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Alien in a Strange Kitchen


Mjx
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Have any of you relied exclusively on probe thermometers when roasting (as opposed to apparent oven temperature), and if so, how has that worked out?

Recently, my boyfriend and I sold our flat, so our super-familiar and reliable Gaggenau oven and stove are sitting in boxes next to our bed in his parents' place, where we're staying while we house-hunt. I won't even go into all the kitchen utensils and appliances (each of which was chosen with the sort of rigor normally reserved for selecting a heart surgeon) languishing in their boxes, and for which there is no room.

The stove works a bit oddly, and it isn't possible keep on hand things like stock, since there's no room in the refrigerator, but my biggest concern is with the oven, which goes back to the 80s, and fairly unreliable. My first thought was that I could simply rely on a probe thermometer, but the oven's temperature may be off my as much as 30C/85F (judging by a few results so far), and since the rate at which something heats does have an effect on final results, I'm wondering how this is going to work out. The oven thermometer is a no-go, because you cannot see in through the front of the oven.

I'd love to hear about anyone else's efforts, results, or workarounds in this area.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Set an empty oven to 350F, wait an hour or so until it stabilizes, then use an oven/probe/IR thermometer to check the internal temp and note the bias. The next time you bake something, take the bias into account. (eg: If you set it to 350 and it reads 320, the next time you need a recipe that cooks at 300F, set the oven to 330F instead.)

Edited by Shalmanese (log)

PS: I am a guy.

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Good chance to hone your cooking-without-the-use-of-an-oven skills ? Japanese & Chinese homes haven't had them till very recently (most Japanese still don't); French & Italian ones until what ? The 80's ?

What is it that you feel the oven's essential for ?

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Good chance to hone your cooking-without-the-use-of-an-oven skills ? Japanese & Chinese homes haven't had them till very recently (most Japanese still don't); French & Italian ones until what ? The 80's ?

What is it that you feel the oven's essential for ?

Hah. The thing is, we're sharing the kitchen with my boyfriend's parents, who naturally have dibs on its use. Typically, the stovetop is taken, and when they're done, the pots and pans go in the dishwasher. They aren't running the hot water in the kitchen (something about the pipes) so washing up in the sink is also fairly frustrating (and messy, because they have a 15cm/6", shallow sink, lots of splashing on the wood surround). They only want the dishwasher run once a day.

Expanding my very limited repertoire of things that are done in the oven is looking like the best option, at the moment.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Shalmanese makes a great point about a simple adjustment method.

I find that long slow braised types of dishes work well in an oven that may not be at peak performance. They also re-heat well. We discussed the no-soak 90 minute beans in the oven method here. My grandmother always baked her rice to take advantage of the oven that was already cooking the rest of the meal. Roasting vegetables is not an exact temperature science either.

Good luck. Sounds like a patience challenge.

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If you do the Shalmanese experiment, you may want to do it at three temps - low, med, hot oven, and check if the adjustment is constant.

Also consider baking a tray of cookies to see if it heats evenly front to back, side to side.

If not, and you can tolerate notably increased preheat and cool-down times, a pizza stone or tiles in the bottom helps even out the temp.

And then there's careful selection of forgiving recipes - ratatouille instead of roast beef, etc. Happy house hunting!

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Set an empty oven to 350F, wait an hour or so until it stabilizes, then use an oven/probe/IR thermometer to check the internal temp and note the bias. The next time you bake something, take the bias into account. (eg: If you set it to 350 and it reads 320, the next time you need a recipe that cooks at 300F, set the oven to 330F instead.)

I've been thinking of that, but the thing that makes the oven sort of challenging is that it seems to have random, unpredictable fluctuations, mostly downward, but occasionally upward. I'm not planning on baking anything finicky, that's certain!

Shalmanese makes a great point about a simple adjustment method.

I find that long slow braised types of dishes work well in an oven that may not be at peak performance. They also re-heat well. We discussed the no-soak 90 minute beans in the oven method here. My grandmother always baked her rice to take advantage of the oven that was already cooking the rest of the meal. Roasting vegetables is not an exact temperature science either.

Good luck. Sounds like a patience challenge.

