The oven seems like a pretty straightforward appliance, but there are many common mistakes that can go unaddressed. Mastering the convection setting, picking the right cookware, and cleaning spills are just a few of the tasks that can be easy to get wrong. Read on to find out how to get the most out of your oven.
Not Taking Advantage Of The Convection Setting
Nowadays, many ovens have a convection setting. Still, this helpful resource is often ignored. It may be worth trying it out for a more efficient cooking experience. How it works is a fan and an exhaust system create a more even temperature in the oven.
The exhaust pulls out any moisture while the fan keeps the hot air circulating. This enables the food to cook more evenly in a shorter amount of time and with less heat.
Not Checking For Hot And Cold Spots
Have you ever baked something that was burnt in one spot and undercooked in another? Or perhaps the casserole wasn’t a consistent texture or the chicken formed sunspots. All of these are signs that your oven has hot and cold spots.
A simple way to test for this is to lay slices of white bread across the oven rack and toast it at 350 degrees. The ones that turn brown are in a hot spot, and the ones that stay pale are in a cold spot. Place items accordingly the next time you bake for more even cooking.
Ignoring The Oven Rack Placement
Oven racks aren’t just there for the sake of baking multiple things at once. They actually impact the way food items brown. That’s because of the way ovens maintain their temperature.
When the heat kicks on, it blasts from the bottom, so items on the lower rack brown more underneath. When it kicks off, the heat rises, so items on the top rack brown more on the surface. That’s why placement is important, especially for dishes like casserole or pizza.
Not Cleaning The Oven Racks In The Bathtub
Some ovens have a self-cleaning feature, but that doesn’t mean it works for oven racks. In fact, it can actually damage their coating. Instead, slide them out and throw them in the bathtub!
The bathtub has enough room to fit the racks and clean them thoroughly. A natural remedy is to cover them with baking soda and vinegar. Once the foaming subsides, fill the tub with hot water and let them sit overnight. Rinse them using a cloth the next day and you’re done!
Ignoring Moisture Build Up
If moisture is building up on the oven door, there’s a good chance that the door isn’t properly sealed. If so, then energy is being wasted as heat escapes out the side of the door.
This can lead to improperly cooked food and a higher energy bill. Before you spend a fortune on a new oven, consider replacing the gasket. It’s a small cost that will be well worth the time and money saved elsewhere.
Not Paying Attention To Pan Color
It may be surprising to hear that the color of the pan impacts the way your food bakes. It turns out, darker pans absorb heat quicker, which leads to faster baking and more browning.
It’s the same reason that standing in the sun is a little more excruciating when wearing all black verses all white clothing. Opt for a dark pan for something more crispy and a light pan for delicate items that you want to stay soft.
Not Baking Stale Bread
Once bread goes stale, it may seem like the only thing to do is toss it. However, those leftover dinner rolls may still be salvagable with a little help from the oven.
Simply run the bread under some cold water to get the surface moist and then pop it in the oven at 350 degrees. Bake the bread for five minutes or so to revive the loaf! The moisture will soften the bread so it feels fluffy and fresh.
Not Using The Broiler To Help Preheat The Oven
One of the most frustrating parts of using an oven is waiting for it to preheat. Compared to a microwave, it already takes a while to heat something up. Then there’s the added time of waiting for the oven to heat!
A quick way to slice the preheating time in half is to heat the broiler first. Turn it on for 3 to 5 minutes, then turn on the oven. The broiler will have warmed up the oven so much that it should only take a few more minutes to preheat.
Lining The Oven Floor With Aluminum Foil
Covering the oven floor with aluminum foil seems like a great idea in terms of spills. The foil catches anything that falls, making cleanup a breeze. The problem is that doing so is a major safety and fire hazard.
That’s because the foil can block airflow and trap heat. At the very least, this can lead to improperly cooked food. The aluminum can also melt to the oven, leading to irreparable damage that isn’t covered under warranty.
Not Staggering Items On Different Racks
Having multiple items in the oven can impact the cooking times and temperatures for each individual item. This is especially true if one item is placed on the rack directly below another.
Since the heat blasts from the bottom, a pan on the bottom rack could block some of the heat from getting to the item on the top rack. Staggering items helps them each get cooked evenly. Better yet, utilize a double oven whenever possible.
