Pyrolytic or Catalytic Ovens – What’s The Difference?
When shopping for a new oven, there are so many options on the market that it can be hard to understand the differences. One feature you might see is pyrolytic or catalytic. But what does this mean?
When we talk about pyrolytic or catalytic ovens, we are talking about the type of self-cleaning function that the ovens have.
We all like the sound of a self-cleaning oven – no one likes cleaning an oven by hand. Understanding the different types will help you choose which one is best for you.
In this post, I’ll explain these two types of oven, covering the main differences between them. Once you’ve read through, I hope you’ll be able to feel confident in deciding which type of oven is right for you.
What Is A Pyrolytic Oven?
A pyrolytic oven is a type of oven that has a self-cleaning function known as ‘pyrolytic cleaning’. You see where it gets the name!
This feature allows the oven to reach temperatures upwards of 500oC, burning off grease, dirt and leftover food that has built up in your oven over time.
These bits are incinerated and turned to ash that can be simply swept out (by you), returning your oven to its sparkling, good-as-new condition.
500ºC! Is that safe?
Don’t worry, when the pyrolytic function is turned on the oven door will lock. At this time, the door can only be opened once the oven has reached a safe temperature.
The pyrolytic cleaning function often takes 2-4 hours to complete. During this time, it is advised that you have the room well ventilated. Strong smells are a common feature of this process, as grease and crumbs are burning off inside the oven.
Top tip: make sure you carefully follow the instructions given by your manufacturer when using the pyrolytic function. For most ovens, you must remove everything from your oven, including trays, racks, and even the sidebars that hold the racks.
If you would like to learn more about pyrolytic ovens then have a read of my post Pyrolytic Ovens: Are They A Must Have?
What Is A Catalytic Oven?
A catalytic oven, similar to a pyrolytic oven, also has a built-in self-cleaning feature. However, unlike pyrolytic ovens, catalytic ovens are known as ‘continuous cleaning’ ovens. They have special features that keep the oven cleaner all the time.
Ovens with catalytic cleaning can be recognised by their absorbent interior walls (or liners) that are rough to the touch.
These liners are treated with special chemicals and materials (high metals and non-volatile binders) that mean they are fantastic at absorbing the grease given off when cooking.
The catalysis destroys splashes of fat by oxidation when cooking dishes at more than 200°C.
These ovens also come with a separate cleaning feature, too. During a cleaning cycle, the oven is heated to 200°C or higher to burn off and soften excess grease deposits. You can then simply wipe away any residue with some soapy water.
Because catalytic ovens clean at a relatively low temperature, they clean the oven anytime you cook at 200°C or higher. This makes keeping the oven clean much simpler – and certainly much easier than pyrolytic ovens!
However, it is advised that, if you rarely cook at temperatures above 200°C, once a month you heat the oven to 220°C for 30 minutes to keep the liners in good working order.
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Advantages Of Pyrolytic Ovens
Pyrolytic is the most effective cleaning method as it eliminates fat as well as sugar. It gives a much better deep clean than any other ‘self-cleaning’ method.
This function is also easy to use. Once complete, all you have to do is wipe off the layer of ash left behind by the burnt dirt. A damp cloth does the trick perfectly!
And, despite what you might think, it’s safe to use. Pyrolytic ovens come with certain safety measures in place, such as automatically locking the door, that means you don’t have to worry about the heat.
Once the self-cleaning process starts, the door will lock – preventing anyone from accidentally opening the oven and exposing themselves to the extreme temperatures.
Similarly, the door is designed so that the outside doesn’t get too hot. Even when the function has finished, the door will stay locked until it has cooled to a certain temperature that is safe to open.
Top tip: given that the door will lock once the cleaning process is activated, make extra sure that you (or your family!) don’t accidentally turn to this setting.
Disadvantages Of Pyrolytic Ovens
Pyrolytic ovens are more expensive than catalytic models. The extra engineering involved in the oven to withstand the extremely high heats costs more to manufacture.
It can also be a little tricky preparing the oven for a cleaning cycle. On most models, you need to remove the shelf supports to run the pyrolytic cleaning cycle. These supports can be difficult to remove.
Advantages Of Catalytic Ovens
It’s easy to use. You don’t need to remove anything or prepare the oven in any way. You simply let it run on a higher temperature for the liners to activate and get to work.
Also, it’s quick! It only takes 20-30 mins at 220°C for the self-cleaning function to complete.
Finally, catalytic ovens are cheaper than pyrolytic ovens.
Disadvantages Of Catalytic Ovens
Catalytic oven cleaning is not as thorough as pyrolytic. You will need to manually clean the oven even after the ‘self-cleaning’ cycle is finished.
As such, sugar cannot be cleaned away by this process. It doesn’t reach high enough temperatures to be burnt away. Not great for the bakers out there!
On some catalytic ovens, too, not every surface on the inside of the oven are covered with catalytic liners. For instance, some ovens may only have the sides coated, leaving the top and bottom unprotected. Which (you guessed it!) means you will have to clean these sections by hand.
So, which type of oven should you buy? Catalytic or pyrolytic.
Pyrolytic oven cleaning gives you the best results and requires little to no manual effort. However, the cleaning cycle takes longer and the appliance type is usually more expensive.
Catalytic oven cleaning is quick and easy as it cleans while you cook (if at a high enough temperature) and the appliances tend to be cheaper.
However, you don’t get as good of a clean and it will require you to still manually clean the oven.
So, if you have the budget and hate cleaning the oven by hand, go with pyrolytic.
If you are trying to make some savings and don’t mind a bit of oven cleaning now and then, catalytic ovens are a great option.
Considering a gas hob? Then have a read of my post Which Hob is Best? where I explore the benefits and drawbacks of induction vs. gas hobs.
Want to learn more about ovens? Then check out my post 6 Best Combi-Steam Ovens to Upgrade Your Cooking.
Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.