There is a common myth that circulates the homes and kitchens up and down the British Isles, in that leaving your oven unclean and dirty will enhance the flavour of your food. Not only is this a false statement, it can also cost you a lot of money and can be damaging to your own health and the health of any guests you have over for dinner.
Before we get started on dispelling this myth, let’s take a look at where it came from. Whenever you buy a new piece of cast iron cookware, such as a skillet or grill pan, you’re told to add seasoning to the coating to assist cooking and enhance flavour. Seasoning is the oil and fats that build up in the crevices on the cooking surface. For years it has been a tried and tested way to keep your cast iron cookware in good working condition, whilst helping the cooking process by providing a natural non-stick coating and enhanced flavour.
Unfortunately, ovens are not made in the same way. If they were, we wouldn’t need to use cookware, and instead just throw the food into an oven regardless. Ovens are pieces of machinery that must be maintained and looked after differently to actual cookware. The insides of ovens are made from sheet metal which is much thinner than your frying pan or skillet, and therefore any food spillages or grease marks will react differently.
Instead of generating a layer of ‘seasoning’, food spillages will simply burn the food and generate a lot of smoke inside your oven. Don’t be fooled in thinking that this will leave a lovely chargrilled or smoky flavour on your food, because it won’t. It will leave a bitter and harsh taste to your food that will ruin whatever you’ve cooked.
So in answer to the original question, an unclean oven won’t provide extra flavour, and in fact there’s more bad news if you leave your oven unclean for an extended period of time. Food spillages will also be detrimental to the efficiency of your oven. The heating elements will work even harder when trying to heat up unnecessary bits of food that have spilled inside your oven. In addition, a clog up of grease will harm the effectiveness of the fan or heating element too. In the long run, an oven that works twice as hard to heat your food will cost more to run and won’t last as long as an oven which is used normally.
The final thing to consider with unclean ovens is the issue of hygiene. If grease and grime builds up inside your oven, there is a very real threat of bacteria growing. Not only that, but your food won’t be cooked as effectively as a result of the clogged up fans and heating elements. This further heightens the threat of unhygienic food, and highlights the threat of illness if you or the guests you’re cooking for consume the uncooked and potentially harmful food.