What You Need to Know About Your Oven
How much do you really know about your oven? Gas or electric, modern ovens tend to have extensive features that can allow for a wide variety of cooking techniques. That makes them versatile but can also make them overwhelming. Here are a few things you should know about your particular oven:
1. Does it run hot, cold or just right?
Just because you set your oven to 425°F doesn’t always mean you’re actually getting that precise temperature. It’s always a good idea to have an inexpensive, oven-safe thermometer on hand to ensure your oven is heating accurately.
Being over or under by even 10 degrees can affect your creations, so knowing that your oven actually runs at 415°F when it says 425°F will let you set it a few degrees higher to compensate (or a few degrees lower if it tends to run hot).
2. Are there hot spots?
It’s tempting to set your oven to a certain temperature and just assume the entire space inside is evenly heated throughout, but that’s not always the case. Depending on where your oven’s burners are located, what type of heating it uses or how air moves within it, significant hot spots are possible. By cooking up a simple recipe (say, a batch of sugar cookies) and utilizing the entire area within your oven, you can get a sense of which areas heat faster or run hotter than others. Once you know, you can better place items within the oven to avoid scorching them, or at least rotate baking sheets or pans to more evenly brown edges.
3. What’s this about “convection”?
One of the most common technologies used in ovens today is convection. Simply put, convection means that the oven forces hot air to circulate around more thoroughly inside the oven so that it passes over the food being cooked and transfers its heat more quickly and thoroughly. Convection is great, and does wonders for both convenience and consistency, but…should you use it on your next recipe? That depends. Consider these factors:
- Convection works best for cookies, pizzas and other foods cooked on sheets or in shallow pans.
- Cakes, custards and other recipes that start out as batter and set as they cook often do better on a traditional oven setting than with convection. The same goes for most breads, though some cooks find that convection helps create a drier, crunchier crust. For these types of recipes, it’s best to just try it both ways and see which you prefer.
- Roasted meats (whole chickens or turkeys, root vegetables, brisket, etc.) benefit from the faster cooking times and better caramelization that convection offers, resulting in more moist interiors and perfectly browned exteriors.
If you decide that convection is right for your recipe, you’ll want to adjust the temperature, time or both accordingly. Here are some tips:
- Reduce the temperature your recipe calls for by 25-30% for dense roasts or stuffed poultry, but keep the cooking time the same.
- For most baked goods, reduce the suggested oven temperature by 25°F and reduce the cooking time 10-25% as well.
- If you’re really in a hurry, try keeping the temperature the same as the recipe calls for, but reduce cooking time by 10-25%. (The first time you try this, you may want to closely monitor the recipe toward the end to pinpoint just how much time reduction is needed.)
Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius
Sometimes you'll come across a delicious recipe that originated in Europe so you'll need to convert the Celsius baking temperatures to Fahrenheit if you live in the US. Reference this chart for a quick reference between the two. Use our Easy Conversion Chart for more conversions.
Following these simple tips will ensure that your foods will come out of the oven just as you intended time after time, whether you’re baking a turkey for a family gathering or simply whipping up a batch of these Chocolate Chip Cookies as an after-school treat.