Taking on some old fashioned recipes? Optimize your success with the correct oven temperature conversions!
Cooking with vintage recipes can be a fun and interesting way to explore the history of cooking and try new dishes, but it can also present a number of challenges.
Many of the vintage recipes featured on this site have very old-fashioned — and often vague — cooking directions. The older the recipe, the more cryptic it may seem.
One of the main challenges is the lack of precise cooking temperature instructions. Many vintage recipes will simply state “bake in a moderate oven” or “boil until done,” without providing a specific temperature. This can make it difficult to know exactly how hot the oven or stove should be, leading to frustratingly under- or overcooked dishes.
Another challenge is that cooking temperatures and techniques have changed over time, so a recipe that was written decades (or even a century) ago may not reflect the best way to cook a dish today.
For example, many vintage recipes were written for gas stoves (and before that, for wood burning stoves!), which can be difficult to accurately regulate, while modern electric stoves are more precise. This can make it difficult to know how to adjust the temperature for a recipe written for a gas stove on an electric stove.
ALSO SEE: Vintage recipes: Glossary of 44 helpful cooking terms & definitions
Solutions for oven temperature conversions
One way to deal with these challenges is to use a cooking thermometer (like one of these) to ensure that the oven or stove is at the right temperature — which is a good habit to get into when baking, anyway, since precise temperature control can be critical to the dish turning out right.
You can also try to find modern versions of vintage recipes that have been adapted for use with modern cooking equipment and techniques.
Overall, cooking with old-fashioned recipes can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the challenges and take steps to address them in order to achieve the best results. Here we have a few charts to help you determine the best cooking temperature vintage oven-baked recipes.
Found a vintage oven-baked recipe that just says “cook in moderate oven” — or one with degrees listed in celsius? Here’s a chart to help you convert that temperature in Fahrenheit.
Then read on after the chart for some more helpful insight into the best baking temperatures for different kinds of foods — even when the original vintage instructions are extremely vague by our modern standards!
MORE: Old-fashioned cooking measurements & equivalents
Oven temperature conversions for cooking & baking (1935)
A question of real importance to the young housewife who, armed with a cookbook, sets out to bake her first pan of biscuits, is “how hot is hot?”
The old-fashioned terms, “slow oven,” “moderate oven” and “hot oven,” are little help even to an experienced housewife, for the line of demarcation is small, and it is difficult to know when a slow oven becomes a moderate one.
The right oven temperature conversions will help retro recipes turn out perfectly in your modern appliance!
Mrs Ida A Fenton, an Arkansas extension economist in household management, suggests an oven thermometer to take the guesswork out of oven temperatures, and a chart to draw a plain line of differentiation.
A very slow oven is from 250 to 300 degrees; a slow oven, 300 to 325 degrees; a moderate oven, 325 to 400 degrees; a hot oven, 400 to 450 degrees, and a very hot oven, 450 to 550 degrees, says Mrs. Fenton.
In baking, it must be remembered that the hotter the oven, the crisper the pastry will be.
Pumpkin or custard pie is placed in a 425-degree oven for twenty minutes, when the heat should be reduced to 325 degrees for twenty-five minutes.
A meringue, lemon or cream pie requires a 300-degree oven for fifteen minutes. A baked custard is placed in a pan of water and the oven held at 325 degrees.
Meats are seared at 450 to 500 degrees, and then the temperature is reduced. Beef is well roasted at twenty to thirty minutes to the pound at 400 degrees.
Pork and mutton require thirty minutes per pound in a 350-degree oven after searing. Fowl is cooked covered at 350 degrees.
A hot oven of 450 degrees is required for fluffy baked Irish potatoes. If they are unusually large, the temperature should be reduced at about thirty minutes to around 400 degrees. Sweet potatoes bake best at about 325 to 350 degrees.
Correct oven temperature conversions influence baking success (1957)
And should you be in doubt as to just where that little oven thermometer indicator should be, here are some timely suggestions taken from that dependable publication, “What’s New in Home Economics.”
