This month on Kitchen Geekery we're learning how to get to know our oven's hot spots (with toast!) and how to test your oven's actual temperature - both handy things to know when testing blog recipes!
Kitchen Geekery: Getting To Know Your Oven's Quirks | Food Bloggers of Canada

When I first moved into my apartment back in 2007, the apartment came with a lovely quasi-new oven range with one of those shiny ceramic cooktops, lots of fancy buttons and a digital screen. It seemed like a very luxurious upgrade from my previous oven, and I was excited.

I think the first thing I baked was a quiche. It was simple and straight forward, except for the fact that the quiche took double the time it normally takes to bake, which had me very confused considering my oven was so modern and so new. I ran into this same problem over and over again until one day it dawned on me: maybe my oven wasn’t preheating to the temperature I set it to.

That’s when I purchased my first oven thermometer.

Why Bother With An Oven Thermometer?

Seven years later, I am completely reliant on that oven thermometer. In fact, when I have a packed oven or if for whatever reason, I have to take out that thermometer, I honestly feel like I’m flying blind or that I’m living on the edge like some crazy, rebellious teenager.  I kid you not.

My oven thermometer (affiliate link) makes me feel like I’m in control because I can see exactly what temperature my oven is at, regardless of what it is set to.

Of course, over the years, I have gotten to know the quirks of my oven. Like it beeps to tell me it’s preheated to 350ºF even though it’s actually only heated to about 200ºF. I now know that when I set it to 375ºF, it tends to heat up to 400ºF or even more. But I know these things now because of my trusty oven thermometer.

See what I’m saying?

And if you are a food blogger like me, developing recipes and reporting them on your blog, don’t you think your readers would appreciate to know the actual temperature you baked your cookies at, rather than the temperature you set your oven to?

RELATED:  Kitchen Geekery: what makes popcorn pop?

An Easy Way to Find Your Oven's Hot Spots (while also making toast)

Kitchen Geekery: Getting To Know Your Oven's Quirks | Food Bloggers of Canada

Besides an oven thermometer, there’s one more trick that you can use to get to know your oven: the bread test.

Preheat your oven to 350ºF, being sure to have an oven rack set in the middle, then toast a rack full of bread for about 10 minutes or so. When the slices are nicely toasted on the bottom, remove them from the oven, flipping them onto a tray in the same order.  (and remember last month when we talked about how your tray colour can also affect your baking time?)

If your oven is even a little uneven, you will notice a difference in how toasted the slices are. For example, my oven is hottest in the front, and on the sides, while the back middle is a little cooler.

I think it’s time we all bring our relationships with our ovens to the next level. Purchase an oven thermometer and a loaf of sandwich bread, and use them to get to know your oven and discover its quirks!

Kitchen Geekery is written by Janice Lawandi.  Janice is a PhD-chemist-turned-baker, which is why she loves to use science to understand and solve problems in the kitchen. She is currently working as a recipe tester and writer in Montreal, QC. Visit Janice’s blog, Kitchen Heals Soul, for more baking science and inspiration. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Google+.

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Marlene Cornelis

You’re absolutely right, Janice, ovens can be such quirky things! I remember one of my brothers-in-law teasing me when I said that my then oven “ran hot.” “Isn’t it supposed to?” he asked.

When I moved to my current home, I was thrilled to have my first-ever gas stove, complete with a gas oven. Oh my, did that take some getting used to! Until I mastered its unique personality, I was turning out pallid baked goods, which may have had more to do with the moisture level in the oven than temperature. (You probably know the answer to that better than I do!) I did use an oven thermometer to help me figure it out, and now everything turns out the way I want it to (well mostly. and if not, that’s probably more to do with me). There are definitely cooler and hotter areas in it — I think I should do the toast test to pinpoint them more precisely!

Christopher Hale

Measuring the surface temperatures of cooking surfaces such as pots and pans and those in the outdoor arena, such as BBQ plates or pizza ovens is where infrared thermometers comes in handly in the cooking process. By using an infrared thermometer you can instantly check these temperatures and avoid the mess of using a probe thermometer which can cause food to spoil because of the time they take in obtaining an accurate measurement.

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