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Oven Setting vs. Separate Thermometer


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Just got to wondering why we all seem to accept that we should get oven thermometers instead of trusting the dial on the oven itself?

why would the thermometer you buy in the kitchen shop necessarily be any better than the one that comes with the oven?

I can well see how it may be better but should we just accept that it is better?

example: I've just got a shiny new Miele oven (electric) which cost about £1500 (so what, $2000+ at the moment?), why would I trust the oven thermometer I have which cost about £5 to be more accurate? If it does hold true that cheap oven thermometers are better than most/all in built ones, why don't oven manufacturers use them instead?

I think what I'm getting at is that unless you have a calibrated unit which you KNOW is right, why assume your oven's thermostat OR your separate thermometer are correct?

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Or, you can just buy two separate oven thermometers from two different manufacturers and be done with it :biggrin::laugh:

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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Interesting question. Maybe we use oven thermometers because we never quite "trust" the stove to do what it should. I first began using oven thermometers forty years ago, when I began cooking with wood-fired ranges - and it was necessary - and maybe that's the reason I still use one.

With my later gas ranges though, I've noticed that, say, I have the oven set to 400F; it shuts off when the thermometer in the oven registers much lower. Later, both the set temp and the thermometer agree. Never deviate.

So, maybe the oven thermometer is lagging during warm-up, or the oven heat sensor is placed where things get hot first. Who knows. Maybe we should go back to the old way of placing a hand in the oven and thereby know when to put in whatever it is that one wants to cook? The mysteries of cooking...

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Having bought and tested about 14 different digital thermometers, I wouldn't trust ANY of them before I calibrated them. An ice bath is good for 0C/32F, and a basal thermometer for 38C/100F, but most people don't have an ingot of tin lying around (melting point 232C/450F)! And the boiling point of water is too dependent upon altitude and barometric pressure to be much of a help.

Some infrared thermometers claim 1% accuracy, but that's 5 degrees at 500F. I've seen and returned units that were off by as much as 14F at 100F.

Calibration services will calibrate your thermometer for around $100. Or you can buy a reference thermometer accurate to 0.1F and certified to NIST standards for around $300. For a really good one, you'll pay more than you did for your oven!

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The oven in my apartment is very down-market and more than 10 years old - all analog/mechanical, no microprocessors.

It runs about 50 degrees F hotter than indicated at 300F, getting marginally more accurate at higher temperatures; about 15 - 20 degrees hotter than indicated at 450F.

I learned this the hard way when I first moved in - blindly trusting it led to very overcooked food the first time I used it.

An oven thermometer is about the only way I can cook with this oven. Even a cheap thermometer is vastly better than trusting the oven dial (no digital displays here). More expensive and accurate thermometers confirm this.

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My suspicion and I have nothing but my own experience as back up is that even the most accurate thermostat in an oven eventually drifts and it makes sense to me to occasionally check my oven temperature with a thermometer.

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Human Bean, mechanical oven thermostats are normally pretty easy to calibrate. You just pop the dial off, look behind it, and twist the gizmo until it reads right. Otherwise, your utility company is normally willing to do it for you.

Nonlinearity may or may not be fixed with this procedure.

Digital thermostats are a different issue.

Bob

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I'm not sure how useful accurate readings are-in general instinct and experience give much more accurate results than following recipes, which by their nature are fairly random in their instructions for use of the oven.

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Just got to wondering why we all seem to accept that we should get oven thermometers instead of trusting the dial on the oven itself?...

I think what I'm getting at is that unless you have a calibrated unit which you KNOW is right, why assume your oven's thermostat OR your separate thermometer are correct?

Its wrong to think there's any universal rule!

If you have a good, modern, high accuracy oven with an electronic control to the nearest 1°C, then believe it until the results force you to question its accuracy.

But if you have an antique with a mechanical switching thermostat that seems to require different cooking times or temperature settings as compared to what your trusted recipes state, then question it, check it against ANY plausible reference and adjust to improve (or get someone in to do it.) Cheap 'oven thermometers' may not be super accurate, but they will likely be more accurate than many people's oven thermostats.

Particularly in the kitchen, before accepting ANY advice being offered blindly (such as by tv chefs and others unaware of your individual knowledge, kit, circumstances or experience), its well worth asking yourself if that advice really applies in your specific case.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Just got to wondering why we all seem to accept that we should get oven thermometers instead of trusting the dial on the oven itself?...

I think what I'm getting at is that unless you have a calibrated unit which you KNOW is right, why assume your oven's thermostat OR your separate thermometer are correct?

Its wrong to think there's any universal rule!

If you have a good, modern, high accuracy oven with an electronic control to the nearest 1°C, then believe it until the results force you to question its accuracy.

But if you have an antique with a mechanical switching thermostat that seems to require different cooking times or temperature settings as compared to what your trusted recipes state, then question it, check it against ANY plausible reference and adjust to improve (or get someone in to do it.) Cheap 'oven thermometers' may not be super accurate, but they will likely be more accurate than many people's oven thermostats.

Particularly in the kitchen, before accepting ANY advice being offered blindly (such as by tv chefs and others unaware of your individual knowledge, kit, circumstances or experience), its well worth asking yourself if that advice really applies in your specific case.

Hi Dougal

that's exactly what I was getting it: the mantra of "get an oven thermometer, the thermostat in your cooker is rubbish" seems to be so ubiquitous that it seemed everyone just accepted it as the truth without questioning if the oven's own workings may actually do what they are meant to.

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...

that's exactly what I was getting it: the mantra of "get an oven thermometer, the thermostat in your cooker is rubbish" seems to be so ubiquitous that it seemed everyone just accepted it as the truth without questioning if the oven's own workings may actually do what they are meant to.

There might have been a time when it WAS near-universally true.

As advice goes, this is only bad advice nowadays IF it is given without qualification.

And there's plenty other out-of-date (or even nonsensical) kitchen advice given out.

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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One reason for the advice about using an oven thermometer is that I don't really know if the oven was calibrated correctly at the manufacturer before it was shipped. And then, it gets knocked around in transit, and who knows if it remains calibrated?

The oven I own has a function where the user can reset the digital readout up or down in 5 degree increments up to 25 degrees.

I have 2 thermometers in my oven - since they're fairly cheap and disposable. The one near the right wall toward the front can read as much as 15 to 25 degrees differently than the one in the middle rear or left side of the oven. So that perhaps is another reason for the thermometer in the oven - the heat inside the oven tends to vary depending on where the thermometer is placed.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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