Preheat an Oven
Before you bake something, your oven needs to be heated to the proper temperature. While it takes only a few seconds to turn on your oven, it can take several minutes for it to reach the right temperature. The act of turning on your oven and letting it heat up to the right temperature is referred to as "preheating." Because of how long it takes for an oven to warm up, most recipes will recommend that you turn your oven on first, before starting to cook. This article will show you how to preheat both an electrical oven and a gas oven.
Preheating an Electric Oven
- Consider preheating your oven before starting your recipe. Electrical ovens often need 10 to 15 minutes before they reach the proper temperature. This is often enough time to prepare your recipe. If you need more than 15 minutes in which to prepare the food, then consider starting the oven half-way through the preparation process.
- Open the oven to make sure everything has been removed. If you store items in your oven, such as baking trays, remove them and set them aside.
- Rearrange the rack levels, if necessary. Most oven racks are set in the middle of the oven, but sometimes, the dish that you are baking will need to be placed higher or lower in the oven. Refer to your recipe, and if necessary, take out the oven rack and set it to the right level. There should be narrow ledges on the inside walls of your oven for the rack to sit on.
- Items that need to get browned and crispy at top, such as casseroles and lasagnas, are generally baked towards the top of the oven.
- Items such as cakes, cookies, and cupcakes should be placed in the middle rack, unless the recipe states otherwise.
- Items that need to get brown and crispy at the bottom, such as flat breads and pizzas, are placed towards the bottom of the oven.
- Turn the oven on and set the temperature. To get the right temperature, you will need to refer to your recipe. The oven temperature is usually at the very beginning of the recipe, in the first step. Simply grip the dial, press down on it, and turn it until the mark lands on the right temperature.
- If your food needs to be baked, you will need to turn on the oven and turn the dial until the marker lands on "broil."
- Wait until the oven reaches the desired temperature. Most modern ovens have a setting that lets you either see the current temperature or beeps when ready. Some ovens have a little light that turns on when it is the right temperature. This light is usually next to the oven temperature dial.
- Most ovens take 10 to 15 minutes to heat up to the right temperature.
- If you have an older oven, you may not have a dial with the different temperatures written on it; you may just have an on-off switch. If this is the case, simply turn on the oven and wait 10 to 15 minutes before setting the items to be baked inside.
- Consider using an oven thermometer. Sometimes, the temperature inside the oven is not accurate and does not actually match the temperature on the dial. An oven thermometer, which is usually placed inside the oven, will tell you the actual temperature. Refer to this thermometer instead of waiting for the indicator light to go on or for the oven to beep.
- Place the food inside the oven and let it bake according to the recipe. Make sure that the door is firmly closed, unless the recipe states otherwise, and do not peek inside your oven. Opening and closing the door while baking causes the internal heat to escape, which may result in longer baking times.
- If you plan on doing a lot of baking and using multiple racks, consider staggering the dishes and pans so that they are not parallel to each other. This will allow the hot air inside the oven to circulate around the food and distribute the heat more evenly.
Preheating a Gas Oven
- Be sure to have proper ventilation. Gas ovens are fueled by gas and thus emit more fumes than electric ones. Provide proper ventilation, such as keeping a window open.
- Open the oven the make sure there is nothing inside. If you store baking tins inside your oven, you will need to pull them out and set them aside.
- Adjust the racks, if necessary. Some recipes will require you to change the position of the racks in your oven as doing so will determine the evenness of the baking. Refer to your recipe and adjust the racks accordingly. Simply pull them out and reinsert them into the oven. The oven should have shallow ledges inside for the racks to sit on.
- Items, such as casseroles and lasagnas, need to be browned and crispy at top. They are generally placed towards the top of the oven.
- Cakes, cookies, and cupcakes need to be baked evenly, and are usually placed in the middle rack, unless the recipe states otherwise.
- Items, such as flat breads and pizzas, need to get brown and crispy at the bottom. They are usually baked in the bottom level of the oven.
- Determine whether your oven ignites with a pilot or electrically. How your oven ignites will determine how you turn it on and set the temperature. Most older stoves will use a pilot light, while newer ones will rely on electricity to ignite. Here is how you can determine what sort of ignition your oven has:
- If your oven has a pilot-based ignition, you may notice a constantly burning flame that increases or decreases in size depending on the temperature
- If your oven has an electric-based ignition, you will not see the flames until you turn on the oven and set the temperature.
- If the oven uses a pilot light, turn the oven on and set the temperature. You may have to press on the dial lightly before turning it.
- If the oven uses gas marks instead of Celsius or Fahrenheit, you will need to convert the mark. You will need to go on the internet and use an online conversion tool.
