With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about holiday baking! I love baking….especially my Mom’s Sour Cream Cookies! I make a lot of these cookies as treats for family and friends around the holidays, but it’s very easy to over-bake them, so it’s important the oven’s temperature be set just so. Last year, I decided to find out just how accurate my oven really is. It turns out that calibrating an oven is a very simple process that only takes a couple of minutes!
First, you’ll need to an oven thermometer. The inexpensive grocery store variety will work just fine! Once you have a thermometer, preheat your oven to 350° and set the thermometer in the center of the oven. Once the oven is completely preheated (give it plenty of time,) check the thermometer. Ideally, you’d want to check the temperature through the oven door with the oven still shut. Quite a bit of heat can escape through the open door!
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I was amazed that my oven was exactly 350°! Turns out, the oven is not to blame when my cookies or bread don’t bake perfectly. ;-)
From here, you can move the thermometer around in the oven, giving it 10-15 minutes between readings. You may discover a few hot pockets or cooler spots. While there’s not much you can do about those variations, it’s much better to know that they are there so you can properly rotate things.
If your oven wasn’t perfect, you can be pretty happy as long as it is within 5-10 degrees. A reading of anywhere from 340°-360° is acceptable. You may notice that your oven needs more time to heat up than you thought, or that it heats up higher than 350° after it preheats. Every oven is a little different, but understanding yours should help you bake things much more evenly. :-)
If your oven was below 340° or above 360°, you’ll want to tweak things a little bit, so that you don’t have to adjust every time you set the oven. If you still have your owner’s manual, look for a section about calibrating. Otherwise, you can search the model number of your oven and find the manual online. The model number is located on your oven, usually just inside the door against the left side. Most ovens will give you the same directions for calibration.
Adjusting the Temperature Gauge
Remove the oven temperature knob and take a look at the back. All you have to do is loosen those two screws and move the dial clockwise or counterclockwise to shift the numbers. Tighten the screws back up and turn on the oven to see if everything matches.
This solution is really just bringing the numbers on the oven dial into alignment with the temperature inside the oven. We’re not actually adjusting any of the inner workings of the oven itself. If your oven temperature is off by more than 100° or fluctuates a lot in temperature, you’ll need to call a professional.
Happy baking! :-)