Not all oven drawers are the same. Figure out what your oven can do and how you can use the drawer to your advantage.
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Open oven door in a modern kitchen
Credit: New Africa / Shutterstock

In many kitchens, the stovetop and oven can be found together in one crucial appliance. And while the function of the stovetop and oven are pretty self-explanatory, there may be one part of the appliance that has you scratching your head: the drawer under the oven. Read on to learn about this bonus space—plus, how best to use it.

What Is the Drawer under the Oven For?

Before you can answer this question, you first need to figure out what kind of drawer you have. There are two types of drawers beneath an oven: a warming drawer and a storage drawer. Read on to learn about the differences between the two and how to determine which one your oven has.

Warming Drawer

A warming drawer is exactly like it sounds, a drawer that keeps food warm. Depending on the oven model, there are two different ways to check your drawer's capability. First, locate your oven's control panel. Oftentimes, there will be a separate section of buttons within the panel where you can control the temperature in the oven drawer. Or, there may also be a knob which controls the temperature.

If you don't see any controls there, the next place to check is the drawer itself. Some warming drawers have temperature controls within the drawer, which are only visible when the drawer is open. If you have either of these options, then your oven has a warming drawer!

What Can You Use the Warming Drawer For?

If your oven has a warming drawer, there are a variety of uses for it. However, you shouldn't think of it as an additional cooking source. Instead, warming drawers should only be used to keep foods heated. That's because the temperature of the warming drawer is limited, so cooking foods to reach their necessary internal temperature is tricky (and you don't want to risk getting sick).

The temperatures in a warming drawer will vary by oven model, so be sure to refer to your oven's manual for specific details. For a rough guideline, GE has some temperature ranges:

Low

140℉ to 170℉

Medium

170℉ to 210℉

High

215℉ to 250℉

Some warming drawers may also have the ability to broil foods. We recommend not using the broiler to cook foods from start to finish because of temperature concerns, but you could use it to finish a dish, like if you wanted to get a cheesy crust on baked mac and cheese.

The warming drawer is perfect for keeping a dish hot while you finish cooking the rest of the meal (ideal for busy cooking days like Thanksgiving!). It can also be used to proof bread dough, the stage where dough rises until doubled. However you use the warming drawer, it's a handy space in any kitchen.

Storage Drawer

If there are no temperature controls, then your oven has a storage drawer! This storage drawer is the perfect place for keeping kitchenware like baking sheets, muffin tins or even pots and pans. Whatever you choose to store in the drawer, just be sure it's oven-safe. While no direct heat will be funneled into the area, it is still located beneath your oven, so some residual heat is bound to carry over. Avoid storing things like plastic wrap, food storage containers and any item that could warp over time due to heat.

This story originally appeared on eatingwell.com