How To

Kitchen essentials: Get to know your own oven

It's the most important piece of equipment in your kitchen, but every oven is different and it can be difficult to get used to a new one. Find out whether yours needs longer or shorter cooking times, where its "hot spots" are and how to position the shelves.

Temperature

If you are using a fan-forced oven, check the operating instructions for best results. As a general rule, reduce the temperature by 10°C to 20°C when using the fan during baking; recipes might also take slightly less time to bake than specified in recipes.

Some ovens give better results if the fan is used for only part of the baking time; in this case, it is usually best to introduce the fan during the last half of the baking time.

Some domestic fan-forced ovens have “hot spots”. Do whatever it takes to get even browning and baking. Rotate or turn the pans, or move them from one shelf to another. If the baking time is short – up to 30 minutes, change the positions of the pans halfway through the baking time. For longer baking times, make the changes every 20 to 30 minutes.

Shelves

Before you preheat the oven, position the oven racks – they expand when they’re hot, and can be quite difficult to move. Also, check that the cake pans you’re using fit on the rack properly, allowing space for the cake, etc., to rise. It’s always easier to remove baked goods from the top rack in the oven, than from between the racks.

If you often bake more than two batches of slices or biscuits, buy another oven rack or two, as fan-forced ovens should be able to bake four racks of biscuits evenly.

Preheat

Best results are achieved by baking in an oven preheated to the required temperature; this takes about 10 minutes. Be sure to check the preheating instructions; some ovens have a particular preheating mode, and some don’t. Make sure you choose the correct mode needed for whatever you’re baking. And make sure the oven shelves are in the right position before you turn the heat on – they’re harder to relocate when they’re hot.

Now you’ve mastered your oven, check out these great baking recipes:

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