Your oven racks should be able to sit level at any height inside your oven. The grooves along the sides of the oven provide tracks for the racks, and these should sit level too. Each oven comes with racks that are pre-fitted to the oven dimensions and should sit perfectly flat when supporting your food as it cooks.
Sometimes, however, this is not the reality. Your oven racks may appear to be too small for your oven—you can’t get them to stay upright inside the tracks, and they are constantly falling out. In some ovens, the racks appear to be too big and will not fit back in through the door. Sometimes, you will find that although the rack is inserted it no longer holds the food level.
This guide will walk you through the main causes of oven racks not fitting, and help you fix the problem.
Oven racks are heat-warped
Heat-warping is one of the most common reasons that oven racks will no longer fit. If there is an imbalance in the metal, it can warp in extreme heat. Because ovens generate extreme heat, this can happen to your oven racks over time. When high heat is distributed unevenly through the metal, it can cause the racks to twist and warp.
Repairing warped oven racks is possible, but it’s usually a short-term solution. You can bend them back into shape by using pliers and force, which will temporarily restore use of the oven racks. However, warped metal is likely to warp again, so you may be better off purchasing new racks that fit the dimensions of your oven.
Bent or damaged oven racks
Thankfully, bent oven racks are far easier to deal with than warped ones. Oven racks can be made of very thin bars or heavy gauge wire. In either case, oven racks can be bent back into their original shape using mallets, pliers, or a strong point of leverage.
How your oven rack was bent will affect how you bend it back into shape. An oven rack bent by an impact can usually be straightened out with pliers, whereas an oven rack damaged by a sharp blow can be bent back into shape manually.
Oven racks sticking when sliding into place
This issue is usually discovered after you’ve removed your oven racks for an extended period of time and are now unable to fit them back in. The racks are still roughly the right size, but they get stuck at the entrance or a specific point and won’t go any further. This can occur if the oven racks are not in place when the oven changes shape. An oven can change shape due to an impact on the frame or by heat warping.
If the racks just barely fit, apply oil to the outside of each rack bar. Any type of cooking oil will suffice, but make sure you don’t use a non edible oil, as this may produce toxic fumes when you use your oven. Oiling the rack will give it a little more wiggle room and allow it to fit back into the oven.
Walls of the oven are warped
Ovens can warp or expand due to the heat they produce. It’s actually quite common for an oven’s interior to expand slightly over time; this is particularly a problem with older ovens. With enough expansion, your once tight-fitting oven racks will begin to seem like they are too small, always falling to one side or falling out completely.
Fortunately, even though it’s impossible to repair the oven itself, this is one of the easiest problems to deal with. Simply increase the width of your oven racks.
You might choose to weld an extra bar to the rack, or you could twist a curved edge flat with pliers to slightly extend the width. If you don’t want to do either, you can use four triangular metal paper-clamps with folding handles to extend the width of your oven racks without welding equipment or pliers.
You can also buy larger oven racks to fit the new dimensions of your oven. Using a measuring tape, determine the distance between the oven’s walls. Make sure to measure the top, middle, bottom, front, center, and back, as the expansion of your oven can cause these dimensions to change. Then order replacement oven racks that fit these measurements. Most ovens will take any type of rack provided it’s the right width.
Oven racks are too tight
It’s less common for oven racks to fit too tightly in the oven, but it can happen. One reason could be if the outside of your oven becomes dented, which would warp the walls of the oven inward. Another reason could be that you have some old oven racks from a different oven that don’t fit into your new, smaller oven.
You can try removing a rung from your racks, then bend the ends inwards to make the racks a little smaller. If they’re still too big, then you may be better off taking measurements of your oven and purchasing new racks to replace them.