Ignore the temperature dial on your oven

In Brian Palmer's Slate article, "Ignore Your Oven Dial: You can't control the temperature of your oven very well, so stop worrying about it," Palmer gives a brief history of oven temperatures leading to the conclusion that "you'd be forgiven for thinking that 350 on the dial means 350 in the oven. You'd be wrong, though. When you set an oven to 350 degrees, there isn't a single spot inside of it that stays at 350 degrees for the duration of a bake session."

He also notes that for most boxed food mixes, like cakes, there's often a dispute between technicians and marketing people. The food may  be optimal when baked at a higher temperature than the box instructs, but the marketing people are so fearful of the item burning that they argue for a lower temperature.

Palmer makes several suggestions to optimize your oven despite its wayward ways, including using an internal food thermometer and Mark Bittman's advice that "Cooks should get used to the visual and olfactory (and even aural) cues that food gives off while it's baking or roasting." 

Oven dial 525

 

1 Comment

  • veronicafrance  on  8/26/2012 at 1:12 PM

    I like that article. Very sensible. I don't ignore my oven dial, but I don't assume that something will cook in the exact time a recipe specifies. Usually -- depending on the dish -- I'll set the timer to 10 minutes or so less than the specified time, to remind me to check on it from that point on. And if I smell "doneness" before then, I act on it. Especially with cakes, "cook till it's done" is wise advice! For roasts, I have recently discovered how useful a temperature probe is. Perfect roast beef every time!

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