Solved! What is the Drawer Under the Oven For?
Learn about the various possible purposes of the drawer under a gas or electric oven—and put it to good use in your kitchen.
Q: I recently moved into a new apartment, and the small drawer under the oven puzzles me. Is this an extra space to store pots and pans, or does it have some other purpose?
A: Learning the ins and outs of new appliances can be tricky, particularly if you don’t have the owner’s manuals, which often happens when moving into a rental or a home where the previous owners left most of the kitchen behind. So in the case of an oven, it’s certainly easy to assume that bottom drawer of the oven is meant for storage—after all, it’s about the perfect size to hold cookie sheets, baking dishes, and skillets! While in some circumstances that oven drawer is intended for storage, it more commonly serves as either a broiler or a warmer.
Some Oven Drawers Can Broil
Have you been overlooking a bonus broiling feature on your oven? Take a closer look at the control panel to see if the drawer under your oven is actually a broiler.
An oven drawer that serves as a broiler provides high, concentrated, direct heat.
In most gas ranges, the drawer beneath the oven is a broiler. While the typical oven roasts and bakes using ambient heat that surrounds the food, a broiler heats with flames from above. Check the control panel: Near the knobs or buttons for the oven settings, you should spot a control labeled “BROILER” or “BROIL.” Sometimes, there will be a low and high setting for the intensity of the flame, but many ovens don’t offer any broiler control beyond on or off.
Look inside the oven drawer, and you should see a small built-in rack that holds a broiler pan. Most broiler pans are two pieces: a slatted top that fits over the lower drip pan. If your oven no longer has the original broiler pan, you can buy a new one for less than $25 on Amazon or at a kitchen-supply store. Many are nonstick for easy cleanup.
As a general rule, the broiler itself won’t require much cleaning, only the broiler pan, which can be washed like any other nonstick cookware. But if food does spill into the broiler, wait until it cools down, and then wipe it up with a damp paper towel or cloth.
Raining outside? Use the broiler as a grill in reverse.
If you’ve ever used an outdoor grill, you know that its flames cook from underneath the food. A broiler functions very much like a grill, only the flame comes from above. Rely on the broiler when you have a hankering for grilled burgers, steaks, or other foods—handy when the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor cooking. The broiler is also ideal for giving a quick toasted or browned finish to dishes such as macaroni and cheese, pizza, casseroles, or pies. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to check on your food frequently to avoid overcooking or burning.
Some Oven Drawers Can Keep Foods Warm
Preparing a multi-part meal? The warming drawer may be your salvation. It simply keeps already-cooked foods warm while you finish other parts of the meal, or while you wait for the kids to finally get home from soccer practice.
A warming drawer under the oven is useful when preparing multiple dishes.
If your oven is electric, the purpose of the bottom drawer is most likely to keep cooked foods warm. Usually, the heating element for the oven warming drawer is beneath it and separate from the oven’s main heating element.
A warming drawer is quite useful when you want to maintain the temperature of one dish while preparing the rest of the meal or to warm up serving dishes before filling them with cooked food. Some warming drawers are simply a shallow space, while others have a wire rack that lets you stack two or more items.
Take a look at your oven’s control panel for a knob or button labeled “WARMING DRAWER.” If you don’t see one, check the frame of the oven warming drawer itself, where some brands put the controls. Many ovens provide low, medium, and high warming settings, as well as a humidity control to keep food from drying out.
Be sure to use warming drawers properly.
Note that the warming drawer is only intended to keep hot cooked foods warm until serving; it is not for cooking food, and even on the highest setting will not reach a sufficient temperature to safely cook meat or other raw items. Although controls vary from brand to brand, as a rough guideline, you can expect temperatures around:
- 80 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit on low
- 165 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit on medium
- 200 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit on high
While it’s fine to cover your food with aluminum foil to keep moisture in, never line the oven warming drawer itself with aluminum foil, because this will prevent the oven drawer from evenly heating. And although the drawer doesn’t get as hot as your oven, it still gets quite warm, so never use plastic or paper serving pieces or utensils in it. Only oven-safe bowls, dishes, and utensils should go into the warming drawer.
If the oven drawer needs cleaning, simply wipe down with a damp cloth or paper towel once it’s cooled down. Tough spills might need a little bit of dish soap to soften them.
Some Oven Drawers Simply Store
On some range units, that drawer-looking thing underneath the oven may be just that: a drawer. Use it to store cookie sheets or frying pans. Just don’t put plastic or flammable items in your newfound storage area.
Sometimes that little drawer under the oven really is just for storage.
Whether your oven is gas or electric, there are some models that really do intend that little drawer as a convenient spot to stash muffin pans, cookie sheets, and other cookware that’s hard to fit in your regular kitchen cabinets. If you don’t see any control for the drawer on its frame or on the main oven control panel, it doesn’t have a rack or a frame to support a rack, and there is no heating element, it’s safe to assume the drawer is for storage only.
Be aware, however, that the drawer will still get hot when the oven is on—after all, it is positioned directly underneath the oven. Do not store plastic/paper dishes or utensils, cookbooks, cloth oven mitts, cleaning supplies, or anything that might be flammable or is not oven-safe inside the drawer.
FAQ About Drawers Under Ovens
What is the temperature of a warming drawer?
Check the manufacturer’s information for specifics regarding your particular warming drawer oven, but in general, warming drawers can be set to temperatures ranging from 80°F to 240°F.
Is the drawer under the oven to keep food warm?
It might be, depending on your oven model. Some under-oven drawers function as food warmers, while others are broilers, and still others are merely storage drawers.
What can I put in the drawer under the oven?
Cookie sheets, cast-iron pans, and other metal cookware can be stored in the drawer under the oven. Do not store anything paper or plastic in that space, as the oven’s heat could damage it.
How do you use an oven warming drawer?
Simply switch the control for the drawer on and adjust the temperature as desired. Place your food (in an oven-safe container) in the drawer.
Can you bake in a warming drawer?
Most likely not. Warming drawers typically only get as warm as 240°F, which is not hot enough for baking most dishes.
Can you reheat food in a warming drawer?
You certainly can! You’ll probably want to adjust the temperature of the warming drawer toward the higher end of its range. Be sure the food is in an oven-safe container, and pop it in!
If you’ve just moved into a new home, you may be trying to figure out exactly what the purpose of the under-oven drawer is. If you have a gas oven, chances are it’s a broiler. If you have an electric oven, it could be a warming drawer. Or it could be simply a place to store pots and pans. Familiarize yourself thoroughly with the buttons and dials on the oven, which might provide some guidance, or search the internet for a copy of the owner’s manual, which might help you gain insight into your mystery drawer.