The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

How hot can I run a domestic electric oven?

Slaquer's picture

How hot can I run a domestic electric oven?

I garbage-picked an old 30" westinghouse electric range.  It appears to have 31/2" or 4" of insulation on all sides of the oven.  I'm impressed.  I wonder what temp it could achieve.  I'm only looking for 750F or maybe 800F-- pizza temp.  The temp of the external sheet metal is likely to be a limiting factor, but that could be further insulated.The wiring could stink or fry, but a wiring upgrade wouldn't be too hard.

Anyone in the community have experience with this sort of project.  Any leads on a thermometer that will be good to 800F?  The range is outdoors so I don't need no warnings about burning the shack down.

Stay tuned. 

pjaj's picture

I can't help you with a thermometer and I have no experience of this particular oven living as I do in the UK, but speaking as a retired electrical engineer I would recommend that you built a brick or block enclosure for your oven, that way you would add insulation and there would be no fire risk from setting light to the enclosure.

Are there any plastic components? Handles, knobs etc these could get over heated.

What are the internal components made of (terminal blocks etc)? If any are plastic I would advise caution and replacing with, say, ceramic.

You should definitely consider a suitable high temperature cable till you are out of the enclosure, and make sure everything is well earthed in case something melts / burns through.

You would obviously have to disable the existing thermostat / temperature control; you might want to consider some form of emergency thermal cut-off.

If in doubt, seek professional advice and get the oven checked out; why was it in the garbage in the first place?



Slaquer's picture

PJAJ,  It's always good to have an engineer aboard, WOOO-wooo-WOOOO.

The plastic knobs have been stripped from the range, so that is not a problem.  It was set out at the curb with a sign proclaiming good condition.  Why?  I donno.  This is AMERICA!

Thanks from Bisbee, AZ

misterrios's picture

Hey, if you haven't already, you should check out Jeff Varasano's page on pizza making. He has a section about a third of the way down about modifying his oven so that it is always on the cleaning cycle and thus gets way hot.

Slaquer's picture

Misterrios, Thanks for the link.  That fellow, Jeff Varasano, is a true obsessive, generous with his knowledge, as well.  Saves a lot of wear and tear on the rest of us.

Slaquer's picture

With the original wiring scheme, the top and bottom oven coils were controlled by a "selector" knob.  It was not possible to run both at once.  I installed 2, 20amp double pole switches ($9.99 ea.+ tax), one for each coil, and bypassed all existing circutry.  So, either  or both coils can be energised.  I am quite certain the cord will handle the load because the surface burners are not energised.  There is some concern as to whether the electrical insulation will stand up to the heat.  I may just get some wire that is built for hi-temp applications.

When both coils are lit, that oven gets hot, fast.  I have not yet tried for the 800f target temp, because I don't have a worthy thermometer.  I'll probably buy one of those infra-red laser thermometers that read to more than 900f.  They cost around $30 all up, on Ebay.

How difficult a project is this?  If you are very smart OR experienced, it's easy. (I am experienced, but mostly self-taught)

Stay tuned   

ClimbHi's picture

One thing to be aware of -- an IR gun reads surface temp, not air temp. There is usually a difference between the surface temp and the oven temp -- how much depends on the oven.

Not a big problem really, just something you need to adjust for if you're using a recipe that calls for a particular oven temp. If you want oven temp (as opposed to wall temp), you can get a thermocouple & meter pretty cheap.

Pittsburgh, PA