inside that can obstruct your view, close the oven door, and see if the fan comes on or not.
If it doesn’t turn on, there’s something wrong, and you need to replace it. Likewise, if the fan is running but making a lot of noise, that also indicates a problem that you need to fix.
How To Fix
If you notice that the fan is running but creating a lot of noise, the problem might be worn-out bearings. All you need to do is replace the bearings, and the fan should work just like it used to. However, if the fan doesn’t come on at all, it might be because the fan motor failed, in which case, you need to get a new convection fan.
Now, the type of convection fan you need will vary depending on your oven’s model. I recommend you contact your dealer to know precisely which convection fan you need to buy.
Once you have the right convection fan, just install it in place of the old one, and your problem is solved.
For reference, here’s a 9-min YouTube video on how to diagnose and replace a faulty oven convection fan:
That said, if you’re not keen on handling electronics, I’d strongly suggest calling a technician to help you out.
4. Clean the Vents and Grates
When you say your oven keeps burning your food, do you mean that all the food comes out charred, or does the food only have a burned smell?
If the food appears well-cooked but gives off a burning smell and bitter taste, it might be because the inside of the oven isn’t clean.
With time, your oven will get dirty as food particles settle on the base and grease covers up the walls and the racks. When you heat the oven, the food particles and grease will start to burn and generate smoke and a foul burning smell. The oven convection fan will circulate the smoke throughout the oven, eventually seeping into the food.
Now, when you take out your food, you’ll notice smoke and a burned smell and bitter taste from the food, making you think it’s burnt.
Also, if you haven’t cleaned the oven regularly, the dirt can potentially clog up the vents and the grates. This will impede proper airflow, which in turn can cause burn spots on your food.
How To Fix
Cleaning an oven is a straightforward process. However, some methods work better and are more efficient. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what I believe is the most efficient way to clean your oven:
Note: Unplug your oven and let it cool down before starting the cleaning process.
- Take a mixing bowl.
- Put in 1 cup of baking soda.
- Pour ⅓ cups of water. Give it a good mix.
- Take a sponge and spread the baking soda mixture on the inside of your oven and the grates. No need to apply it over the heating elements if they aren’t dirty.
- Leave the oven in this state for at least 12 hours. I prefer to leave it overnight.
- Take a spray bottle and fill it with regular vinegar.
- After 12 hours are up, spray the vinegar inside the oven chamber over the baking soda mixture. You should notice some fizzing. Don’t worry about it.
- Once you cover the inside of the oven with vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes.
- Take a sponge and some warm water and wipe clean the oven’s inside. You might need to put in some elbow grease to ensure all the dirt comes off.
- Once done, wipe down with a damp cloth followed by a dry one.
And that’s it! Your oven is now squeaky clean, and the foul burning smell should be gone from your food.
5. Replace the Thermostat or Thermistor
All modern ovens have either a thermostat or thermistor installed inside the unit. It’s tasked with measuring the temperature of the oven.
When you set a temperature on the oven, the thermostat or thermistor checks if that particular temperature is reached. If not, it will tell the oven to get hotter. As the oven gets hot and achieves the desired temperature, it’ll also tell the oven to stop heating.
If the sensor malfunctions, it can potentially read a lower temperature than what’s inside the oven chamber. When that happens, it’ll tell the unit to raise the heat, and if it goes high enough, it can end up burning the food.
How To Fix
There’s no definite guide on how to replace a thermostat or thermistor since different ovens will use different sensors located in different positions. That’s why you should look at your oven’s user manual to know the temperature sensor’s location and the particular type.
If you still can’t find it, I’d suggest looking inside the oven chamber for a small bulb-like probe sticking out of a hole.
Once you figure out the position of the thermostat, remove the oven panel hiding the sensor. From there, unscrew and remove the oven temperature sensor and replace it with a new one.
For reference, here’s a quick 6 minute YouTube video showing how to replace your oven thermistor:
That said, this process demands a little bit of expertise, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to try this as their first DIY project. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, I strongly suggest calling a technician for help.
6. Replace the Heating Elements
If you tried all the above fixes and still find that your food is getting burnt, it’s time to look at the heating elements, especially if the top or bottom side ends up charred.
The heating elements are the curved rods inside your oven that generate the heat necessary for cooking, baking, etc. An oven will usually have two heating elements (sometimes more) located on the top and bottom and occasionally on the back.
If one of the heating elements malfunctions and isn’t getting hot enough, the oven won’t heat up to the desired temperature. As a result, to achieve the set temperature, the other heating element will overcompensate and generate even more heat, which can partially burn one side of the food.
Note: If both heating elements are malfunctioning, your oven won’t be able to heat at all, let alone burn your food.
How To Fix
If you believe your heating elements are at fault and responsible for burning your food, you’ll need to replace them to fix the issue. Thankfully, replacing heating elements is a straightforward job.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to replace heating elements in an oven:
- Unplug the oven and let every component cool down to room temperature.
- Remove the back panel from your oven.
- Locate the heating element rods sticking out from the back of the oven and disconnect any attached wires.
- Go to the front, and open the oven. Remove the mounting screws that hold the heating elements.
- Slide out the old heating elements.
- Insert the new heating elements and screw them in place.
- Reattach the wires connected to the heating elements and reattach the back panel.
And that’s it – you’re done!
For reference, here’s a 10-min YouTube video on how to test and replace oven heating elements:
If you feel uncomfortable replacing the heating elements, it’s best to call a technician to help you out.
As you can see, issues that cause your oven to burn everything are mostly fixable. If you can’t or aren’t sure how to fix the issue on your own, you can always consult a professional for help.