What are the Best Tips for Cooking with an Oven?

G. Wiesen

There are a number of simple tips and methods that can be used when cooking with an oven to make the experience easier. One of the simplest things a person can do to make his or her oven more effective is to purchase and use an oven thermometer within the oven to ensure proper temperature. Anyone using an oven should also be aware of the difference between baking and broiling and how to properly use the broiler in an oven. The placement of the item being cooked in the oven is also an important element of cooking with an oven and should be considered.

Cooks should know how to correctly use the broiler and a broiling pan.
Cooks should know how to correctly use the broiler and a broiling pan.

When cooking with an oven, proper oven temperature is one of the most important things a person can monitor and control. An oven thermometer is typically quite inexpensive and various models can be used and placed within an oven to ensure it is calibrated properly. Even 5 degrees difference between what an oven should be at and what it is at can have a tremendous affect on the process of cooking with an oven. Of course, it is also very important to ensure that a recipe is followed properly so the correct temperature is set on the oven and it's allowed to fully preheat.

Properly calibrating an oven ensures foods are baked at the right temperature.
Properly calibrating an oven ensures foods are baked at the right temperature.

Temperature is not the only important aspect of heat in regards to cooking with an oven, however, and the way in which that heat is generated is also vital to the process. When an oven is normally on, the heat is typically generated evenly by both the top and bottom of an oven, though this can vary depending on the specific oven. This creates fairly even heating and should cook all surfaces of the food at once. While this is effective for a turkey or meatloaf, it is often not ideal for a steak or a casserole with cheese on the top.

Someone using the broiler can often see a tremendous difference when cooking these types of foods. The broiler is the top heating element only, so foods can be placed on a rack near the top and the broiler can be used to apply direct heat to the foods. This process is, effectively, inverted grilling, with a heat source above the food rather than below it. By using the broiler when cooking with an oven, steaks can be seared nicely and a cheesy casserole can develop a crisply browned top.

Of course, the location of the food when cooking with an oven is also quite important. For basic cooking, it is often best to position an oven rack so the food is in about the middle of the oven. This allows heat to surround the food and heat it evenly from all sides. Most ovens do not heat perfectly evenly, however, so the item being cooked should usually be rotated once while cooking. This is done to ensure that one part of the dish is not in any hot or cool spots during the entire cooking time.

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