Have you ever baked something that didn’t turn out exactly right even though you followed the recipe to a T? Was your food over or under-cooked? You may have thought that the recipe was wrong and decided to either lengthen or shorten the baking time. However, there is another possibility that should be considered: your oven temperature may be off by several degrees. If that is the case, you will need to calibrate your oven in order to achieve better baking results in the future.
Reviewing the Owner’s Manual of Your Oven
To calibrate your oven, you will need to refer to your owner’s manual. That is because the procedure for calibrating an oven varies from model to model. Calibration instructions also depend on how old your oven is, the type of controls you have, and whether your oven is gas or electric. Some ovens with analog controls include an adjustment on the back of the temperature control knob. Others use a screw that can be turned in either direction. Ovens with digital controls often walk you through a series of steps in order to adjust the temperature.
If you do not have your owner’s manual, you should be able to download one. Check your oven for the name of the manufacturer, model number, and serial number. That information may be inside your oven, on a side panel, or in a pullout drawer. Then, use that information to perform an internet search. Many manufacturers include a downloadable owner’s manual under their support tab. Try searching by the name of the manufacturer and by the term “oven owner’s manual.”
Accurate Temperature: Reading: Using a Basic Oven Thermometer and a Digital Thermometer
Basic oven thermometers and digital oven thermometers have several features in common that make it easy to check the temperature of your oven. First of all, most have a temperature range of about 300 degrees Celsius and 600 degrees Fahrenheit. They are designed to measure temperatures within that range without damaging the thermometer. Both are fairly easy to use and read.
Basic oven thermometers consist of a single unit that contains a probe and display. The entire unit goes inside the oven, and you read the results through the oven door. Most have stands and hangers that allow them to be placed directly on or hung underneath a rack. Digital thermometers, on the other hand, use a probe that goes inside your oven and a display that stays outside. The probe may be connected to the display by a wire or wirelessly.
To get an accurate reading, place the basic oven thermometer or the probe of the digital thermometer in the middle of your oven. Next, set the oven at a temperature that you would ordinarily use for baking, such as 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the oven comes up to the set temperature, compare the reading on the thermometer display to the oven temperature that you set.
Find Your Oven’s Average Operating Temperature
Most ovens regulate the oven temperature by turning on a heating element when the temperature declines to a preset lower limit. Conversely, the heating element is turned off when the oven temperature climbs to a preset upper limit. This results in your oven turning on and off on a frequent basis, which causes the oven temperature to vary over time.
To find your oven’s average operating temperature, place your oven thermometer or digital thermometer probe in the center of your oven. Next, set your oven for the desired temperature. Once your oven reaches the set temperature, take four readings at 20-minute intervals. Then, take an average of the four readings. If you have any doubts about the accuracy of your thermometer, you may want to invest in a new one.
Finding an Oven’s Hot and Cold Spots
Until now, we have concentrated on calibrating your oven by measuring the temperature in the center. But what if you don’t bake everything in the center? If you are baking a large meal, you may have several side-by-side dishes going at one time on different racks. You may have even noticed that one area of your oven tends to bake faster than another.
You can map out the hot and cold spots of your oven by spreading white coconut on two sheet pans and placing them in your oven, one over the other. Then, observe what happens when you turn on your oven. The coconut in the oven’s hot spots will begin to brown faster than the coconut in the oven’s cold spots. You can record or remember that information and use it to your advantage in the future.
Calibrating the Oven’s Thermostat With a Dial Knob
If you have an oven with a dial control knob, you may be able to calibrate the oven’s thermostat by removing the knob. In most cases, you can simply pull on the knob with both hands to remove it. Once the control knob has been removed, look on the back of it, and you should see two screws. Loosening those screws will allow you to rotate the outer portion of the knob that contains the temperature markings while you hold the inner portion.
Turning the outer portion in a clockwise direction will make your oven run hotter. Conversely, turning it in a counterclockwise direction will make your oven run cooler. Some dial control knobs even have directions printed on the back of them that explain how to calibrate your oven’s thermostat.
Food for Thought: Oven Calibration
You can check the internal temperature of your oven by using an oven thermometer. If you find that your oven’s temperature is off by a few degrees, you can calibrate it. That can sometimes be done by removing the dial control knob and adjusting it. In other cases, you will need to refer to your owner’s manual. Either way, calibrating your oven will help you to bake better in the future.