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The Door is Ajar
November 20, 2012 6:35 PM   Subscribe

My mother thinks I am a crazy person who will burn his house down because I don't leave the oven door slightly ajar when I use the broiler setting in my (gas) oven. Is she right?

The manual for the stove says keep it closed.

The internet suggests that there are other reasons to keep the door open, including that it allows moisture to escape so that the food doesn't boil, that it prevents the broiler from cycling off when the oven gets too hot, that Alton Brown said so, that it reminds cooks that they have something in the oven, and that it only applies to Electric stoves.

The internet being what it is, it's unclear how much weight to apply to the various answers.

So, door closed vs. door open: is is safer, tastier, smarter, or not an issue?
posted by Mad_Carew to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure it matters if you're broiling food for 72 hours or something...

Not an issue.
posted by wrok at 6:40 PM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I leave the door ajar when I'm broiling something delicate because it's easier to see the food and smell when it starts to brown.

As for your mom's concerns, I think she is being a fussbudget. I would smile pleasantly, say "you might have a point there," and go on about my business.
posted by ottereroticist at 6:42 PM on November 20, 2012


My mom's old gas oven had an issue with the pilot light, so sometimes the gas would build up a bit before lighting with a "whump!". Presumably leaving it open would prevent gas buildup to some extent if the pilot failed but I'm not sure it would help much.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:55 PM on November 20, 2012


My (gas) broiler would blow itself out every time it tried to re-light unless I kept the door cracked. Having natural gas leaking into an apartment when you think you have the broiler turned all the way up is a nice quick way to burn your house down.
posted by carsonb at 6:56 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


including that it allows moisture to escape so that the food doesn't boil,

Er, what? Ovens are vented, whether they vent outside or into your house. Otherwise all bread crust would be soggy after baking.

At any rate, I think you should follow directions from the stove manufacturer. If your broiler has a cycling function, it's probably best not to cook your thermostat or other stove components by leaving the door open. You won't burn down the house.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:11 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have never heard of that and have broiled many things over years and years without burning down a single house.

That said, I mostly use the broiler to melt cheese and finish the tops of frittatas, so it never takes more than a couple minutes.
posted by Sara C. at 7:14 PM on November 20, 2012


Every electric stove I've had cycles the broiler off when the oven gets too hot, usually over 500 or so - which is why Alton Brown says to keep the door ajar slightly, so that the broiler doesn't turn off and stop cooking your food.

As far as gas, I don't know. You have a separate broiler element at the top of the oven compartment? Is it an infrared burner?
posted by WasabiFlux at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2012


Your mom is nuts. Whether you're using the upper/oven portion or the lower/broiler section, the door should be closed, because otherwise all you're doing is heating your house --- leaving the door open lets all the heat escape. Heat rises, right? and it'll rise from the lower broiler to the upper oven and then, if the door is open, out of the stove entirely and into your kitchen. So: by having the door open while either the oven or broiler is on, you're simply wasting energy, because the heating element (makes no difference if it's gas or electric) will need to run continuously, plus you'll have to have the temp set at a higher level, to get the same results you'd get with the door closed.

Ovens are designed to operate with the doors closed.
posted by easily confused at 7:17 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh - if it's the usual under-the-oven broiler: no, there's no reason to leave the door open, unless your gas oven wants to cycle off the broiler when the oven compartment gets too hot.
posted by WasabiFlux at 7:19 PM on November 20, 2012


On our gas oven, we left the door open when broiling- and ended up melting the damn oven knobs. If we had read the manual it would have kept us from blowing fifty bucks on eight cents worth of plastic.

Follow the directions from the people who made your oven- they designed it, your mom didn't.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:20 PM on November 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


I always understood the reasoning as counterintuitively letting the heat escape. When you broil, you want direct heat on the food, just like if you were grilling on an open grill. If you close the door, the entire oven heats up evenly (maybe even to the point where the broiler cycles off) and you are moving away from broiling and more towards baking.
posted by Durin's Bane at 7:30 PM on November 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


A lot of people in this thread who don't know what they don't know, including the OP's mother.

Durin's Bane is on the right track for some/many stoves, broiling is about radiant heat, and opening the oven door keeps the air temp from getting too high, if only to keep the oven from turning the broiling element off.

Most/all of the electric ovens I've had have specific instructions to open the oven door to the first stop. Not all ovens are designed the same way, so if the instructions say to close the door while broiling, I'd close the door while broiling.
posted by Good Brain at 7:44 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tell your mother that you appreciate her concern, but that newer stoves -- such as this one, see here in the instructions -- shouldn't be used with the door open.

And if the instructions actually say to leave the door open one stop or such, then do that, and show her that the instructions back her up, and thank her for her advice.
posted by davejay at 7:59 PM on November 20, 2012


Energy efficiency says no every time. New stoves are engineered for this; whatever you learned on a 30 year old stove really doesn't apply. Close the door.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on November 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The manual for the stove says keep it closed.

