Did you use your oven this morning and then go out the door without turning it off? You might feel that sense of panic as you think the oven might start a fire in your home. Does your oven turn itself off after a certain amount of time?
Ovens, both gas and electric, turn off automatically. While gas ovens turn off on their own due to a fault in the thermostat, electric ovens have a safety feature that doesn’t allow an oven to stay on past 12 hours. You can override this feature, but it might not be a good plan.
If you’ve wondered why your electric oven turns off automatically or why your gas oven turned off in the middle of cooking dinner, then you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn why this happens and how to fix it if you need to.
Ovens Have a Safety Feature
Ovens made after 1995 have a safety feature that turns your oven off after 12 hours. This shut-off valve is meant to keep your oven from catching fire or from destroying the temperature sensor. And, ovens that have a self-cleaning feature are even more prone to going bad while taking the regular sensor with it.
The auto switch only comes in ovens/stoves that have a digital clock and a timer mechanism. Otherwise, it doesn’t have one.
Let’s take a look at specific features that is unique to either the gas or electric oven.
Electric ovens turn off automatically after 12 hours. If you’re trying to dehydrate meats or vegetables and need it going for more time than that, you’ll need to override the shut-off switch.
But if your oven is not staying on, even if it hasn’t been 12 hours since it’s been on, then there is something else going on.
Last Thanksgiving, I was in the middle of cooking a turkey for our feast, and the oven kept furiously beeping and turning off. It started happening when it was about 1 ½ hour into the 4 ½ hour cooking time. My partner looked at it and couldn’t figure out what was wrong at the time, and we kept turning the oven back on to finish the cooking time for the turkey.
The best we could figure is that it was a faulty sensor associated with the self-cleaning thermostat. It overheated, which caused the oven thermostat to fail as well.
We ended up getting a new stove without a self-cleaning option.
But that might not have happened as soon if we hadn’t used it for dehydrating meat and blueberries a few weeks before that. Electric ovens are not meant to run for longer than 12 hours, or they will fail.
If your oven is turning off automatically when it shouldn’t shut off, you may have a bad thermostat sensor.
Gas ovens work slightly differently than electric ovens in that they cycle on and off while preheating and while in use. This is a normal function of gas ovens because of the regulator thermostat. It maintains the set temperature and keeps the oven working at an even temperature.
When your gas oven keeps turning off completely, it could be a fault of the thermostat or thermocouple. A thermocouple keeps the pilot light lit and the gas supply going.
But when the thermocouple or thermostat is faulty, it will turn everything completely off.
How To Fix a Faulty Oven Thermostat
Let’s establish that if you have a faulty thermostat for either gas or electric ovens, you’ll probably not be able to fix it, and it should be replaced. If you don’t have the expertise to replace it, you may want to call a professional.
That being said, if you have some experience replacing a thermostat, you can replace it with the following steps:
- Unplug the stove and move it away from the wall.
- Check for labels on the wiring so that you’ll know where it goes when you put it back together. If they are not labeled, make sure to label them or draw a diagram.
- On an electric stove, check for a thermostat probe inside the oven. If there is one there, you can remove the back panel to gain access to the wiring.
- The probe is also in the oven on a gas stove, and you can access it in a similar place.
- Carefully remove the wiring, being sure to note where every wire goes.
- Unscrew the thermostat from the back.
- Place the new one back in the correct location.
- Going by the diagram you hopefully made, rewire everything back together.
- Screw on the back panel.
- Plugin the oven and push the stove back into place.
Here is a great YouTube video showing you how to do this:
If your oven is relatively new, you can press a sequence of buttons to calibrate the thermostat, which varies by the make and model of your stove. Check your owner’s manual or the internet for further instructions on how to do this.
Gas oven thermostats work almost the same way, but they control the gas flow and pilot light. Check your manual on how to replace it.
Older Models Do Not Turn Off Automatically
If your stove is older than 1995, it might not have this safety feature because all models received this automatic shut-off switch after this date. Most stoves that do not have a digital clock also lack this switch.
This is not usually a benefit, especially if you tend to forget things or if you happen to be called away from home when you are baking something.
