If you read a recipe that requires an oven and see the words “depending on your oven“, you should know that we’re not trying to make the recipe difficult. In fact, we want you to know your oven because we certainly don’t know how your oven works or how it heats up.
Knowing how your oven works is the best way to bake in it.
How do you use an oven?
Only you can determine that and the only way to learn the tricks and tips when using your oven is through experience. You’ll have to use it to learn your oven’s quirks, and here’s a quick guide on how to learn to use your oven better:
1 Know your oven.
Is your oven a gas oven or an electric oven? Does it matter? Yes, it does! The way that these two ovens work is different with regards to its heating elements. Electric ovens have coils above and below the racks that are superheated to produce the heat in its chamber. Gas ovens have gas lines running along the bottom of the oven only.
What does this mean for your baking?
Electic ovens are naturally more versatile with its heating options. You can turn on or off the top or bottom heating coils, producing different levels of heating coming from either the top or the bottom or from both. Gas ovens meanwhile are not as versatile since the flames can only be produced from the bottom of the oven chamber. All this means is that you can bake and roast many dishes in both ovens but you can only broil using an electric oven since broiling usually means only the top of the food being seared over intense heat.
Another aspect of your oven that you need to know are the functions. Oven functions range from turning any of these functions on and off: the heating elements, the fan, the rotisserie function, and finally, the oven light. Some ovens have the light automatically turn on as long as the oven is on, too. The rotisserie is a fantastic way to cook roasted chicken and large slabs of pork and beef because it’s continually rotating as it cooks. Think of this function as the spit you don’t have to turn placed over a campfire, but will still result in perfectly roasted dishes. Its effect is actually similar to that of a turbo broiler, especially if you turn on the fan.
2 Identify the hot spots.
Ovens are notorious for having hot spots. Hot spots are areas in the oven that heat up faster compared to other parts of the oven. There can be any number of hot spots in any oven so it’s a good idea to know where these are because these are the areas that will brown or burn faster.
These hot spots are actually the reasons why turning your baking pan or tray around halfway through cooking is done, to prevent any of these hot spots from burning your food. This will also try to offset those hotter parts and attempt to more evenly cook your food.
How do you find these hot spots?
The easiest way is to line a large baking sheet or the drip tray that came with the oven with parchment and 1/2 inch of flour. Place this in a preheated 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) oven and let it brown. This can take around 30 minutes or more, depending on your oven, but the key here is to allow the flour to brown. These browns spots are your hot spots. You may already know where these spots are when you find that your cake browns in a spot faster than in others. This is a sure way of knowing exactly where those spots are.
3 Use an oven thermometer.
Most ovens have a built-in dial thermometer so you know how to preheat your oven. However, it’s rare that these are accurate. You can actually be heating up your oven hotter or colder than you need it to be. To be more accurate, use an oven thermometer like this one placed in the center of your oven as it preheats for at least 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, you’ll see how hot your oven got and you can tell for sure whether your built-in thermometer is as accurate as it should be.
4 Learn to clean it.
You did it. You used your oven. Now comes the hard part: cleaning your oven. Once you’ve used your oven, it naturally will have food particles left behind. This can be anything from pork fat that sizzled and splashed onto the top of the oven or splotched onto the bottom of the oven to a drop of cupcake batter that dripped from the cupcake tin as you placed it in the hot oven and burned.
Any piece of food left in the oven are all going to burn if it’s not cleaned out before the next baking project. One of the best ways to regularly clean your oven is to clean it like your stove: with a damp sponge with a little dishwashing soap. Remove all traces of food particles and when necessary use the abrasive side of your sponge to get those stubborn grease stains out.
For extremely stubborn stains, it’s recommended you soak the stains in a paste of baking soda and vinegar overnight or use an oven cleaner for best results.
Cooking in an oven can be one of the easiest ways to cook! It’s almost effortless once you have your food in the oven because once it’s in there, it’s just a matter of waiting for the food to be roasted to perfection with the least amount of supervision from you.
Want to try out your cooking skills using the oven? Here are recipes we think you should try:
Do you have a toaster oven instead of a full-sized oven or countertop oven? You can still do many things with your smaller toaster oven that you can do with a full-sized one! Here’s what you should do when using a toaster oven instead:
- Don’t preheat. The toaster oven chamber is usually so small that preheating is not necessary. You will be able to heat up the chamber in a few minutes.
- Use foil. Since toaster ovens are smaller, that also means the heating coils are closer to your food. You may have to cover your food with foil to prevent burning the tops before the rest of it is cooked through. Plus, if you place foil under the food, you speed up cleaning, too!
- Watch the heat and time. Smaller ovens mean faster heating and that can lead to food cooking faster, burning easier than normal. So, it’s good practice to pay attention to both the heat (it might be too hot) and the time (it may be cooked already).