An oven element is a heating device found in an electric kitchen range. Much like a toaster element, the oven element converts electric current into heat, and electricity flowing through the oven element heats up the ceramic coating on the element and turns it red. As the oven element glows red, it projects heat into the oven, thus heating the appliance to the preset temperature. The only enemies of an oven element are time and contamination. Individuals should keep the element free of drips, run-over food materials and grease for maximum longevity.
Shaped like a semi-circle, the oven element simply plugs into outlets in the bottom of the kitchen oven. Most ovens will also have an element in the top of the range as well as the bottom. This upper element is the broiler in most ovens. While some ovens use a tray on the bottom as well as the lower oven element for the broiler function, the vast majority of appliances found around the world will incorporate an upper element for the broiler function.
Even in ovens with an automatic cleaning feature, care should be taken to remove the oven element and wipe it clean with a soft towel. Users should take the time to remove any debris from the bottom floor of the oven to prevent splatter onto the element. A clean element in a clean oven will provide years of service in most cases. When cleaning an oven, it is important to clean the top wall as well as the top element to ensure proper service and wear.
The electric heat provided by the element is generally so high that professional cooking appliances, even those with gas burners on the range, utilize an electric oven. This is due, in part, to the element's ability to provide consistent heat throughout the entire oven. The electric oven also has a faster recovery time when the door has been opened. This means that it takes less time normally to come back up to temperature than a comparable gas oven.
The electric oven element is typically easy to change when replacement is required. Most elements require no tools to remove—users simply pull the element out and plug the replacement into the socket. It is imperative that the oven be turned off and cooled prior to touching, cleaning or changing the element. As a best practice, it is good for individuals to wear rubber or latex gloves when handling an element to prevent the transfer of oils from the skin to the element—if no gloves are available, a clean and dry towel will typically work well.