Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
doctortim

Does my oven suck, or do I?

Recommended Posts

How <i>should</i> my oven be behaving? Should it be heating just as well in the middle as it does at the sides? The same at the top as the bottom? How can I tell if I'm working with shoddy tools or simply a poor technique?

I'm reasonably new to cooking, particularly using my oven. I have an electric fan-forced oven that was not taken care of my the house's previous owners. I've lived here for 2 years now, but shy away from using it since all of my attempts have been unsuccessful. I even managed to mess up a supermarket-bought apple pie -- the crust was black while the middle was cold, despite following the instructions. I would have thought those things were idiot-proof! :wacko:

So I've decided to put my oven through some controlled trials. The 'controlled' part of these trials means that they won't rely on the strength of my oven acumen, which at my level of experience is wildly variable at best!

If anyone can recommend ways to 'test' the oven, no matter how creative, I'd love some suggestions.


Dr. Zoidberg: Goose liver? Fish eggs? Where's the goose? Where's the fish?

Elzar: Hey, that's what rich people eat. The garbage parts of the food.

My blog: The second pancake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Probably some of the more professional cooks on eG could give you better advice than I about testing ovens, but as a practical matter, I think I'd get several versions of one thing... perhaps small pans of cake batter?... and test them all at once, placing them at various spots in the oven.

Baking is more of a science than an art; when something goes wrong, it can be difficult to sort things out. For pies, you could try covering the crust with aluminum foil to prevent browning, and then removing it about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time.

The good news is, if you want to spend a couple hundred dollars, you can come close to eliminating your problem with this HearthKit. I've seen some published reviews of them, and they were quite complimentary. But if I were you, I'd do some testing first, make notes, and try to conquer the problem that way.

The rest of the good news is, there are some incredibly talented and knowledgeable cooks and bakers on eG, who will be very happy to help you hone your skills. Learn to use the search feature, and you'll find a wealth of information here already.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How <i>should</i> my oven be behaving? Should it be heating just as well in the middle as it does at the sides? The same at the top as the bottom? How can I tell if I'm working with shoddy tools or simply a poor technique?

I'm reasonably new to cooking, particularly using my oven. I have an electric fan-forced oven that was not taken care of my the house's previous owners. I've lived here for 2 years now, but shy away from using it since all of my attempts have been unsuccessful. I even managed to mess up a supermarket-bought apple pie -- the crust was black while the middle was cold, despite following the instructions. I would have thought those things were idiot-proof!  :wacko:

So I've decided to put my oven through some controlled trials. The 'controlled' part of these trials means that they won't rely on the strength of my oven acumen, which at my level of experience is wildly variable at best!

If anyone can recommend ways to 'test' the oven, no matter how creative, I'd love some suggestions.

Buy an oven thermometer to make sure the oven temp is not off.

A good way to gauge an oven is to make cookies (you could buy those pilsbury slica and bake or make your own). Make them according to the directions, you will be able to see where the hot spots are in your oven.

Also you say the oven is electric fan-forced, can you shut off the fan or does it run all the time?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does your oven have a self-clean cycle? If so, run it. If not, get some oven cleaner & give it a good cleaning. Built up gunk can adversely affect your oven's ability to disperse the heat evenly.

Then by a cheap oven thermometer to see how accurate your oven is. My oven is pretty accurate with its temp but I keep an oven thermometer in there all the time anyway. With my old oven, it was a good 30-50 degrees off. With the oven thermometer in there, you can adjust the temp to what you need & not rely solely on the oven's dial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely get an oven thermometer to check the accuracy of your oven's temp, as viaChgo sez, many are off by a certain extent. Mine is about 25 degrees too hot.

Even if you don't get a hearth kit, a pizza stone (or set of quarry tiles) on the bottom can do wonders to even out heat distribution.


Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How <i>should</i> my oven be behaving? Should it be heating just as well in the middle as it does at the sides? The same at the top as the bottom? How can I tell if I'm working with shoddy tools or simply a poor technique?

I even managed to mess up a supermarket-bought apple pie -- the crust was black while the middle was cold, despite following the instructions. I would have thought those things were idiot-proof!  :wacko:

Regarding the pie, were both the top and bottom crusts black and the inside cold, or just top or bottom? If it was just one, it may be the one of the oven elements is not working. When the oven is preheating, both top and bottom elements should be glowing red (if you can see the elements; some ovens have covers over them).

Also, where you position your food in the oven will have an impact on how it cooks. For instance, it is often recommended that you bake pies on the lowest rack so that the bottom crust will get nicely browned.

I agree with everyone else: get an oven thermometer and set your oven to a desired temp. Place the thermometer in different parts of the oven and let it set for several minutes so you can see where any hot spots are (wait for at least 15 minutes in between moves as you will lose oven heat every time you open the door). Taylor is a good brand of oven thermometer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

from a professional point of view...

it doesn't matter what kind of oven one uses...always, always rotate your product during cooking. if you're braising in the oven, it doesn't matter so much, but if you're baking cookies or anything else that's more temperature sensitive in an oven:

rotate your pan front to back

if you're baking two pans of something at the same time, also switch pans from top to bottom

actually, sometimes, i move pans from one rack to another even if i'm only baking one pan at a time

every oven has hot spots, even professional convection ovens

every oven bakes unevenly

always check your oven temp with a thermometer

check your baked goods frequently

it just takes practice and getting used to your oven's specific issues. once you're comfortable with that, it's as easy as pie!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Also, if you're going the oven thermometer route, don't go cheap and get one of those piece-of-shit bimetal types. They rarely come anywhere close to calibrated, and never keep any calibration they had.

Get a liquid in glass or thermocouple model.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
... I even managed to mess up a supermarket-bought apple pie -- the crust was black while the middle was cold, despite following the instructions. I would have thought those things were idiot-proof!  :wacko:

...

:biggrin: Nothing, but nothing, is proof against a sufficiently talented idiot ! :biggrin:

Dare I suggest that this might possibly be the result of cooking something that was frozen, using the instructions relating to cooking after thawing? That'd account for the *cold* centre while the outside was burnt black...

:cool:


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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Like everyone else suggests, get an oven thermometer. I'll also second or third the suggestion of quarry tiles or a pizza stone. My oven is not very good, and the pizza stone helps a lot to take it from useless to functional for baking. Also, get religious about preheating. A solid preheat with the pizza stone in will let me bake bread and get decent results, produce evenly baked brownies, and turn out flourless chocolate cakes that haven't burnt. I also can roast things and get tasty end results. Without the preheat and pizza stone, things get very iffy.

If you're still having issues after improving your equipment by cleaning it, getting accurate temperature readings and adding more thermal mass, I'd do some diagnostic tests. Baking a batch of sugar cookies without rotating the pans and with enough pans at once to fill the oven to the edges should give you a "map" of how heat distributes within your oven. Don't take them out until every cookie is at least done, it's ok if some are burnt. The burnt ones are your oven's hot spots, the ones that took the longest to cook are the cool spots. There are suggestions for other tests in the pastry and baking forum.

Emily

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...