by John Rudy
Rather than providing yet another recipe I thought that, this month, I would provide some kitchen thoughts. If you like this occasional side journey, please let me know.
What temperature is my oven?
The recipe calls for you to bake a cake at 375° for 30 minutes, and it doesn’t come out right. Why might that be? First, your oven’s temperature reading might be wrong. It is common for it to be off by as much as 10 degrees. If you have a decent oven thermometer, try this: put the thermometer on the middle rack, midway between the sides; set the temperature to 350 and wait until the thermometer stabilizes. See what it says. Maybe it says 310°. Then try setting it for 350° and see what it says then. If need be, then go to 400° and so on. This will tell you how to adjust your recipe’s instructions to meet your oven’s actual temperature.
Is the temperature the same at different places in my oven?
The configuration of your heating element and how the walls operate might be affecting your oven’s temperature. So, move the sensor to different points in your oven and check it out.
What else is in your oven?
Have you tried to bake three pans of a layer cake, with two on one rack and the third on a lower rack? If so, they won’t bake at the same speed. So when you have to decide when to take each out you’ll have to check the pans separately.
How long does it take for an oven to cool off?
I have a cheesecake recipe that calls for baking, then turning the oven off, and leaving the cake in the oven for an additional period of time. My old oven would cool off quickly. My new oven seems to take forever to cool off, so I have to crack the door.
How to use a meat thermometer
Most of us have meat thermometers that we use to determine whether the turkey or chicken or pork chop is ready. (Cutting into them is not really a good idea as the juices escape.) Additionally, every time you open the oven door to take a reading, the oven temperature might drop 20 degrees. There is a nice solution, and that is a thermometer with a long cord so that it can go into the turkey (or whatever), through the oven door, and to the readout on your counter. I bought a Taylor Model 1470N for about $15.
The thermometer works nicely. I’m told it can also be used for cakes, but I haven’t tried it this way.
John says that it was his mother who inspired his love of cooking and baking at an early age. (She cooked vegetables in boil-able packages.)