Ovens are amazing appliances, but if you aren't using yours correctly, you're likely not reaping the full benefits of having one.
To help make your future baking endeavors go more smoothly, we gathered some surprisingly common mistakes people make with their ovens. From not setting a timer to using ingredients that are too cold, here are eight things you're probably doing wrong with your oven — and what to do instead.
1. You’re not pre-heating properly.
No matter how much you might want to start baking those cookies, if your oven isn't properly pre-heated — meaning it hasn't reached the required temperature for cooking — it's too soon. Make a habit of letting your oven preheat for at least 10 to 15 minutes before baking to ensure your food cooks evenly and thoroughly.
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2. You’re not cleaning it enough.
A little dish soap, baking soda, and vinegar goes a long way when cleaning your oven. Apply a mixture of 1 1/2 cups of baking soda, 1/2 cup of dish soap, and 1/4 cup of white vinegar onto the inside surfaces of an empty oven using a clean cloth. Let it sit overnight and simply wipe clean with a damp cloth in the morning. Do this at least once a month (or on warm days when a self-cleaning cycle may make your home a bit too hot for comfort) to keep your oven nice and clean.
3. You're ignoring (or misunderstanding) your oven drawer.
Not all ovens have a lower drawer feature, but those that do can cause some debate. What is that space for, anyway? On some models, the drawer serves to warm or broil food (the warming can be handy if you've got a small oven and are trying to juggle multiple dishes). On other models, it's actually a storage drawer — a blessing in small kitchens!
4. You’re using ingredients that are too cold.
Too cold of ingredients — think butter, eggs, and other dairy products — can slow down and screw up your baking cycle. If your recipe calls for "room temperature" ingredients, take care to remove them from your refrigerator at least a half an hour before baking so they soften up.
5. You’re not greasing or lining your pans.
Nothing's worse that a perfectly baked cake stuck in the pan. Unless otherwise specified in the instructions, always take care to grease your baking pans with nonstick cooking spray, butter, shortening, or flour before filling them with ingredients, or line them with aluminum foil or parchment paper to make removing your baked goods a breeze.
6. You’re not setting a timer.
Eyeballing your food as it bakes will only get you so far. Whether with an oven timer, portable timer, or your smart phone, set a timer for the minimum bake time as soon as you stick your food in the oven so no matter what happens, you know you won't wind up with burnt or undercooked goodies.
7. You’re not rotating your pan while baking.
If you aren't rotating your baking pan while it's in the oven, you're doing it wrong. Believe it or not, certain parts of an oven, particularly the front and top, can get hotter than the others, so if you don't rotate your pan from front to back (and from top to bottom shelf) at least once during the cooking cycle, there's a chance your food might not bake evenly.
8. You’re opening the oven too much.
Every time you open the oven door to check on your baked goods, you let out hot air and lower the oven temperature. Not only does opening your oven too much slow down the baking cycle, it could cause more fragile baked goods — like cakes and soufflés — to collapse or fall apart because of the sudden movement. Do yourself a favor and use your oven light to check on your food while it bakes, and if you don't have one, wait until you rotate the pan midway to open the oven.