Not Taking Advantage Of The Oven Floor
Oven racks aren’t the only surface to bake food on. It turns out, the oven floor is also an option! This can be particularly helpful when cooking something that requires a ton of heat to hit the bottom.
One example is hard roasted veggies. By placing the pan directly on the oven floor, the veggies will get a burst of heat each time the oven turns back on to maintain the temperature. The result is roasted vegetables that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Opening The Oven Door Too Often
Opening the oven door to check the food inside may seem minor enough, but doing so can decrease the temperature by 25 to 50 degrees! Instead, monitor the food by looking through the window.
On that note, be sure to shut the door as soon as you take something out to check on the temperature. Leaving the door ajar even for a few seconds could be the reason it’s taking so long to get that roasted chicken to the right temperature.
Not Cleaning Your Oven With Baking Soda And Vinegar
While self-cleaning ovens can be helpful, that can also be risky if there’s too much build-up. The high heat can lead to excessive smoke and even start a fire. To play it safe, mix half a cup of baking soda with 3 tablespoons of water to make a super-cleaning paste.
Layer the paste all over the oven and let it sit for 12 hours. Wipe the paste with a damp cloth and spray some vinegar on the surface for tougher areas.
Not Using It To Season Your Cast Iron Skillet
Cast iron skillets are fantastic in terms of function, but they require a bit of maintenance. To ensure that the skillet doesn’t rust and that it cleans properly, it needs to be seasoned. All this entails is coating the skillet with oil and baking it in the oven!
Set the oven to 400 degrees and place the skillet upside down on the top rack. Place a pan on the bottom rack to catch any oil that falls. Cook for an hour and let it cool to reveal a stick-free skillet ready for cooking.
Letting Food Collect At The Bottom Of The Oven
Food spills happen during baking and they can be a pain to clean, especially if you put it off. However, there’s more incentive to get rid of these messes outside of it being unsightly.
Leftover spills and crumbs that collect on the oven floor can smoke and even catch fire. This can throw off the heat in the oven, causing food to cook at a faster rate. Plus, the smell can alter the taste of the food.
Not Using The Oven To Make The House Smell Amazing
It’s no secret that freshly baked cookies make the entire house smell wonderful. However, you don’t have to commit to whipping up some cookie dough to get this effect.
The oven can double as an air freshener with just a tablespoon or two of essential oil or vanilla extract. Place the liquid in an oven-safe dish and bake it for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. Like baking cookies, the smell will flow throughout the home.
Cooking Pizza At A Low Temperature
One thing ovens are commonly used to cook is pizza, but they aren’t nearly as hot as the ones they use at pizzerias. To get your oven closer to the 900 degrees that pizza ovens operate at, heat up the broiler for 45 minutes.
The broiler flame stays on constantly rather than switching off like the oven does. This will get your oven’s overall temperature way past its dial limit, creating a hotter environment for better pizza.
Not Using Salt On Oven Spills
Every now and again, something is bound to bubble over in the oven. When it does, it can leave a stuck-on mess that isn’t too fun to scrub at later. Fortunately, salt can help.
As soon as the spill occurs, throw some salt over it, being careful not to burn yourself. Later, once the oven is nice and cool, you’ll find it much easier to scrub off the spill. That’s because the salt prevents the liquid from bonding to the oven.
Not Accounting For Glass Bakeware
Glass bakeware doesn’t respond to heat the same way as metal and other types of pans. It isn’t the best heat conductor, which just means that glass takes longer to heat up.
This can impact cooking times when it comes to certain food, such as cake. At the same time, once glass is hot it takes a while to cool. This makes glass perfect for items that are going to be served directly on the table during gatherings as it will stay warm.
Not Using The Oven To Caramelize Onions
Caramelizing onions on the stovetop can take some patience, especially when it comes to large batches. Instead of stirring them forever, pop the onions in the oven! Spread thickly-sliced onions evenly over a pan with spices and oil.
Mix the onions so they are lightly coated and then cover the pan with aluminum foil. Pop it in the oven for 50 minutes at 375 degrees. If the onions still aren’t caramelized enough, make use of the broiler.