For the past few months I have had the pleasure of living and working in two locations, both of which I call home. But as I develop and test recipes with two different ovens I have discovered an added challenge. The two ovens, set to the same temperature, do not perform the same.
I have tested the oven temperature and both set at 350 degrees do indeed register 350 degrees on the exact same thermometer. Yet, the same recipe, with the exact same ingredients, can take as much as 20% longer to be done in one location than the other.
So, what’s going on?
The first oven is the one I used to develop and test the recipes for my first two books. It’s a Kenmore, about ten years old. Nothing fancy, but it’s reliable. It’s probably similar to what many of you have in your homes.
The second oven is new. I replaced a very old, very unreliable oven with an oven that has some high-end features, including convection. I picked it because I needed an oven that was a slide-in and it had to fit in the space I had (to avoid an entire kitchen remodel). It happens to be blue inside (pretty, right?), but that’s just a bonus!
This is the oven that bakes faster. Yes, on the regular bake cycle (I don’t use convection for baking). Neither location is at high altitude, although one (the one that bakes faster) is far more humid.
So, again, what’s going on?
After much experimentation (and second-guessing) I now believe that the variation has to do with the fans (or lack of them). Even on regular bake, the new oven uses the fan that would be used for convection baking to help the oven preheat faster. I think this creates a more uniform temperature throughout the oven and hence it bakes faster (and more evenly). I also believe this is why my brownies made with the Enjoy Life baking mix required less time than suggested.
I believe this article about ignoring your oven dial has some good points. We should always view timing – not just for cooking but also for baking – as guidance, not definitive rules. Learning what your baked goods should look like when they are done is a far better determination than time.