How many times has your oven's manufacturer been sued for giving instructions that cause house fires? Zero? Okay, I think you can ignore your mom's concerns.

(This reminds me if the Car Talk caller whose boyfriend thought that setting your car's fan to "recirculate" would cause death by suffocation. Once again, zero lawsuits prove the fallacy.)
posted by alms at 8:54 PM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


My mom, in the long distant past, had a job promoting the use of electric stoves over gas. One of her talking points was to caution that with a closed gas oven, the food could start to smoke, the smoke could choke the flame, the gas would continue to be pumped out, filling the space, and blowing up like a bomb. This, of course, she'd say, couldn't happen with a modern, safe electric oven. I don't think it can happen with a modern, thermocoupled gas oven either. Whether it could actually happen with an ancient gas oven I have no idea, and doubt that she had any idea. But I'm sure she and her colleagues in the REA convinced some people of it.
posted by tyllwin at 9:06 PM on November 20, 2012


I have always done this, with the logic that the oven would otherwise get too hot.
posted by katrielalex at 12:38 AM on November 21, 2012


Assuming your gas oven is vented to the outside already (which is almost certainly the case), there is no upside to leaving the door ajar. The vent provides the same benefits as the open door (prevents over-heating and moisture build-up) and a vented gas broiler won't ever shut off to control the temps. Some modern gas ovens won't even work with the door ajar due to a safety interlock and others will melt the knobs.
posted by Lame_username at 1:40 AM on November 21, 2012


I have always left the door ajar, but usually to just remind me I have something in there!
posted by drunkonthemoon at 1:56 AM on November 21, 2012


My mom, in the long distant past, had a job promoting the use of electric stoves over gas. One of her talking points was to caution that with a closed gas oven, the food could start to smoke, the smoke could choke the flame, the gas would continue to be pumped out, filling the space, and blowing up like a bomb. This, of course, she'd say, couldn't happen with a modern, safe electric oven. I don't think it can happen with a modern, thermocoupled gas oven either. Whether it could actually happen with an ancient gas oven I have no idea, and doubt that she had any idea. But I'm sure she and her colleagues in the REA convinced some people of it.


I now have an idea why my mom insisted on cracking the oven door whenever the broiler was used, even though I grew up with an electric oven. She was of the generation that did use those old gas ovens and I bet that's what she learned to do growing up. I wonder if that is behind the OP's mother's insistence on cracking the oven door open while broiling.

Modern ovens are now designed to be super-safe, so I think it's fine to leave the door closed. I do crack it open a bit when I'm broiling things that can go from "browned" to "burned" in short order.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:51 AM on November 21, 2012


I have two young children in a city apartment and I can't think of many things more dangerous than leaving the oven door open with the broiler on.

If you and Alton Brown need to remember that you're cooking something, set a clock timer.
posted by werty at 8:10 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of reasons not to do this. As others have mentioned, modern gas ovens are vented and really don't need any extra ventilation. I think it can also interfere with the oven's thermostat.

But most importantly, you really really don't want carbon monoxide poisoning. Your oven has built-in safety functions--stick with those and keep the door closed.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:42 AM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Electric stove with the broiler element at the top of the oven, not under it as with a gas stove. I don't keep the oven door open while cooking but due to many sad experiences of broiling stuff too long and creating hockey pucks I do open it very often to look at the food and judge the degree of brownness (with the help of a very bright flashlight.) The broiler makes me nervous and I don't walk away from it, I stay right there hovering until I can turn it off and take the pan out.
posted by jfuller at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2012


Yep, I should add that that stove I had to keep the broiler drawer open a crack on was several decades older than I am.
posted by carsonb at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2012


I've never heard of this, I've always had gas stoves until recently (and gosh do I miss them), and I'm still among the living. Yes, do what the manual says.
posted by supercoollady at 2:59 PM on November 21, 2012


Gas ovens don't need the oven door open because they are leaky enough to let the hot gases out that you get broil effect whether you have a drawer mounted broiler or a oven broiler.

Not what you asked OP but because it has come up: Electric ovens for the most part do need the oven door propped open to the first click (called the broil stop) to allow proper air circulation for that form of cooking. Yes electric ovens are vented (usually by a pipe about an inch wide in the top of the oven compartment) but that doesn't provide proper circulation for broiling because their isn't an express path for air to enter the oven which is why oven doors have broil stops. It's also why 99.99% of ovens with side swing doors (which have no broil stop) are convection ovens.

Broiling is an inherently wasteful method of cooking; energy efficiency doesn't apply any more than it would to patio heaters.

I'm not sure if anyone is confused about this however practically no residential ovens are directly vented to the outside of the house.

werty writes "I can't think of many things more dangerous than leaving the oven door open with the broiler on. "

To be clear you don't leave the oven door in the full open position. Rather the when the door is open about 1% there is a stop that will hold it there. That is the broil stop position and is where most electric ovens should be set when broiling. On most stoves this will hold the oven door open between one half and one width of the door at the top.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 PM on November 21, 2012


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