Thanks, and you have a good point. I braised some chicken thighs tonight, and they went down well, so I'll probably try that again. I really just need to sort of wean myself from being so stove-top reliant. One good thing is that it's already very cool here, so the heat generated by the oven over several hours is actually a plus.

If you do the Shalmanese experiment, you may want to do it at three temps - low, med, hot oven, and check if the adjustment is constant.

Also consider baking a tray of cookies to see if it heats evenly front to back, side to side.

If not, and you can tolerate notably increased preheat and cool-down times, a pizza stone or tiles in the bottom helps even out the temp.

And then there's careful selection of forgiving recipes - ratatouille instead of roast beef, etc. Happy house hunting!

Good ideas, although I'm thinking of making the latter experiment with toast, since baking a bunch of cookies and having them kind of tank would be a little depressing (it happened once before, last year around the holidays).

This is really new territory for me, so I'm trying to look at the positive side of it :)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Make sugar cookies. cheap, easy, and who cares if they tank? They taste awful anyway. :wink:

Dog biscuits?

(I think the loss of toast would bother me more. Toast Is Good Food!)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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If it was me I would give up on the oven altogether and go get an electric frying pan and rice cooker - would that be a reasonable option for you with regards to counter space and washing up? I suggest this because I lived in a bedsit for two years where my 'kitchen' consisted of a minuscule sink/fridge/2 burner stove unit, in which the stove was forever breaking down. The electric frypan is fairly quick to clean, adapts to a wide range of dishes and can be used on any stable surface (mine was on a dresser).

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Make sugar cookies. cheap, easy, and who cares if they tank? They taste awful anyway. :wink:

Dog biscuits?

(I think the loss of toast would bother me more. Toast Is Good Food!)

Good point, BUT since Danish toasters are the flat, incredibly inefficient kind, making a batch of toast in the oven would actually be not be a waste. I could just keep an eye on the toast, and pull it before it starts throwing out billows of smoke. Not to mention, if I made an oven-trayful of toast, it's be so appreciated... even if they had to scrape some of it a little lighter :wink:

If the oven is suffering from temperature fluctuation problems as well, add some thermal mass. Line the bottom of the oven with bricks wrapped in aluminium foil and then do the temperature calibration again.

This is going to sound really apathetic, but I just don't have the motivation in this case to buy the bricks (about USD10, here). The arrangement is temporary, and my boyfriend's parents really don't have a problem with it, but actually find it amusing.

If it was me I would give up on the oven altogether and go get an electric frying pan and rice cooker - would that be a reasonable option for you with regards to counter space and washing up? I suggest this because I lived in a bedsit for two years where my 'kitchen' consisted of a minuscule sink/fridge/2 burner stove unit, in which the stove was forever breaking down. The electric frypan is fairly quick to clean, adapts to a wide range of dishes and can be used on any stable surface (mine was on a dresser).

Cooking rice is one thing I am actually in charge of, since my boyfriend's mother finds it irritating and challenging, and what you suggest is prompting me to expand my repertoire of rice-based dishes. Unfortunately, most of the time there wouldn't be anyplace to put an electric frying pan, and it can't go in the dishwasher (and washing up pans with cold water is really aggravating).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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If the oven is suffering from temperature fluctuation problems as well, add some thermal mass. Line the bottom of the oven with bricks wrapped in aluminium foil and then do the temperature calibration again.

This is going to sound really apathetic, but I just don't have the motivation in this case to buy the bricks (about USD10, here). The arrangement is temporary, and my boyfriend's parents really don't have a problem with it, but actually find it amusing.

I don't want to know how much a brick house costs at $10 a brick. Around here, bricks cost 30 - 50 cents a piece and they'll often just give you a couple for free if you're only asking for 1 or 2.

PS: I am a guy.

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Set an empty oven to 350F, wait an hour or so until it stabilizes, then use an oven/probe/IR thermometer to check the internal temp and note the bias. The next time you bake something, take the bias into account. (eg: If you set it to 350 and it reads 320, the next time you need a recipe that cooks at 300F, set the oven to 330F instead.)

That would work if the thermostat in the oven was off in a linear fashion. I've found they almost never are. The oven that is 30 degrees off at 300f, might be 10f off at 250f and 50f off at 500f.

