Thinking about cleaning your oven in advance of a pre-holiday baking bonanza? Don’t! While self-cleaning ovens  may be one of this century's finest advances in cooking technology, running the self-cleaning cycle just before a big baking day might end up with you running to the bakery to buy pies instead. Here's why:
Running a self-cleaning cycle puts an oven it through more stress than just about anything else you can do to it. Studies show that ovens may tend to break down or perform inconsistently just after a self-clean cycle. If your oven is on the verge of such a break down -- and Murphy's Law being what it is -- you can count on that happening just hours before the in-laws are about to show up expecting a grand home cooked meal!
Finding a service technician or even ordering parts and repairing the oven yourself is not something that can always be accomplished on short notice, so skip the self-cleaning cycle and stick to manual wipe-downs until the guests are gone. In the meantime, here are three quick and easy oven maintenance tips  that won’t leave your oven down for the count.
Check the oven temperature. You can find out whether your oven's built-in thermostat is working properly with the aid of a separate oven thermometer. (A glass-bulb thermometer is recommended.) Set the oven temperature and then compare the temperature of the thermometer with the set temperature. The thermometer temperature should be no more than 25 degrees above or below the set temperature. To get an accurate reading, let the oven cycle on and off at least three times, which takes at least 20 minutes.
Check oven door gaskets. The oven door has a gasket to keep heat inside the oven. Over time, these oven door gaskets  can become torn or deformed and this will allow heat to escape. Inspect gaskets to ensure they are in good condition and replace them as necessary--a fairly simple oven repair.
Check oven door hinges. If an oven door does not close properly, heat can escape. Make sure the door closes tightly and evenly. If it doesn't, check for broken or bent door hinges or door springs, which should be replaced.