This Is Why Being Paranoid About Your Oven Is A Good Thing
You are not alone.
Are you a newbie baker? Did you just buy your first oven and are ready to get baking?
Before you start your first baking project, however, here is some useful baking advice to help your first batch of cookies or cupcakes be the big success that it should be: be suspicious of your oven.
You might be surprised by this advice because the oven will soon be your new best friend. It will be the one that will create pillowy soft chiffon cakes, the elusive homemade soft-batch cookies, and seriously pretty rainbow sprinkles cupcakes from your bowl of cake batter and cookie dough.
However, just like many best friends, it takes time to make that friend a trusted one. You have to get to know that friend enough to know what that friend is like, when it runs hot or cold, or when it is lying to you.
Yes, your oven may run hot, may run cold, and may even be lying to you.
So, how well do you know your oven? When do you know it's hot enough, too cold, or even not telling you the truth about how hot or cold it's running?
You don't until you either know it better or have an oven thermometer to tell you exactly how it's running.
One of the first things you will do when baking anything is to set your oven to the temperature stated in the recipe. This is usually done at least 20 minutes before you place your batter inside and begin the countdown until it's baked through.
This is called preheating your oven and unless your recipe instructs you to not preheat your oven, you will need to do this every time, before you even start your recipe. However, the fussing with your oven doesn't stop there because you need to know our oven.
Here are two big reasons why you should check in on your oven regularly to avoid it lying to you:
1 Not all ovens heat up evenly.
No oven runs perfectly. Even the most expensive oven in the market may be off by a degree or two or even more. The only way to know is to use it as often as you can so you can identify where the spots are that heat up faster than others.
There is a test you can do if you really want to know but it will require a lot of flour or salt. Here's what to do:
- 1. Preheat your oven to the maximum temperature for about 20 minutes. (This is usually around over 400 degrees F or 220 degrees C.)
- 2. Use the drip tray, baking sheet, or baking pan, and cover its surface with an even layer of flour or salt.
- 3. Place this in the center of a preheated oven and leave it in the oven until the top of the layer begins to brown.
- 4. Remove the tray from the oven and observe where the areas are that browned first.
These areas that browned first are your hot spots. These hot spots are also the reason why you need to rotate your baking pans around so it can bake more evenly.
2 Not all ovens are accurate.
The other way your oven is lying to you is its temperature. It can run hotter or colder than you think it is. Most ovens are equipped with a temperature gauge. You turn your oven to a certain temperature and, unless you have another way to determine the temperature inside the hot oven, you assume it's heating up at the right temperature.
This is one of the many reasons why some baked goods are become over baked or underbaked despite the recipe saying it will bake in 20 or so minutes. The only true test is to use an oven thermometer. An oven thermometer will run in the hottest oven. It's meant to be used in a hot oven so there's no worry that it will melt.
How do you use an oven thermometer? Place it in the center of the rack where the baking pan will be placed. Wait until the gauge is steady before noting the temperature. You may notice a difference of a few degrees hotter or colder to as much as 10 or more degrees difference between it and your oven temperature gauge.
These are the reasons why we say it's okay to be paranoid about your oven! Until you have complete confidence in your baking skills and you know how your oven works, you will find that being a little paranoid about how your oven is doing as it bakes your cake will relieve your mind.