Perfect Baking 101 (Lesson Four) :: How to bake things in the oven

Now that you’ve got your rack in the right place, your oven set to the right temperature (lesson two) and your oven preheated correctly (lesson three), we are ready to put something in the oven!!

Unless otherwise stated in your recipe, your should always be baking on the middle rack—directly in the middle of the oven. If you have an odd-placed oven-rack, and it must either be above or below the middle, always go lower. Though there is a second oven rack available, it’s not recommended to do two-tiered baking (baking on both racks at the same time) for home kitchens.

Problems:

  • Uneven cake layers (one side bakes higher than the other)
  • Uneven baked cookies (some well-browned, others raw)
  • Uneven browning of quick breads (one side browned, other not)

Solution:

  • Make sure you have mastered lessons one – three
  • After goodie is in the oven, set time for 60% of the minimum suggested baking time (i.e. recipe states to bake for 20-25 minutes; 60% of 20 minutes= 12 minutes)
  • When timer beeps, open oven door and quickly reach in and rotate the baking sheet (or what-other container), so that the left-side of the pan is now on the right-side of the oven, and vice versa; do this very gently as to not disturb the air bubbles that are gently leavening your baked goods
  • Set the timer for the remainder of the minimum baking time to continue baking

Voila! No more half-baked unfortunate goodies!

Perfect Baking 101 (lesson three) :: How to preheat your oven

Ironically, this is probably the one thing that everyone feels is the easiest part of baking—however, great failures occur in this simple step. Now that you’ve got your oven thermometer (lesson one) and you’ve calibrated your oven (lesson two), it’s time to combine the two and learn how to preheat your oven!

When your oven **beeps** signaling to you that it is preheated, it is actually telling you that the coil (or base, if you have a gas oven) is up the appropriate temperature. However, what you need to wait for is the entire oven to come to the same temperature. This takes a minimum of 20 minutes…often up to 30 minutes.

These are all the result of placing baked goods into an inappropriately pre-heated oven:

  • Burnt cookie bottoms
  • Dried-out cakes and meats
  • Overly-crispy pie crusts
  • Unleavened or sunken muffins

If goodies are tossed in the oven before the oven is completely hot, the outside of the goodies bakes at a faster rate than the inside, causing the above, and very unappetizing results. Waiting a full 30-minutes allows the heat to expand and fill the entire oven so that when you place your goodies in your now-calibrated oven to bake, the goodies will bake at an even rate, from top-to-bottom and inside-out.

Perfect Baking 101 (Lesson Two): Calibrating your oven

Now that you’ve got your handy oven thermometer (what?? not yet? Well, hop to it—lesson one: get on the perfect baking bandwagon!), you need to be taught how to use it!

Okay, yes, it really is as simple as the package says: 1. open package, 2. place on oven rack. Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s get to the hardest part of all: trust! Now that you’ve spent your $6.99 on the oven thermometer, you’ve got to trust what it tells you.

  1. Place the thermometer in the middle of a rack which has been placed at the middle shelf of the oven. P
  2. Preheat your oven to 325º F. Wait 30* minutes. Yes, 30* full minutes (absolutely no skimping)! While you’re waiting, print out the Oven Calibration Chart.
  3. After 30 minutes, open your oven door and take a peek. If the thermometer says 325º, congrats—your oven is dead-on (skip to the next paragraph and continue). If not, you need to make the degree subtraction or addition to find the difference. For instance, if your oven says 350º, your oven runs 25º too hot. Therefore, jot down “therm=350, oven dial=325.”
  4. Continue to adjust the oven dial in 25º increments and allow a full 10** minutes before looking at the thermometer. Continue to jot down the temperature on your oven dial, as well as the reading on the oven thermometer, until you’ve reached 450º on your thermometer.
  5. Take your notes and translate them to the chart (doing the appropriate additions/subtractions for your personal oven settings) so that you will never miss-heat your oven, again!

Your chart should now be your go-to when setting your oven. Choose the recipe temperature, then refer to the chart to know to what level you set your oven dial.

my oven chart

clickety for large & printable chart

* 30 minutes will allow your oven enough time to stabilize so you can receive the most accurate reading
**10 minutes will allow your oven to adjust to the new temperature and re-stabilize


Perfect Baking 101 (Lesson One): Oven Thermometer

 

After you go through the effort of pain-stakingly making your cookies and cakes from scratch (from a box is okay, too), to have the goodie fail in the oven is just more than most beginner bakers can bear. It really can be terribly discouraging. The incorrect oven temperature is the leading cause of:

  • burnt cookies
  • fallen cakes
  • undercooked breads
  • overcooked buns
  • half-burnt/half-raw pizza
  • uneven biscuits

If you want to improve your baking 200%, even with “break-n-bake” cookies, invest $7 in a tool that will save ample headaches and self-esteem! The simple task of knowing that your oven is the appropriate temperature allows you to turn out those perfect-picture treats you’ve spent the afternoon making!

MIU $6.99 Oven Thermometer <–clickety

 

Oven Thermometer

Baked From Scratch