Baking Tip: Knowing Your Oven’s Real Temperature

by Jeanne on July 1, 2010

Hey all!  I’ve been getting lots of questions on this topic, so I thought I would address it: oven temperature and making sure it’s correct.

If you are a baking nerd like me, you read about a lot about this.  Every baking book talks about it.  And it might sound like something only the Cordon Bleu does.  But, I am here to tell you that making sure your oven is heating to the correct temperature is absolutely one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your baked goods turn out well.

I have lived in many places, with all sorts of different ovens, and only one of those ovens has actually heated to the temperature it says on the dial.  And don’t even get me started on the first oven that came with the house when we bought it–it would just turn off in the middle of baking, so forget about correct baking temperature.  Craziness.

Anyway, in the same way that using correct pans will help you be successful in your baking projects, knowing what temperature your oven is heating to is extremely important.  What I recommend to counteract this is to get an oven thermometer that will live in your oven.  They are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most places that have even minimal kitchen tools.  Here’s one of the many you can find on the market.

If you haven’t done this before, I recommend that you do a few simple tests before you bake much more.  Place the oven thermometer in your oven and and heat your oven to 350 degrees.  I would heat it for one hour.  After an hour, check the thermometer and see what the temperature is.  You may want to tap the front of the dial to make sure the hands aren’t sticking.  If it is not 350, what temperature is it?  Keep notes.  So, if your oven heats to 325 when you set it to 350, then you know that you need to set it to 350 when you need it to heat to 325.

Now set your dial to 375 and see what temperature it heats to after an hour.  If it heats to 350, then you can make the educated guess that your oven runs 25 degrees cold.  Do one more test to see if this is indeed the situation.  Heat your oven to 400.  Check the temperature after an hour.  If it says 375, then you can be fairly sure that your oven is regularly heating 25 degrees less than the dial on your oven face says.

That said, you will want to check the oven temperature every time you bake–just to make sure the oven is still heating the the temperature you think it’s heating to.  If you have an old oven, or a vintage oven, you might have a situation where the oven heats to random temperatures every time.

This information will be invaluable to you in your baking adventures.  Even though I’m pretty familiar with my oven, I still check the temperature on the thermometer every time I heat the oven.  I always want to make sure I’m baking things at the correct temperature.

Have fun!

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