WHEN BAKING CAKES
Moderate temperature for a sponge or butter cake, slow oven for honey fruit cake, keep crumb properly moist, make crust tender, golden brown. Too hot an oven produces a dry texture, heavy dark crust, and burned taste.
WHEN BAKING PASTRY
Quick baking in a hot oven is needed to retain the shape of the shell, give delicate brown color, and develop flavor. Too hot an oven causes overbrowning, burned taste. Too slow an oven can cause pastry to slump, dry, and be unattractively pale.
WHEN BAKING QUICK BREADS
Moderate temperature allows proper rising, and makes a tender crust. Too slow an oven leads to a heavy texture, a moist and pale crust. Too hot an oven can cause excess peaking of top, compact interior texture, and heavy, over-browned crust.
WHEN BAKING COOKIES
Moderate oven for most kinds, slow oven for some, make for a tender golden crust, properly baked crumb, fully-developed flavor. Too hot an oven can make crust too brown, and leave crumb underbaked. Too slow-oven makes crust pale, crumb dry.
WHEN BAKING FLUFFY PUDDINGS
A slow oven allows for rising to full height, making for a delicate crust and properly moist interior texture. Too high a temperature makes the crust heavy, may cause the interior to be too moist, and have an undercooked flavor.
WHEN BAKING EGG AND MILK PUDDINGS
Slow baking in a slow oven keeps the texture creamy smooth, free from separated liquid, and blends flavor thoroughly. Too high or changing temperature may cause liquid to separate, dark, rubbery crust to form, interior to be undercooked.
ALSO SEE: How to bake a cake: Tips & checklists from the cake-baking masters of the 50s
If there is one tool that is essential to a baker, it’s the oven. Knowing how to manage this equipment is crucial for successful bakes. Each oven has its own quirks and strengths. Like with a person, you need to get to know and form a relationship with it in order to anticipate the many things that can impact your baking.
One of the best ways to get to know your oven is to place an oven thermometer inside. The oven’s built-in thermometer is often inaccurate, which means it likely heats hotter or cooler than the displayed temperature. The oven will say it’s set at 350 degrees but is actually at 375 degrees. It’s not uncommon for home ovens to be off as much as 50 degrees. This will impact baking times, the inner texture of what you bake, and its overall appearance. Using a thermometer will let you know how your oven behaves and help you adjust the oven heat as needed to achieve consistent results.
There are more ways to work with your oven. Here are a few more tips on oven management to help you become a better baker.
Always Preheat the Oven
During the initial heating process, the oven temperature fluctuates, creating significant spikes and drops in heat. These variations in heat can throw off bake times and even worse, a spike of heat can impact the look of a finished bake. Avoid these temperature swings by heating your oven for at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to baking.
Preheat Baking Vessels
If you are baking bread in a Dutch oven, you need to treat it like an oven inside your oven. The Dutch oven needs to be preheated (with the lid on) before you add your dough.
“If you are baking bread in a Dutch oven, heat the Dutch oven for at least 45 minutes before baking,” says food editorial director Chandra Ram. She explains that doing so intensifies the heat inside the Dutch oven, so when you add your dough to the pot and return it to the oven, you get the most oven spring. Oven spring is the term used to describe when bread dough rises the most, during the first few minutes of cooking. This is why you most often start your bread in a covered Dutch oven, and then remove the lid halfway through cooking to let the crust brown.
As tempting as it may be to open that oven door to check on your bakes, the one constant piece of advice that we’ve gathered is don’t do it — leave the oven door shut as much as possible. Controlling the heat is important to success. Once you open the oven door, the heat drops significantly and the oven will take time to gather heat again, impacting bake times and structure.
“Industrial ovens are made to recover heat pretty quickly but home ovens are not,” explains Rochelle Cooper of The Duck & The Peach in Washington, D.C. “Every time you open your oven it loses 15 to 30 degrees, so try to limit peeking towards the end.”
