Ragu, casserole, large turkey, brisket, or pulled pork; there are many recipes that need a longer cooking time in the oven to give you that perfectly cooked and succulent result. Not many people have time to babysit the oven for hours on end, it is easier to place the food into the oven and then go to sleep, and voila, to wake up to perfectly cooked food.
But how long can an oven be left on? What happens if you leave an oven on overnight?
Surely there must be some risk associated with the act, right?
If you’re about to put a turkey in the oven and go to bed or leave the house altogether, in that case, you will definitely want to read on because we are going to find out whether it is okay to leave your oven on overnight or is there a safe way to do it.
Is It Safe To Leave An Oven On Overnight?
Generally, I would recommend against leaving an oven on overnight, unattended. Though in some cases, it may prove to be totally safe and go off without a hitch, there are too many potential risks associated with leaving an oven on overnight, no matter the model; thus, I could not, in good conscience, recommend it!
Ovens are one of the leading causes of house fires in the US due to improper use. Many fires that are caused by ovens are a direct result of leaving an oven unattended. Wherever possible, you should be making a point of monitoring your oven, to ensure that it never becomes a fire risk.
Certain things around your stove, in your kitchen, and even within your oven may also be at risk of suddenly catching fire without you noticing until it is far too late, which puts you at great risk of harm.
Small things such as food crumbs, grease pockets, and spilled or splattered fat within your oven may be at risk of suddenly catching fire when the oven is left at a high temperature for long periods.
Gas ovens are also particularly dangerous when left on overnight, as there is a very high risk of them producing carbon monoxide, which can be undetectable without an appropriate device. Carbon monoxide is incredibly lethal and could potentially kill you in your sleep.
This doesn’t mean your gas oven is unsafe, but it does mean that you should keep an eye on it while using it.
Will An Oven Catch Fire If Left Unattended?
Generally, no. Ovens are made of non-flammable materials and designed for high heat. It is highly unlikely that the oven itself will ever catch fire, and this is because most modern ovens are designed to never exceed the exact heat that you set them at.
Ovens are also rigorously tested before they are sold so that such issues do not occur frequently.
The most likely reason your oven may ever catch fire is that it is not clean.
One of the main reasons you will want to keep your oven clean is that it significantly lowers the risk of fires. Small bits of food, crumbs, or pockets of grease that have dripped off from food can very quickly start to smoke and catch fire at high temperatures. Hence, it is important to monitor an oven while in use.
Electric ovens may also catch fire if there is a malfunction, damage to any of the electrical components, or the oven experiences an electrical surge. If the wire pr the socket connecting the oven to a mains supply were to ever be damaged, such as becoming frayed, then it may run the risk of causing a fire.
Of course, it goes without saying that you should always avoid leaving the door open while the oven is in operation, even if there is nothing in it. This is one of the leading causes of house fires. Many people leave them open to allow a little bit of heat into the home, but this also means that any flammable products that happen to be near the oven will be subjected to intense heat and run the risk of catching fire.
Or in the baste case scenario, the heat flowing from the open oven door can damage the temperature dials or the display.
How Can You Safely Leave An Oven Unattended?
Though it is not recommended to leave your oven on overnight, while you sleep, or you have left the house, there are certain safety precautions you should implement if you still planning to do so.
First, test your fire alarm!
If you are planning on slow-cooking food in your oven, make sure that the oven is used on low heat and your oven dish is not overfilled to avoid spillage, as this significantly reduces the risk of any food scraps spilled grease, or the dish itself burning and catching fire.
Also, using an electric oven is slightly less risky than a gas oven if you want to cook over longer periods without monitoring it. This is because gas ovens have the additional risk of releasing carbon monoxide if left unattended and if left running for too long or on too high of a heat.
However, if you do plan to use a gas oven overnight, unattended, I would highly recommend using a carbon monoxide detector. These CO detectors are the most effective way to detect carbon monoxide in the air and will sound the alarm if there are potentially life-threatening levels of the dangerous gas.
In addition, you should make sure your kitchen is well ventilated, you have cracked the window open a little bit, or the extractor fan above the stove or hob in the kitchen is left on to remove smoke, fumes, and carbon monoxide from the air.
