On Thursday I put a chicken and rice dish in the oven at 4:15 at 325˚, then returned to my office for the second half of a four-hour virtual classroom training session on gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax issues. (Don't you wish you were me?)
I noticed a burning smell but remembered how dirty the oven is and thought about how maybe a french fry or two had fallen off the cookie sheet to the bottom of the oven when we were reheating them earlier this week.
The smell worsened.
At 6:20 when the class was over I went to check on dinner. The recipe calls for it to cook for 2-1/2 hours covered, then uncovered for another half hour.
The house was full of smoke, and more was streaming out around the oven door.
I opened the oven and flames burst out.
I closed the oven.
Opened the oven again.
I turned off the oven and opened a couple windows, hoping that the strong winds that had been blowing earlier would air out the house. No wind now that I needed it, of course, but the open windows did help some.
I found a squirt bottle in the laundry room, emptied it of its non-H2O contents, and filled it with water.
This time when I opened the oven and the flames erupted I put them out with the squirt bottle.
All this time I was trying to figure out what had happened. My best guess was that when Smokey had taken a package of English muffins from the freezer as he had mentioned earlier, he had put them in the oven to defrost in a pet-proof space; somehow I had not noticed them when I put in the chicken.
Eventually I was able to remove the pan from the oven -- it was very, very much lighter than when I had put it in -- and see what remained of our dinner.
The scorched top foil told me that the upper element, the one that comes on when the oven is preheating and was supposed to turn off when I turned the knob from preheat to cook, had stayed on for the entire two hours. (Yes, I did switch the knob from preheat to cook -- I checked.)
That total charcoaling of the rice and liquids at the bottom of the pan told me that the lower element had stayed on for the entire two hours, too. Good grief.
So this stove, which was brand-new when this house was built in 1976 (see? harvest gold?), may be on its last -- or very nearly its last -- legs. I bought a new stove when we remodeled, but the remodeling has been stalled for several years and the stove sits in the garage, waiting its turn. Removing the old one and installing the new one -- and the gas line it will require -- is more than we necessarily wanted to tackle this week. Or this month. Or maybe this year.
Underneath that quarter-inch of pure charcoal was a bit of edible meat that Smokey was happy to try. He likes his chicken overcooked and dried out -- although not necessarily this much.
Needless to say, we went out for dinner. After all that smoke the only thing I could think of eating was barbecue. So I did.