- Food and Cooking
Do You Know How to Use Your Oven Properly?
Hot Tips for Getting the Best Out of Your Oven
How well do you know your kitchen oven? Is it just a box in the corner of your kitchen that gets really darn hot? Every oven has its own unique hot and cold spots, and understanding these, and the other individual quirks of your oven, is the key to successful baking and roasting.
Oven Mistake No.1 - Religiously Following the Cookbook
You have spent good money on all the ingredients, studied the recipe, and prepared the food as per the instructions. Now it is time to place your masterpiece in the oven. The recipe says cook for twenty minutes on the middle shelf at 200 degrees or gas mark 6 until golden brown for example. Of course, all you normally do is follow the cookery instructions to the letter, and hope for the best.
But My Food does not Look Like the Picture in the Cook Book : Why?
However, as you well know, what comes out your oven often doesn't look like the picture in the recipe book or it is over or under cooked. Sometimes, the top of the food is hardly cooked and the bottom nearly black. This happens simply because you don't understand how to get the best out of your oven.
Every Oven is Different Including Yours :
Every oven works differently, including the same model. Each have their own unique hot and cold spots, temperature fluctuations and little quirks. The secret to successful cooking is understanding your oven fully and how to get the best out of it.
Baking Trial and Error 101 :
There is no simple method to working out the best for your oven. It is a case of a bit of trial and error. But the signs will be there already as you have probably noticed that somethings cook better at the top of the oven or vice a versa, or one side of the baking tray is cooked and the other is half cooked. Take note of these quirks as you going to need them later.
Your Oven Lies to You : Yes it does !
Every oven lies about its actual temperature inside compared to what it says on the dial. It could say 200 degrees or gas mark 6, but inside the actual temperature could vary from as high as 220 right down to 180 degrees. Of course, this difference could have a marked effect on your cooking.
Be Accurate : Buy an Oven Thermometer today !
Add to this the variation of temperature that oven’s thermostat cuts in and out at, and basically you haven’t got a clue how hot it is in there. The only way to be sure of the correct heat is to buy a separate oven thermometer and place it the oven while cooking for an accurate reading.
Seven Obvious Oven Safety Tips :
1) Use oven gloves/mitts always - finger tips are not burn proof !
2) Turn off the fan (if the oven has one) and always stand to one side of the oven before you open it - you know why as you probably had a face full of burning hot steam already.
3) Clean the oven regularly, otherwise you will be cooking for the fire brigade too.
4) Get the shelves in the right place before turning the oven on - major heat loss / burn factor as you try to move them while the oven is at full heat.
5) If something catches fire in the oven - turn off the power /gas and don't open the door until fire goes out - never throw water into the oven to put out the flames !
6) Have a working smoke alarm/toast detector in your kitchen and never leave cooking food unattended.
7) If all else fails turn off the oven, throw the cook book in the trash and retire to the nearest decent restaurant.
Keep that oven door shut !
Lastly, keep the oven door shut. Yes, every time you open that door, the heat rushes right out past you, and it takes a couple of minutes at least for the oven to recover that heat again. If you really must look, look through the glass door.
Oven Mistake No.2 - Keep opening the oven door
The dramatic drop in heat from the door being open will have a major effect on cooking times. Seriously, try to keep the oven door closed throughout the entire cooking period. If you have to open it for basting a roast or turning a tray around make sure that oven door is open and shut as quick as possible.
Finding Your Hot Spots :
Apart from keeping the door closed, you need to place your cooking in the hottest part of the oven. Not in the middle, top or bottom of the oven as advised in your favourite cook book. The hottest part may be the complete opposite to where the book advises, but as mentioned, every oven is different. In addition, you may need to rotate your tray or dish through a 45 or 90 degrees during the cooking period to even out the baking.
Foil Over Cooking :
Also be prepared to cover any item that looks as if it is starting to catch on the top with aluminium foil to deflect the heat while the rest of your cake or roast cooks.
Only You Know Your Oven Better :
Getting the best from your oven is all down to getting to know your oven personally, and understand how its hot spots and temperature fluctuations effect different foods while they cook.
Don’t just follow that cook book religiously in regard to cooking instructions, as these are often based on the author’s own oven, which is not the same as your or my oven. Be prepared to adjust the cooking instructions as necessary, because you know your oven better.