You should also make sure to clear the area around your oven before using it for an extended period. Remove towels hanging from the door handle, and remove any flammable items on top of the hob. Also, try to clear the counters around the oven and place all flammable products into cabinets.
You will also want to make sure that you clean your oven sufficiently before leaving it unattended to ensure there are no small bits of food debris or old grease that can suddenly catch fire.
And lastly, set a timer or an alarm clock to ensure you don’t leave the food to cook longer than necessary.
Read Also: Fan or Conventional Oven For Baking Cakes — Which is Better?
Will An Oven Turn Off Automatically?
Most modern ovens, luckily, will turn themselves off automatically, should you end up leaving them on accidentally. This helps you significantly reduce the risk of harm and helps to keep your electricity bills from climbing higher and higher.
Most modern ovens come with timers built into them, allowing you to easily track how long your food has been cooking. These timers are not only used by you but also automatically by your oven as a safety precaution! The majority of domestic ovens will automatically shut off after they have detected that they have been active for over 12 hours.
However, don’t just assume that there is an automatic shut-off after 12 hours, and make sure to check your oven’s user manual or look up its model name online to ensure that it definitely has this feature before you begin depending on it. Though it is very uncommon, there may be some modern ovens out there that do not have this feature.
Your oven will automatically turn off using its time, but it won’t detect burnt food or fire. If you want added extra safety, you could also try some automatic monitoring devices to protect you from forgotten or unattended cooking.
The Smart Automatic Stove Shut-Off Device is quite expensive, but it provides an additional level of safety and peace of mind.
The oven shut-off device is designed to be hooked directly up to your oven to detect things such as heat, motion, and smoke so that if it ever detects that the oven has been left unattended, there is too much smoke, or the temperature is climbing, it can instantly turn the oven off and send you text or email alerts.
Accidentally Left The Oven On All Night?
The best case scenario is a higher electricity bill, overcooked or slightly burnt food. The worst-case scenario is a smoke alarm going off in the middle of the night, a burnt mess in the oven, a damaged appliance, or even a house fire.
If you tend to forget or just want to be cautious, try applying as many of the safety precautions mentioned above.
How Long Can You Leave An Oven For?
Provided you are operating your oven safely and keep it at a low temperature and clean from food scraps and grease, it can be relatively safe to keep your oven going for around 12 hours.
However, at higher temperatures like 400°F (204°C), the applicant itself could probably tolerate 12 hours of the operation time, but unfortunately, most foods will certainly not and are like to burn in the first 3-4 hours of cooking.
Also, the length of time how long you can leave your oven on depends on the appliance’s safety features. Most modern ovens will automatically shut off at the 12-hour mark, so if you need it to cook food for longer, although I can’t imagine what you would be cooking for that long, you will need to reset it after 12 hours.
Read Also: 9 Foods That Explode In The Microwave (Don’t Try This at Home).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to leave the oven on when not home?
Leaving the oven on when not home can be dangerous and lead to a fire. Although it is not recommended to leave your oven unattended, you can reduce the risk by using various preventive measures like setting it on the timer and at a lower temperature, keeping the appliance clean from food pieces and old grease spills, and making sure your food won’t overflow while cooking.
Can an electric oven cause carbon monoxide?
Since carbon monoxide is produced from the incomplete burning of natural gas or other carbon-based fuels, wood, coal, and oil, electrical kitchen appliances, including ovens that don’t require these fuels to work, do not produce CO.
However, if the electrical oven starts a fire for one reason or another, then the fire itself will produce some level of carbon monoxide. But unlike the gas appliances that can emit this poisoned, colorless, odorless gas without you noticing, you would certainly detect the fire by flames and smoke.
How much electricity does the oven use if left on overnight?
Generally, an average fan-assisted electric oven has a power rating of 2500W / 2.5 kilowatts (kW), meaning they consume 2500 watts (2.5 kWh) for every hour they are being used at medium-to-high heat. So, if we take an average electricity price of 14 cents/kWh in the US, then leaving an oven on for 12 hours would cost $4.2 in electricity.
Read Also: Is It Safe To Leave Slow Cooker On Overnight?
Leaving your oven unattended overnight is not generally recommended, BUT you can significantly minimize the risk by taking proper precautions and providing it is operated safely and properly.