Almost every single baking recipe starts with an instruction to preheat your oven. This step sounds so simple, but it is actually the single most difficult step in baking. Unless you have left an ingredient out by mistake or you’re dealing with a recipe that is flawed (i.e. an instruction has been left out), many baking problems are cause by incorrect oven temperature and can be solved by preheating your oven correctly to ensure that it has reached the temperature you need to bake. It sounds obvious, but I can attest to the fact that it is incredibly tempting to put a tray of unbaked cookies into the oven without having to wait for a preheat.
The first step to preheating an oven is to turn it on to the temperature you want it to be. In my old oven, this involved turning a dial. In my newer, more modern oven, this involves hitting a few buttons.
Step two is waiting at least 10 minutes (probably longer) and then checking your oven thermometer to see if the temperature is correct. This step is crucial. Older ovens don’t have indicators that tell you when the oven has reached the desired temperature, so you must rely on a thermometer. Newer ovens often have sound indicators that alert you the oven has been preheated – and they often have nothing to do with the temperature inside of the oven. A thermometer placed in the center of the oven (or close to it) is the only way to be positive that the temperature is correct.
Now you can place your unbaked cakes or cookies inside, but be aware that every time you open the oven door that the temperature will drop slightly. Ideally, you will leave the door closed until the product is almost fully baked to try to maintain that constant temperature.
Very common problems cause by an oven temperature that is too low include pie fillings that won’t set and crusts that are soggy, cookies that spread too much and cakes that sink in the center or never fully rise. Common high temperature oven problems include cracked cakes and cheesecakes and, of course, burned cookie bottoms and pie crusts.
CindyOctober 6, 2011
I just bought a GE True Temp oven and so far I am very pleased with baking results. I didn’t realize it only has heating elements on top so I was concerned. The only thing that didn’t turn out was baked potatoes but I may have rushed them.
KenniOctober 6, 2011
I should probably get an oven thermometer. I’m pretty sure my oven is warmer than I set the temperature and as a result, everything browns too quickly. Maybe you could do a post comparing oven thermometers or about what you should look for in a good one so I’m not shopping blind?
raineyOctober 6, 2011
Good tip! But can I add that if you keep a baking stone in your oven that whatever indicator you have, allow at least 45 minutes so that the stone is thoroughly preheated as well.
You can, of course, remove the stone if you’re not actively baking bread or pizza but I find that 1) the chance of dropping and breaking it plummets when you don’t move it unnecessarily and 2) it does an *excellent* job of keeping the temperature constant even if you’re opening the door to check on things or to remove and load in your baking.
NicoleOctober 6, 2011
Kenni – Great idea. I’ll have to do a post on that. In the meantime, here is a roundup that Cook’s Illustrated did on that subject: http://bakingbites.com/2010/12/cooks-illustrated-test-oven-thermometers/
Rainey – Great tips!
BrendaOctober 7, 2011
We’ve had our GE Profile dual fuel range for a little over a year…LOVE IT!!!
Anita StraussOctober 7, 2011
What great tips! I think this article just explained why every time I bake things in my oven everything comes out burnt to a crisp.
MirandaOctober 11, 2011
Never thought about this, but all very true. I have a newer oven, but should get a thermometer to double check it. If nothing, it helps if you have one just to check every once in a while that the temp is calibrated.
ywlimOctober 14, 2011
I have a New Oven with top and bottom heating
Frist time to make cake Can anyone can tell me
To make a butter cake, Which heating do I use
Top or Bottom or give me a ideal
praseethaAugust 29, 2013
this is my first time with an oven (IFB). i have a doubt that is there any sound comes out while pre heating the oven? when i started to bake a cake while preheating the oven a beep sound came out continously……why? my cake was ruined also!!!am very sad pls help me.