If you want to check how your cookies or pies are doing, quickly use the oven light. We understand that sometimes you have to open the door to swap trays or to remove the lid off a Dutch oven. If you need to do that, wait until after the first 15 minutes of the baking process. Those first minutes are essential to the structure of your baked goods. When you do open the door, move as swiftly as possible and shut the oven door immediately, so you lose the least amount of heat.
Understand the Difference Between Convection and Conventional Ovens
The ovens you find in most home kitchens are conventional, meaning they have a heat source on the top or bottom of the oven. Most commercial kitchens and some home kitchens have convection ovens. Convection ovens have an additional fan to push and circulate hot air around the oven, creating a hotter, more even heat that cooks food faster and more evenly.
Be aware of what kind of oven you’re using. If you are baking a recipe made for a conventional oven in a convection, you will need to adjust the temperature of the oven down by 25 degrees. Some newer convection ovens may automatically adjust the temperature; check your manual to be sure.
Remember Carryover Cooking Will Finish Your Food
Your food continues to cook after you pull it from the oven, especially if it’s still on the baking sheet or in the pan used in the oven. “Carryover cooking means the cookie will continue to bake after you pull it out of the oven, no matter what you do and you need to account for that,” Cooper explains. “I usually pull my cookies when the edges are golden and the middle are just shiny in the very center. They will carry over to be soft in the middle and crispy on the edges.”
No matter what temperature your oven is baking, visual indicators are there to show you where things are in the cooking process. Keep carryover cooking in mind when looking at your bakes and making sure you are buffering time to account for the additional cooking.
This handy oven temperature conversion chart easily converts from Celsius to Fahrenheit to gas marks. Plus, download this simple chart for FREE to refer to while baking anytime.
There is nothing complicated about converting the oven temperature from one unit to another: from Celsius to Fahrenheit to gas mark.
You maybe have a go-to oven temperature conversion chart stuck on a cabinet door or your fridge.
But what if you get a comprehensive guide with a temperature conversion table and a free printable?
This article will help you convert the different temperatures between Fahrenheit, Celsius, and gas marks.
It also provides a fan oven temperature conversion table and guidelines for adapting recipes that call for a regular oven to use a convection one.
Download the free printable oven temperature conversion chart below.
Conventional oven conversion chart
Conventional ovens have been the most popular oven type since the 1950s. They come in different sizes with either gas or electric options.
Conventional electric ovens have electric heating elements on the top and bottom, while gas ovens rely on a gas flame.
Here are cheat sheets to help convert your recipes into the temperature units of your preference.
They are created for temperatures of conventional ovens (aka traditional ovens).
Note: the conversions below aren’t rounded up or down. You can round the number to the nearest degree: this will have very little to no difference in the result of your recipe.
Celsius to Fahrenheit to Gas Mark
Some recipes use “slow” or “hot” to describe oven temperatures. Here is a table for approximate temperatures for these terms.
Convection oven conversion chart
Convection ovens (aka fan ovens) differ from conventional ovens: they have fans.
The fan circulation of hot air throughout the chamber helps to ensure fast and even cooking of the food.
Interestingly, European convection ovens use a third heating element located behind the fan.
Convection ovens can be gas, or electric and are sold as an option in stoves, wall ovens, and countertop ovens.
So how do you adapt a recipe written for a regular oven to work for a convection oven?
The general rule is to reduce the temperature by 25°F or cut the cooking time by 25 percent.
And if you use an electric fan oven, you should reduce the temperature by 20°C.
But the best way to succeed in cooking and baking using a convection oven is to check the recommended temperature from the manufacturer’s handbook or website.
And always remember that baked goods might gain a golden brown color quickly due to fan assistant circulation of the hot air.
However, your bakes may not be thoroughly cooked. So make sure to check the doneness of your baking goods.
Here is a table to convert the oven temperature (in Fahrenheit) between a conventional oven and a convection one.
And here is another table to convert the oven temperature (in Celsius) between a conventional oven (aka regular oven) and a convection one (aka fan oven).
