The Fresh Loaf

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Oven temperature

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LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

Oven temperature

Hi


I'm looking for suggestions as to how to manage my oven (which I have never really liked anyway, but it was new when we bought this house and I'm stuck with it for now).  It seems to be very inconsistent in its temperature such that I never know whether things are going to cook properly or not.  My assumption is that this is a thermostat problem and that I should attempt to calibrate it.  But, it seems to get up to temperature (500 F today) generally with no problems, but today on putting in the bread and steaming, it dropped by about 150 F and would not reheat ( I was pretty quick about this - maybe not quick enough, but it's hard to be much quicker, it would seem).  This meant that my bread scorched on the hot stone (bottom crust), but didn't cook properly on top, taking ages to brown in a 350 F oven that had crept up to about 400F after 20 minutes.  This happens quite a lot, but the next time it'll be fine - I have a theremometer in there and obviously it disagrees with the oven setting some of the time.  It happens at both hot and moderate temperatures cakes, bread, roasting meat...)  Is the stone likely to influence the ability of the oven to reheat?  Should I move my stone up a bit further (it's on the lowest rack)?


Any suggestions much appreciated.  Thanks!


 

mrfrost's picture
mrfrost

How does the oven bake things like cakes and cookies without the stone and steam, where the oven is just optimally preheated to the cooking temp(not blazing hot)? Have you ever tried that? Was this always an issue, even before the stone?


Sounds also like there is an uneven heating situation occurring. Wonder if there is adequate heat/air circulation. How large is the stone(stone dimensions vs oven dimensions)?

LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

I leave the stone in at all times and I'd been using stones in the ovens at my previous two houses, so I'm uncertain of the performance of this oven without the stone.  But cakes at, typically 350-ish, can sometmes take forever to cook as well, , because the temperature drops so dramatically when I put them in and then it won't reheat, and I know I'm quick with this - open door, shove in cake, shut door.


I feel it's probably the thermostat, but I don't really understand why it's so inconsistent (day to day) or why it sometimes can't reheat after a door opening event.  Even now, I've just pre-heated it to 425 and it looks fine from my oven thermometer and this time it seems to have dropped somewhat upon opening and again is slow to reheat.  Obviously there will be some effect due to putting a cold item in a hot oven (heat transfer - that's cooking!) but this doesn't seem right.


I agree that there is uneven heating and perhaps I should put the stone higher up when baking bread and the steam tray below it?  The stone is several inches smaller than the oven all around, so it's not a tight fit (standard square stone - nothing fancy).


Thanks for helping me "think out loud" about this as it's driving me crazy.

msbreadbaker's picture
msbreadbaker

I had a similar problem with one of my ovens, a fairly new Fridgidare. It heated to the correct temperature, but would not come on again when the temp was supposed to cycle back up. If I stand in front of it, I can keep fiddling with the control, kind of resetting it, and it will work, but this a big pain in the neck. The fix was about $400, as the whole computer setting/controls had to be replaced. For this you can nearly buy a new stove. So the question remains....


Jean P.(VA)

LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

My oven is a Fridgidaire...  Hmmm...  I have done the same thing - setting it at a higher temp to try and get it to cycle back up again, watching the theremometer inside going nowhere.

spriolo's picture
spriolo

I wonder if the heat from your baking stone is fooling the thermometer into believing that the temp is higher than it is.


I'd bake a few things with no stone at all and see how it performs.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

My assumption is that this is a thermostat problem and that I should attempt to calibrate it.


Nope.


Calibration is needed if your oven is always off by the same amount. But if the amount it's off varies, you need something different (maybe just moving something, or maybe either an appliance repairman or a new oven:-(


 


I have a thermometer in there and obviously it disagrees with the oven setting some of the time.


The way ovens work is by cycling back and forth between slightly below the desired temperature and slightly above the desired temperature. Variable differences of less than 25F are just the normal operation of the oven; they do not indicate any problem  ...and they do not affect your bread.


