One thing I’ve learned by cooking A LOT is that you can never really trust your oven. I don’t care how expensive it is – all ovens have hotter spots and very few, if any, are totally true to temperature.
My tip today? A little getting to know you session with your oven. A way to understand it a little better. Here are a few ways to do just that:
- The bread test. It’s simple. All you do is arrange bread slices to cover the middle oven rack. Bake at 350° for a few minutes, and see which slices get singed―their location marks your oven’s hot spot(s). If you know you have a hot spot in, say, the back left corner, avoid putting pans in that location, or rotate accordingly.
- Use a thermometer and do a true temperature test. This is kind of time consuming, but pretty useful information to have, especially if you do a lot of baking. For detailed instructions on how to perform a temperature test, check out this post from The Art of Gluten Free Baking.
- Finally, you can throw all exactness to the wind…and pay attention to your oven. I know it sounds a little funny, but think about it…people were using heat to cook and ovens to bake LONG before thermometers were invented. They used their senses – smell, sight, touch, taste – to cook their food. While it may not be convenient, or something you want to spend a lot of time on, it may be worth tuning in to your oven while you’re baking. Check in on your food. This article over at Slate is a really interesting read about the art of using an oven. And it does also offer some practical, modern advice…if you don’t trust your senses, trust a thermometer you actually stick into your food. That’s the very best way to make sure you’re cooking your dishes to the correct temperature.
So how’s your relationship with YOUR oven? Friend or foe? I have a challenge for you…take the time and get to know your oven a little better and make it work harder for you!