The oven does so much to help home chefs create impressive cooked meals, like that plump fruit pie browned to perfection or a braised beef dish that comes out tender and falling from the bone. The internal temperature of the oven is critical to produce delectable dishes consistently. Even the most expensive ovens can be off a few degrees of the interior temperature. If your oven isn't heating to the correct temperature that reads on the display, then there are a few ways to check the interior temperature.
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A freestanding oven thermometer can give you a good reading of the appliance's true temperature.
Oven Temperature Not Correct
When cakes aren't firm in the middle or crusted chicken comes out burnt rather than crisp, the oven's temperature may be off considerably. Even a few degrees can throw off the best rise for a cake or singe the edges of thin pieces of meat.
An oven thermometer is vital for consistent cooking, according to America's Test Kitchen. The experts at this esteemed cooking test center note that ovens can be off by as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Checking the oven regularly with a good oven thermometer placed in the center of the oven is the best way to ensure that the oven temperature is rising to the correct corresponding degree.
Oven Temperature Control
Oven temperature control is not always a good judge of the heat inside the appliance. The internal oven thermometer is often placed in an out-of-the-way area, such as the back or far sides. These areas are subject to drafts or hot spots. A freestanding oven thermometer can offer a true read of the oven's temperature.
Because the oven temperature control tends not to offer a good read of the appliance's actual temperature, an independent thermometer can help. The best thermometer to check the oven temperature is one that has been tested and is consistent with its temperature read after multiple turns in the oven.
Check the Oven Temperature
Almost every oven needs to be tested for accuracy, according to the experts at ThermoWorks. An oven will tend to vacillate between temperatures, with the center of the oven heating to a 20 to 50 degrees F difference compared to the sides.
Normal oven temperature fluctuation can vary by model and manufacturer. Place an oven-safe thermometer on the center rack of the oven. Preheat the appliance to any temperature you like. Using 350 degrees Fahrenheit is a general rule. After preheating, check the oven thermometer by opening the door and peering inside.
If you remove the oven thermometer to check it, there is a chance it will cool down slightly and not offer a true reading.
Adjusting for Temperature Fluctuation
Once you know the normal oven temperature fluctuation of your hardworking appliance, you can adjust the temperature. For instance, if your oven is actually 375 degrees F when you preheat to 350 degrees F, simply program the oven to preheat to 325 degrees F so that the actual temperature is 350 degrees F.
To re-calibrate the oven temperature to match the independent thermometer, check the owner's manual.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at www.vegaswriter.com.