When ovens do not turn off automatically, the thermostat and other elements could burn out, or the oven could overheat to the point where it could start a fire. However, there is a way that you can prevent your oven from overheating. You could install a shut-off switch, which acts like the newer thermostats found in modern stoves.
Let’s talk about this more in detail.
Why You Might Need a Timer Switch
If your oven doesn’t have a timer switch, you might want to consider installing one. Why?
Let’s say that you have an elderly parent living in their own home, and you are concerned about their memory. Your parent might start the oven because they want to bake something, but then they get tired and lay down for a nap. Then they end up sleeping for the rest of the evening until the next morning. (Perhaps a total of 13 hours.)
If they have a newer stove, the oven will automatically shut off after 12 hours, and there isn’t a problem.
However, if they have an older stove and the oven stays on, it could start a fire or burn out one of the stove’s components. This is why you might need a shut-off switch for your oven.
Install An Automatic Shut-Off Device For Your Stove For Safety
An automatic shut-off device allows your oven to turn off automatically if you or your loved one forgets about turning it on in the first place.
While there isn’t much in the way of shut-off switches for gas ovens, there is a stove guard that you can install on an electric stove that will shut of the entire stove if no one is in front of it for a specified amount of time.
I recommend the iGuardStove Smart Automatic Shut-Off device found on Amazon.com. Not only does it control your oven and turn it off if you forget about it, but it also senses when no one is in front of the stove and will shut off any burners that are on.
If the motion sensor doesn’t detect motion for at least 15 minutes, it will turn the burners off. It will also alert you when your elderly parent gets up and starts doing things in the kitchen. Installation is as simple as plugging the device into an outlet, then plugging your stove into the device.
Follow the manual instructions for setting it up, and then start using it.
But What If You Don’t Want It To Shut Off?
If you don’t want it to shut off, use the override feature found on most models made after 1995. Press and hold the minute pads on your stove’s clock for 4 seconds. The word OFF will display first, which means that the oven will shut off after 12 hours. Then press again for ON to override.
You may not need to use your oven for more than 12 hours at a time, as most people don’t use their ovens longer than that. However, what if you’re on a baking spree and want to bake large batches of cookies or other items for a bake sale?
When I was little, my mom would bake large batches of Christmas cookies on the first Sunday of December. She would bake from early in the morning to later in the evening, which may have been longer than 12 hours. If that stove had been newer, it would have shut off.
Luckily, it was probably from the 1960s or early 1970s.
Newer stoves would most likely shut off after 12 hours. In that case, you would have to turn it back on again or override that feature when you are baking. What other situations might you need to keep your oven on?
Let’s talk about that and why it might not be a good idea to do so.
Situations Where You Need the Oven To Stay On
You might need to leave your oven on for longer than the 12-hour cutoff time, such as when you’re dehydrating food like meat or fruits. Or when you are slow-cooking a tough cut of meat.
While some other appliances or devices can do these same tasks, you might not have those items. An oven might be the only thing you have.
The situations where you need the oven to stay on include:
- When you are baking all day for holidays or bake sales.
- When you are dehydrating food that requires a 24-hour or longer oven time.
- If you are warming your home during the winter, especially if your furnace went out.
- When you are slow-cooking ribs or other tough cuts of meat for more than 12 hours.
While these are all valid reasons to keep your oven on longer than 12 hours, it can be a bad idea because it can ruin the heating elements. Let’s talk more about this now.
Why It’s a Bad Idea To Keep Your Oven On Longer
If you keep your oven on longer than 12 hours, you could potentially damage the heating element or the thermostat sensor. At least, for electric ovens, this is true. Ovens are not made to stay on longer than that, and when it shuts off automatically, it is best to leave it off.
What To Use Instead of Your Oven
What can you use instead of your oven?
- If you want to dehydrate food, you can use a dedicated dehydrator.
- If your furnace went out, a space heater with a thermostat is a better option.
- Slow cooking most meats would be best in a crockpot or other slow-cooking device.
- For marathon baking sessions, try planning ahead and split your baking session between two days or more.
- If you’re cooking brisket or ribs, try using a smoker or outdoor grill.