I would test the oven at a range of commonly used temperatures. If it's always off by the same amount, GREAT. But I'll betcha a Côte d'Or Chokotoff that it isn't, though.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Set an empty oven to 350F, wait an hour or so until it stabilizes, then use an oven/probe/IR thermometer to check the internal temp and note the bias. The next time you bake something, take the bias into account. (eg: If you set it to 350 and it reads 320, the next time you need a recipe that cooks at 300F, set the oven to 330F instead.)

That would work if the thermostat in the oven was off in a linear fashion. I've found they almost never are. The oven that is 30 degrees off at 300f, might be 10f off at 250f and 50f off at 500f.

I would test the oven at a range of commonly used temperatures. If it's always off by the same amount, GREAT. But I'll betcha a Côte d'Or Chokotoff that it isn't, though.

Really? AFAIK, most ovens (cheap ones anyway, I have no idea what fancy ovens use) use a bimetallic strip for which the thermal characteristics are well known and changes in temperature are linear across a range (eg: a N degree change in temperature will always cause an M inch displacement in the strip). Errors in calibration are only what displacement of the strip corresponds to to what internal temperature.

Any additional variance you see might be coming from two sources:

1. The oven heats unevenly which causes some parts of the oven to be warmer than others.

2. The oven cycles slowly which means, depending on what part of the cycle you check it, the temperature may vary by quite a large amount.

If you want additional precision, place a cast iron pan in the middle oven and check the temperature at 350F both when the heating element just clicks on and just clicks off and average the two numbers with an IR thermometer. Point to the direct center of the pan each time.

PS: I am a guy.

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If the oven is suffering from temperature fluctuation problems as well, add some thermal mass. Line the bottom of the oven with bricks wrapped in aluminium foil and then do the temperature calibration again.

This is going to sound really apathetic, but I just don't have the motivation in this case to buy the bricks (about USD10, here). The arrangement is temporary, and my boyfriend's parents really don't have a problem with it, but actually find it amusing.

I don't want to know how much a brick house costs at $10 a brick. Around here, bricks cost 30 - 50 cents a piece and they'll often just give you a couple for free if you're only asking for 1 or 2.

It's Denmark! Everything is shudderingly expensive! On the other hand, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and it has a great social security system.

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If the oven is suffering from temperature fluctuation problems as well, add some thermal mass. Line the bottom of the oven with bricks wrapped in aluminium foil and then do the temperature calibration again.

This is going to sound really apathetic, but I just don't have the motivation in this case to buy the bricks (about USD10, here). The arrangement is temporary, and my boyfriend's parents really don't have a problem with it, but actually find it amusing.

I don't want to know how much a brick house costs at $10 a brick. Around here, bricks cost 30 - 50 cents a piece and they'll often just give you a couple for free if you're only asking for 1 or 2.

It's Denmark! Everything is shudderingly expensive! On the other hand, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and it has a great social security system.

In that case, anything with thermal mass which can survive heating/cooling can be used. If you have any cast iron pans, you can store them in your oven as long as it never goes about 400F.

PS: I am a guy.

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If the oven is suffering from temperature fluctuation problems as well, add some thermal mass. Line the bottom of the oven with bricks wrapped in aluminium foil and then do the temperature calibration again.

This is going to sound really apathetic, but I just don't have the motivation in this case to buy the bricks (about USD10, here). The arrangement is temporary, and my boyfriend's parents really don't have a problem with it, but actually find it amusing.

I don't want to know how much a brick house costs at $10 a brick. Around here, bricks cost 30 - 50 cents a piece and they'll often just give you a couple for free if you're only asking for 1 or 2.

It's Denmark! Everything is shudderingly expensive! On the other hand, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and it has a great social security system.

That's it in a nutshell. Except about the food. The food is, erm.... edible. Yes. That's it. Entirely edible.

Incidentally, I asked a few more people about the cost of bricks, and got wildly varying answers, except in one respect: Everyone wanted to know why I didn't just, well, 'appropriate' some. I don't think the brick idea is going to fly with my boyfriend's parents, however.

. . . .

In that case, anything with thermal mass which can survive heating/cooling can be used. If you have any cast iron pans, you can store them in your oven as long as it never goes about 400F.