Oven conversion formulas
Here is a question: how to convert the oven temperature not included in the above charts?
There is no problem since there are all the equations to convert between Fahrenheit, Celsius, and gas mark.
The equation to convert from Celsius to Fahrenheit
°F = °C (9/5) + 32, or
For example, what is 220 Celsius to Fahrenheit?
(220°C x 1.8) + 32 = 428°F, or
to round it up 430°F.
The equation to convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius
°C = (°F – 32) x 5/9, or
°C = (°F – 32) x 0.5556
For example, how to convert 325 Fahrenheit to Celsius:
(325°F - 32) x 0.5556 = 162.7908°C, or
to round it down, 160°C.
The equation to convert from Celsius to gas mark
Gas mark = (°C – 121) x 9/125, or
Gas mark = (°C – 121) x 0.072
For example, what gas mark is 180 °C?
(180°C – 121) x 0.072 = 4,248, or simply 4.
Note: the equations for only work for gas mark settings as one or higher. For gas marks below 1, it moves down to ½ instead of 0 and ¼ instead of -1.
The equation to convert from Fahrenheit to gas mark
Gas mark = (°F – 250) x 1/25, or
For example, what is 300°F in the gas mark?
The equation to convert from gas mark to Celsius
°C = (Gas Mark x 125/9) + 121, or
For example, how to convert gas mark 3 to Celsius?
(3 x 13.88) + 121 = 162.64, or
The equation to convert from gas mark to Fahrenheit
For example, what is gas mark 3 in Fahrenheit?
(3 x 25) +250 = 325°F
I thought it would be helpful to create an oven temperature conversion chart PDF using an electric, fan, or gas oven.
Use the chart as a whole or cut the necessary conversion. Laminate it with a thermal laminator, and put it inside your kitchen cabinet or on the side of the fridge.
You might see other frequently asked questions about conversion for oven temperatures: C to F (aka Celsius to F, C to Fahrenheit, or Fahrenheit to C) conversions.
- What is 180 Celsius in Fahrenheit for baking?
- What temperature is 180 Celsius in Fahrenheit?
- What is 180 Celsius to Fahrenheit?
The answer is the same: 180 degrees Celsius is equal to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you enjoyed this handy oven temperature conversion guide, see more helpful guides like this one:
And if you ever need to learn baking basics to level up your baking, sign up for a Baking Basics E-course.
What are the most common oven temperatures?
The most common oven temperatures are 325°F, 350°F, 375°F, 400°F, 425°F, 450°F, and 475°F.
What is the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit?
Celsius and Fahrenheit are two common ways to measure heat. Celsius scales the temperature from zero, while the Fahrenheit scale starts from a much higher temperature.
What is 170 C to F?
170 degrees Celsius is equal to 338 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is 175 Celsius to Fahrenheit?
175 degrees Celsius is equal to 347 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is 180 Celsius to Fahrenheit?
What is 200 Celsius to Fahrenheit?
200 degrees Celsius is equal to 392 degrees Fahrenheit.
What is 200 Fahrenheit to Celsius?
200 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to 93 degrees Celsius.
What is 350 Fahrenheit to Celsius?
350 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to 176 degrees Celsius.
What is 375 Fahrenheit to Celsius?
375 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to 190 degrees Celsius.
What is 400 Fahrenheit to Celsius?
400 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to 204 degrees Celsius.
What is 425 Fahrenheit to Celsius?
425 degrees Fahrenheit is equal to 218 degrees Celsius.
There are tons of ways to cook bacon, but after a lot of very hard, painful research (wink, wink!) we’ve determined that the smartest way to cook those slices is in the oven: there’s less mess, you don’t have to babysit it, and the bacon gets just as crispy. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule– if you’re only cooking a few slices or you’re planning to cook something else right away in the bacon fat, like in this loaded breakfast skillet– but in most scenarios, the oven is your best friend.
Here are our top tips for how to cook perfectly crisp bacon in the oven, every single time.