- Sometimes, the pilot light goes out or needs to be ignited before each use. If this happens, make sure that the temperature dials are set to "off" and locate the pilot light. Light a match and hold the flame next to the pilot hole. If the pilot light ignites, remove the match. If the pilot light does not ignite, turn the temperature up slightly.
- If the oven is digital, press broil or bake on the keypad, and set the temperature. Use the up and down arrows on the pad to adjust the temperature. Once you have set the temperature, hit "Start." The numbers on the screen will change—this is the current temperature inside the oven. Wait as the temperature rises and reaches the original temperature you set.
- When the oven reaches the right temperature, place the food inside. Gas ovens heat up much faster than electric ones, so your oven should reach the proper temperature in 5 to 10 minutes.
- Keep the oven door closed, unless the recipe states otherwise. Do not open the oven door and peek at your food, as this will cause the heat inside the oven to escape and prolong baking times.
- If you have a lot of baking to do and are planning on both racks, do not put too many dishes on the bottom rack. This may prevent the heat from reaching the food on the upper rack.
- Use caution if you smell gas. If you smell gas while baking, you may have a gas leak. Turn the oven off immediately. Do NOT use any electrical appliances. Doing so may cause an explosion. Open a window and evacuate the house. Contact emergency services using either a neighbor's phone or a cell phone. Do not use your cellphone inside the house.
Preheating an Oven at a High-Altitude
- Keep the altitude in mind. High-altitudes will impact the baking time, temperature, and even the ingredients. Most recipes were not designed for high-altitudes and will need adjustments. If you are at 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) or higher, you will need to adjust your recipe.
- Increase the baking temperature. When you turn on your oven, you will need to set the temperature higher than what is stated in the recipe. If you are at 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) or higher, you will need to increase your baking temperature by 15°F to 25°F (9°C to 14°C)
- If you are between 7,000 feet and 9,000 feet (2133.6 meters to 2743.2 meters), consider increasing the baking time instead.
- If you are at 9,000 feet (2743.2 meters) and higher, increase the temperature stated in the recipe by 25°F (14°C). Then, as soon as you place your food inside the oven, lower the temperature back to the temperature stated in the recipe.
- Decrease the baking time. Since you are increasing the temperature, your items will be finished sooner than what is stated in the recipe. For every 6 minutes of baking time stated in the recipe, decrease your baking time by 1 minute.
- For example, if your recipe needs to be baked for every 30 minutes, decrease the baking time, and bake for 25 minutes instead.
- Place the food closer to the heat source. Most ovens are warmer towards the bottom, and this is where you should consider placing your dishes to ensure that they get cooked properly.
- Keep in mind that each oven is different, and you may have to bake your food longer than what the recipe requires. Similarly, your food may be finished sooner than what is started in the recipe.
- When using multiple racks, consider staggering the dishes inside as opposed to keeping them parallel. This will allow the hot air inside the oven to circulate more evenly.
- Make sure you close the oven door properly. Don't open it while the food is baking. You lose a lot of heat every time you open the door, and that means your food will take longer to cook.
- Consider using an oven thermometer if you have an electric oven. The temperature inside is not always accurate. Simply place the oven thermometer and refer to the temperature it shows instead of waiting for the indicator light to turn on, or for the oven to beep.
- Letting your oven preheat (or heat itself to the appropriate temperature) is important. Not doing so may result in under-cooked food or longer baking times. It may also result in your food cooking unevenly.
- Some items, however, do not require a preheated oven and can be inserted into the oven while it heats up. Refer to your recipe.
- If you are using a gas oven and you smell gas, you may have a gas leak. Immediately turn the oven off, and do NOT use any electrical appliances. Doing so may cause an explosion. Open the window, leave the house, and use either a neighbor's phone or your cellphone and contact emergency services. Do not use your cellphone inside the house.
- Convert Between Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin
- Convection Bake
Sources and Citations
- Reluctant Gourmet, Is Oven Rack Position Important?
- Real Simple, Oven Rack Positions
- Cooking and Me, How to Pre-heat an Oven
- Apartment Therapy, 10 Oven Tips that Cut Costs and Keep You Cool
- Home Guides, How to Manually Light a Gas Stove
- Kim Rosenbaum, Preheating a Gas Oven
- Quality Appliance Services, Appliance Repair Tips
- Today.com, What to Do if You Suspect a Natural Gas Leak in Your Home
- Stella Culinary, High Altitude Baking & Cooking: The Sciences, Tips & Tricks
- Epicurious, High-Altitude Baking