The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dealing with inaccurate oven

dpt's picture
dpt

Dealing with inaccurate oven

My wife and I have long been suspicious of our oven temperatures. We have recently gotten heavily into baking, which is more finicky about temperatures than most other cooking. So I decided to check the accuracy of our oven (as Capital Culinarian) using a digital thermocouple thermometer. Setting the oven to 340, I can see that the oven heats up to 340 and then enters a cycle in which it will turn off the heating element when it hits 340, and not turn it on again until it gets to 305. So it’s cycling between what you set and 35 degrees below that, meaning that the average temperature is 17 degrees below what is set.

This leaves us wondering if we should add 17 degrees to the oven temp from recipes. That would get the average temperature to be what the recipe temp is. On the other hand, I believe most (all?) ovens works similarly to this, so maybe the recipe was developed using an oven that does the same thing – in which case we should just continue to set the oven to the recipe temp.

This might seem like I’m overanalyzing the issue, but our experience is that things seem to be a bit undercooked when we follow recipes, and we often leave things in for longer than the recipe states.

What do other people do? Should we try using convection mode?

ds99303's picture
ds99303

Are you allowing the oven to fully preheat before measuring the temperature?  A good 30 minutes should be sufficient.  I have just a plain electric oven with an analog temperature dial.  I keep a thermometer inside the oven and when I first turn on the oven, the temperature gauge will show wide variations as the oven heats up.  It'll go way past the set point (probably because it's picking up the heat from the heating element and not the actual air temperature) and then drop down several degrees below the set point.  After a few cycles of the heat coming on and going off, the temperature evens out at where I set it.  Also, if the temperature difference on your oven is the same across all temperature settings, then there might be a way for you to adjust it.  Mine was running hot and all I did was take the knob off and turn a small adjustment screw on it so the dial was in a different position when I put it back on the oven. 

David R's picture
David R

In my opinion, the simple fact that you know this oven is set a little on the low side is "half the battle" won already. There are different ways to compensate, but it hardly matters which methods of compensation you use. Let the food results be your ultimate guide; if you believe you've achieved pinpoint-accurate temperature but the food is still underdone, then don't hesitate to turn it up some more. Note that ovens usually can't provide perfectly even heat - there are likely to be a few "hot spots" and "cold spots".

Nearly every relationship between a human and an oven is an uncomfortable compromise - détente rather than actual peace. 🙂

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

Lots of bread baking was done for centuries in wood fired ovens where the fire was raked out and the baking started and the temperature would continue to drop over time but lots of really really good bread got baked.  My son-in-law built a wood fired oven for pizza but they do a lot of bread in it too.  They just watch the bread and adjust the time and base it on experience.

dpt's picture
dpt

Thanks for the replies.  Didn't see them until now.

So I actually have a thingy I can use to measure and log temperatures to a spreadsheet.  I did this, and the results were enlightening.  Basically, I'm seeing what ds9903 said.  We need to wait longer for the oven to preheat.  When it first hits the setpoint, it turns the oven off for almost 10 minutes.  After it gets back up to the setpoint again, it cycles on and off, but much quicker - and the temperature variation is low.  So we should wait another 15-20 minutes ~after~ it gets up to temp.

PS - I do have a wood fired oven too, but only use that for pizza!