Since the bricks don't look like they're going to happen, and bread is regularly baked (according to the dial, and, occasionally, the thermometer in the oven) at 210C or higher (=410F), the cast iron pan thing isn't likely to be workable, I'd still really like to know:

Do any of you have any success with relying primarily on a probe thermometer temperature when you use the oven? This really is looking like my best bet, if it's doable.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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Do any of you have any success with relying primarily on a probe thermometer temperature when you use the oven? This really is looking like my best bet, if it's doable.

Why not just try it?

That's the plan. It's also useful to hear from people who've tried something one has in mind, and get the benefit of their experience.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I don't want to know how much a brick house costs at $10 a brick. Around here, bricks cost 30 - 50 cents a piece and they'll often just give you a couple for free if you're only asking for 1 or 2.

It's Denmark! Everything is shudderingly expensive! On the other hand, the food is delicious, the people are friendly and it has a great social security system.

That's it in a nutshell. Except about the food. The food is, erm.... edible. Yes. That's it. Entirely edible.

Incidentally, I asked a few more people about the cost of bricks, and got wildly varying answers, except in one respect: Everyone wanted to know why I didn't just, well, 'appropriate' some. I don't think the brick idea is going to fly with my boyfriend's parents, however.

I have fond memories of the food I ate in Denmark, except for the sild (cured herring) {shudder}. Danish food always struck me as more refined than German, but along a similar vein. Of course, most of my food memories of the place are from when I was a teenager who approved of things like potatoes in caramel and was impressed with eating good bread, which was tough to come by where I grew up. But Christmas food is delicious, so at least you've got that to look forward to.

If a purloined brick or two from someone's garden is unapproved by the oven owners, give a thought to the cast iron. I regularly cook pizza in my oven using a cast iron pan as my 'stone' at 210-220 C and it's worked well. I wasn't aware of any potential problems using it at that temperature and have never experienced any.

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That's it in a nutshell. Except about the food. The food is, erm.... edible. Yes. That's it. Entirely edible.

Incidentally, I asked a few more people about the cost of bricks, and got wildly varying answers, except in one respect: Everyone wanted to know why I didn't just, well, 'appropriate' some. I don't think the brick idea is going to fly with my boyfriend's parents, however.

I have fond memories of the food I ate in Denmark, except for the sild (cured herring) {shudder}. Danish food always struck me as more refined than German, but along a similar vein. Of course, most of my food memories of the place are from when I was a teenager who approved of things like potatoes in caramel and was impressed with eating good bread, which was tough to come by where I grew up. But Christmas food is delicious, so at least you've got that to look forward to.

If a purloined brick or two from someone's garden is unapproved by the oven owners, give a thought to the cast iron. I regularly cook pizza in my oven using a cast iron pan as my 'stone' at 210-220 C and it's worked well. I wasn't aware of any potential problems using it at that temperature and have never experienced any.

Danish food may have deteriorated since you last visited: A sort of inverted snobbery more or less dominates what happens in the kitchen these days. I should also add that since my tastes were formed by a very different culture, things like potatoes in caramel are intrinsically disturbing to me (sugar-sweet in a savoury dish just doesn't work for me). I can actually handle sild, however.

I've been thinking about using the cast iron items, although I'm wondering how my boyfriend's parents react to the idea, given that they like to economize and use 2 or three racks full of stuff in the oven at one go, meaning they'd have to remove all the cast iron from the oven before using it each time.

Under the 'schadenfreude' heading, since neither the oven nor the stove was accessible the other evening, I tried reheating some braised chicken in the microwave. I thought the stuff was indestructible (braised three hours to spoonable tenderness), but I was wrong. Two minutes in the microwave, and it had a weird, soggy, stringy texture, and smelled vaguely of wet dog. I admit to having next to no experience with microwaves (never had one, since I couldn't imagine what I'd use one for), but I'm underwhelmed.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I find that for pretty much all braised & stewed meat dishes, they need zapped once, left for a few or quite a few minutes, then zapped again. It needs the wait for them to heat through.

Under the reality heading, though, even as immature, irregularly-scheduled students we managed to co-ordinate a shared shopping & cooking regime for dinners. What on earth are your folks doing to you two ? "You can stay with us... but you won't be able to eat" ?! Jeepers.

Solution #457: buy in top-quality take-out for yourselves every day till their spirit breaks.

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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