When it comes to baking, every oven is different and that’s why it is very important to know your oven well and the method to calibrate it easily. I will teach you a simple method on how to do it to have precise baking results every single time to bake beautiful muffins, cakes and cookies.
Disclaimer: The advice given here in this article is totally based on my experiences and should not be considered a professional advice. There are some general guidelines based on my personal experience.
Anyone who loves baking knows that every oven is different and it is highly important to know how to calibrate your oven. Every oven has its own hot and cold spots and you need to know it well in order to achieve great results with your bakes.
While it may sound like a daunting task but it is quite easy. With some simple techniques you will educate yourself about your oven quite effectively.
Why Is Calibrating An Oven Important?
Ever felt that your oven is either too cool or too hot? The bakes turn out to be either underbaked or burnt or take all the time in the world in the oven? If you bake a lot than you already know that oven temperatures fluctuate. They can go up and down and it is normal.
The important questions is to know these fluctuations and how long your oven takes to reach to 350 F?
And we are going to do it using one simple device - an oven thermometer.
Knowing The Oven Is Important
When I purchased my new Samsung oven a few months back, I knew I needed time to know it better. Every oven has its own mechanism and consists of hot and cold spots which cannot be identified right away. It is possible that the knob of your oven is set to 350 F but in real it can be off or vary by 5 - 30 degrees easily.
For example, my new oven is off by 5 degrees. You can see I have set the oven temperature at 355 F and the two separate oven thermometers inside the oven show the oven temperature to be at 350 F. So, it means there is a 5 degree difference between my oven thermostat reading and my oven's real temperature reading.
Get An Oven Thermometer
Oven thermometers are small devices that can either be hung by the baking rack in the oven or can be placed over the oven racks. The reading on the thermometer is key in determining the accuracy of the oven temperature.
I highly recommend to get an oven thermometer.
One should change the oven thermometer once a year because it may start fluctuating after a year. These oven thermometers are readily available (and they are cheap) on your nearby stores such as Target or Walmart. I always get mine from Amazon.
If you have a broad budget, I would recommend a digital thermometer like this one. Digital thermometers tend to give more accurate reading than the traditional ones but they are expensive as well.
Electric Oven VS. Gas Oven
With the advent in technology, not only the electric ovens are easier to use but also the reading on the electric ovens are more accurate as compared to the gas ovens. However, the process to calibrate oven is the same.
Now that we know we are ready to calibrate our oven - let’s start. Set aside one and a half hour for this process.
Oven temperature runs in cycles and while calibrating we are trying to get familiarize with these cycles and the hot and cold spots in the oven. Also, we need to repeat the process three times.
Step 1: Adjust the rack to the middle of the oven.
Step 2: Take the oven thermometer and place it in the middle of the rack.
Step 3: Set the oven temperature to 350 F and set a timer to 20 minutes.
Step 4: Check the oven when it turns to 350 F. Mine takes about 10 – 12 minutes and alerts when it is set. But your oven might take more time than this. If your oven does not reach to 350 F by 20 minutes it means that your oven is on the cooler side and the real temperature is off by a few degrees (10 F – 30 F). Do not worry, it is a common issue and easily fixable by adjusting the total baking time.
Step 5: Check the oven temperature at 20 minutes and make a note on a diary. You may set a timer as well for convenience.
Step 6: Let the oven run for two more cycles (each 20 minute) and take the reading after each cycle. Note the minimum and maximum temperature each time.
How To Read the Readings?
After finishing the steps mentioned above, you want to achieve two things in order to calibrate your oven.
A) How long does it take to reach to 350 F. If your oven takes more than 20 minutes then your oven is on the cooler side.
B) During baking the temperature will go up and down and so you want to know the readings both at minimum and maximum temperatures. It will help you to determine the average temperature for baking.
After you are done running the three 20-minute cycles, you should have three readings. For example your first reading was 355, second was 348 and third was 362. Now add these three readings which will give you 1065 and you will divide this number by three and the results will be 355. This is the offset number.
If your reading is within 10 degrees of 350 F, your oven is fine and you do not need to do anything. However, if it is off by more than 10 degrees, you will need to calibrate your oven.
Refer To The Oven Manual For 'Calibration Mode'
In case your oven is off by 10 degrees, you will need to calibrate the oven. For that you will need to refer to your oven manual. Every oven is different and requires a different method to calibrate it and it varies from brand to brand. The manual will help you know which buttons to click to and what method to adapt to calibrate the oven.
My Samsung oven displays electric numbers so it is easy to calibrate it. Please refer to the oven manual to know how to get to the “calibration mode” and adjust the temperature.
Most of the electric oven thermostats can be adjusted using the keypad. You will need to click on one or two buttons to reach to the calibration mode and once you are in the mode, use the up and down arrows to adjust the temperature, accordingly.
For example, if your oven is 15 degrees hot, decrease the temperature by pressing the up or down arrow button until it reads 15.
Mapping the Hot and Cold Spots of the Oven
While you are conducting this one hour exercise, you should also be able to understand the hot and cold spots in the oven. Simply place the oven thermometer to different spots (upper right, upper middle, upper left, middle, lower right, lower left and lower middle) of the oven at different oven rack heights. Check the spot's temperature and note it down on a paper to know it better.
For example, I know that the back of my oven is way hot than the middle and front and that is why I rotate the baking tray while baking cakes, cookies and pies to make sure that it browns evenly.
Please note that if your oven is off by 15 – 30 degrees, you may want to calibrate it yourself. But if it is off by large degrees then call a technician and do not try to fix it yourself.
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