 


It seems to be very inconsistent in its temperature


Newer ovens usually have the thermostat under the bottom of the oven. On these ovens, you should not line the bottom with foil. Doing so was a good way to make cleanup easier with the older style ovens, but it will thoroughly bolix up operation of newer style ovens  ...often including making the temperature seem random. In fact, foil lining on the bottom seems to be the number one cause of crazy oven temperatures. (Also, foil laid on the bottom of a newer style oven has a tendency to melt and make a mess that you can never get out:-)


With newer style ovens, there shouldn't be anything (foil, stone, etc.) within a couple inches of the bottom. Depending on where your rack slides are positioned, this may mean you should move your baking stone up one notch.


In any case, be sure there's at least one inch of space between the edge of the stone and the nearest wall of the oven on all four sides. A lack of airspace around the stone can "trap" hot air under the stone and completely fool the thermostat.

LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

Thanks for these thoughts.  This is a new oven (<3y) and I don't have foil in it (never have done that - scary fire hazard anyway - one of my friends did this and it wasn't pretty).  I think moving the stone up a notch may be useful - there's plenty of space around it for circulation, but perhaps it is just reflecting everything back and messing with the thermostat.  Certainly, the lowest rack position in this oven is lower than in my old oven (this oven is electric, BTW).


These fluctuations I see are much greater than the normal cycling and, while it's generally a fairly slow oven to get up to temperature (I preheat for ever to be sure), once it's dropped as I described above, it won't make it back up in the baking time (really, really annoying for cakes!) which seems very wrong.


So, I will tweak the stone's position and hope that may help.  Doing cakes tomorrow!

Chuck's picture
Chuck

A couple other thoughts:


Is there any chance there's a pan sitting on the bottom of the oven? Sometimes people that really don't like messes but know better than to use foil put a pan on the oven bottom instead, then forget it after a while. The pan can eventually take on the same coloration as the oven itself, and so can be rather hard to see.


Is there any chance when the "new" oven was installed the installer accidentally left some of the packing material around the thermometer in place? There was probably a bunch of packing material to prevent the thermometer banging around during shipping, and it of course has to be removed for proper oven operation. But the installer [especially an inexperienced or hurried one:-] may have not done everything they were supposed to.


 


(Is it by any chance still at least partially covered by some kind of warranty? Acting as crazy as it does [not coming back up to temperature before a cake finishes, etc.] makes the oven pretty much unusable. The vast majority of electric ovens don't behave anything even remotely like that - something is drastically wrong. If it's because of a flaw in the thermometer, the oven maker/installer should fix it. )


(There's a special "contractor grade" of appliances just for builders to put into new houses. It's a good thing you can't buy them, as they're extremely "el-cheapo". A builder trying to save as many dimes as possible might explain why your oven has insufficient insulation [it's probably not self-cleaning :-], and why it "broke" so quickly and easily.)

LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

The story of this oven is that the previous owners most likley put it in just before selling the house.  It's actually quite a decent range, not an el cheapo (it is self-cleaning - yessss!!!), however, it's not what I'd have chosen had I been purchasing for myself.  I've always been amazed at this tendency to put in new appliances in order to sell a house but obviously, in the world of real estate, a couple of thosusand dollars worth of crummy appliances looking all shiny and new has the potential to repay itself many times over!

flournwater's picture
flournwater

Question:


Have you lined your oven with anything?


It is not uncommon for some folks to line their oven with aluminum foil or other products  -  bad idea.

LoavesInFishers's picture
LoavesInFishers

Today I was baking cakes and also a pie and I took the stone out while baking.  It seemed to behave OK today with no strange fluctuations.  I have no liners or foil or trays in the oven that should not be there - the only "alien" object is the stone.  At the lowest shelf position, the stone is 4 inches above the element


I think I will do a few controlled experiments with and without the stone, and with other pans or trays on the baking shelves set at various positions, to see if I can get a handle on what's going on.  Would a pan with a damp towel be a reasonable mimic for a loaf or cake?


I have checked behind the oven a while back and I don't think there was anything odd going on there, but I'll have another look underneath.  I'll also have another thorough read through the manual!


Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions!  I really appreciate your input.