Temperature plays a vital role in baking and cooking.
More often than not, controlling the temperature in an oven does more than just ensuring doneness—it can affect the texture and flavour of the dish or baked goods.
Generally, a temperature that’s too low makes it harder for your food to be done, and a bitter, burnt taste will emerge in overcooked food.
Your oven might have temperatures written around the dial, but is it reliable?
Unfortunately, it’s often inaccurate. In worst cases, an oven’s actual temperature can differ by as much as 10ºC.
It doesn’t seem like much, but this temperature difference will put you at risk of baking or cooking fails.
An oven thermometer is a great addition to your kitchen. In the long run, you’ll be glad that you got it in the first place.
Investing in a good oven thermometer not only saves you from kitchen nightmares, but also helps you to serve the best dishes for your loved ones. Read on to discover the benefits of using an oven thermometer!
10 Reasons Why You Should Use an Oven Thermometer
1. It helps to bake things more evenly.
When you’re cooking several items of baked goods or meat at once, they’re spread all over the baking tray.
In many cases, the heat distribution in an oven isn’t even, so several pieces might be perfectly cooked through while the others are still not done.
Certain areas in your oven tend to be hotter. These are called oven hot spots, and food placed in these areas will cook faster.
An oven thermometer can help you test for hot spots, and allow you to find out the ideal position to place your food and baking sheets.
It can also tell you if you will need to flip and move your food, or rotate your pans mid-baking to ensure even cooking.
2. It sets your oven to the exact temperature.
Does it really matter if you’re setting the oven temperature by a few degrees lower or higher?
Apparently, it does. For baked goods that highly rely on temperature like soufflés and popovers, a discrepancy as little as 25ºF (4ºC) could mean under or over baking.
Although this small difference won’t matter that much if you’re cooking poultry, meat, or fish, it’s always best to be precise.
3. It helps to maintain the desired temperature.
Keeping an oven thermometer inside your oven while you’re cooking/baking will help you to monitor the temperature throughout the process.
If the oven temperature suddenly drops or increases, you’ll be able to fix it immediately and save yourself from cooking or baking disasters.
4. It prevents overbaking/cooking.
When the oven’s temperature is unintendedly set higher than what is suggested, following the cooking time written in the recipe will result in overcooking.
Overbaking your bread, cake, and cookies will give them a bitter taste and unsightly appearance, while overcooking meat will make them lose juiciness and tenderness.
Make sure that your oven’s set at the right temperature before you put anything into it. That way, you’ll get better results every time.
5. An oven’s components will wear out over time.
If you’ve been using the same oven for years, there’s a big chance that it’s no longer as accurate as when it was newly bought.
Multiple cycles of heating and cooling is a lot of work for your oven, and its components will slowly but surely lose accuracy.
6. You can reheat food the proper way.
Reheating your food in an oven will give satisfying results when done correctly—it might even taste like it was freshly cooked.
But set the temperature a bit too low or high, and the reheated food will not taste its best.
Reheating your food at higher temperatures than necessary will overcook it, which makes it dry or even burnt.
Unless otherwise specified, aim for temperatures between 200-250ºF (93-121ºC) and wait for 10-15 minutes to re-experience the enjoyment of fresh-out-of-the-oven dishes.
7. The built-in oven thermometer is often unreliable.
Some ovens come with a built-in thermometer, but there’s a high chance that it’s inaccurate, and relying on it will only lead you to mishaps.
When you cook or bake, setting the temperature inaccurately will affect the outcome, especially in baked goods where temperature is often the deciding factor between failure and success.
Invest in an oven thermometer to help you achieve the results you want every time.
8. It lets you know when the oven is actually ready.
While the standard preheating time for most ovens is 10 minutes, it actually takes a minimum of 15 minutes for your oven to reach the programmed temperature.
Relying on the sound that indicates it’s ready might not be your best bet.
Put an oven thermometer inside before preheating your oven, and you’ll know exactly when it’s ready.
9. Most ovens have been calibrated, but it gets inaccurate with time.
Before ovens are sold, the manufacturers generally calibrate them as a quality assurance measure.
However, this calibration will deteriorate when the oven is displayed or stored in warehouses before you bring one home.
That’s why you should use an oven thermometer that gives you the actual temperature of the inside of your oven, instead of relying completely on the oven thermostat.
10. Everything tastes better when they’re cooked at the right temperature.
Apart from ensuring that everything will be cooked through, following the exact temperature in any recipe will give you the best version of that particular dish.
However, it’s obviously not possible if your oven’s temperature is off by 4ºC or even more.
Instead of doing guesswork every time you cook or bake, it’s better to get an oven thermometer that helps you get the job done.
How to Tell If Your Oven’s Accurate
If you’re wondering how to find out if your oven’s internal temperature matches what’s written on the dial, here’s a simple way to find out.
- Put an oven thermometer on the middle rack, as close as possible to the center.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C) for at least 20 minutes.
- Record the temperature shown by the thermometer after preheating is done.
- Continue to read the oven thermometer once every 20 minutes for the next 2 hours.
- Add up all the numbers, and divide by how many times you recorded the oven temperature.
If the calculation results in a number that’s very close to the set temperature, it means that your oven is accurate enough.
However, if the number deviates quite a lot, there’s no need to panic! Just turn the oven dial to a number lower or higher than what’s written on the recipe, and rely on the oven thermometer to know if your oven’s at the correct temperature.
Bake and Cook Better with an Oven Thermometer
Some oven thermometers are quite pricey, but there are affordable ones that function just as well. It is also a tool that we use regularly in our test kitchen—check out the oven thermometer we use.
Not only will it make baking and cooking much easier, you’ll also save yourself from troubles that arise from using the wrong temperature to cook.