1. Any type of bacon works.
Standard, thick-cut, turkey . . . you can pop any of these in the oven and they’ll come out great. Just keep in mind that your cooking time might vary: turkey bacon will cook much quicker, while thick-cut might take a few extra minutes.
2. Get your oven HOT!
Check that your oven is fully preheated to 400° before putting in your bacon. Since every oven is different and many built-in oven thermometers are inaccurate, we highly recommend using an external oven thermometer to make sure your oven is actually at 400°. If your oven is running hot, you might burn your bacon– tragedy!
3. Line your baking sheet with foil.
Before you lay out your bacon, line the baking sheet with foil. This makes clean-up (and bacon grease collection!) so much easier.
4. Use a cooling rack.
For extra crispy bacon, set a cooling rack inside your foil-lined baking sheet, and lay your strips on that. Elevating the bacon above the baking sheet allows the strips to cook from all sides, which makes them extra crispy! If you like your bacon with a little chew, or you don’t have a cooling rack, skip this step. Your bacon will still be amazing.
5. Lay the bacon strips in a single layer.
If the bacon is overlapping or sticking together, it won’t cook evenly, so make you arrange your bacon strips on the baking sheet in a single, even layer. That way you’ll end up with perfect, evenly crispy slices.
6. Check it early.
Standard-cut bacon strips should take about 20 minutes to cook, but ovens can be finicky (see #2 above) and if your oven temp is off, the bake time might vary. Start checking your bacon after 15 minutes– no one wants burnt bacon.
BONUS: Save the bacon fat!
Pour that grease into a mason jar (or other glass container) and store in the fridge. Seriously though — saving the fat will be the best decision you make all week. You can use it to fry eggs, wrap asparagus and other vegetables, and pop popcorn!
Tried this method? Let us know how it went in the comments below!
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- Nutrition Information
- Per Serving (Serves 12)
- 4 g0 g0 mcg
- Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
- Preheat oven to 400° and line a large baking sheet with foil. If using, line a wire rack on your baking sheet. Lay bacon in a single layer onto baking sheet or cooling rack, making sure not to overlap.Bake until your desired crispness, 15 to 25 minutes. (Thin slices will cook more quickly!)Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve.
- Preheat oven to 400° and line a large baking sheet with foil. If using, line a wire rack on your baking sheet. Lay bacon in a single layer onto baking sheet or cooling rack, making sure not to overlap.
- Bake until your desired crispness, 15 to 25 minutes. (Thin slices will cook more quickly!)
- Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve.
How To Make A Bacon Weave
Lauren Miyashiro is the former Food Director of Delish. She graduated culinary school in 2016 and mastered the art of the Crunchwrap in 2017.
Understanding oven temperature is an important skill in baking! In this post, you will learn the importance of using an oven thermometer, common baking temperature ranges, and so much more!
Why is oven temperature important?
Oven temperature is important so that your baked goods bake correctly. If your oven temperature is not correct, it can result in cookies that spread too much and cakes that don’t rise properly.
To make sure your oven temperature is correct, I recommend using an oven thermometer.
Using an oven thermometer
I recommend using an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is calibrated correctly. Just because your oven says it’s heated to 350oF, doesn’t mean it actually is. To ensure your oven is running at the correct oven temperature, use an oven thermometer.
If you use an thermometer and it shows that your oven is slightly off, you can then adjust the temperature yourself. For example, if you set your oven to 350oF and the thermometer reads 325oF, then this means your oven is running 25 degrees cooler. You can then adjust your oven temperature and set it to a slightly higher temperature of 375oF.
Hang the thermometer in the center of a middle rack where most food cooks, to ensure a proper temperature reading.
Get more tips here on using your oven.
Converting Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius temperature
To convert Fahrenheit temperature to using the Celsius temperature when cooking then you need to do a little math.
(Fahrenheit temperature – 32) multiply by 5, then divide by 9
To convert Celsius to Fahrenheit
Celsius temperature x 9, divide by 5, then add 32.
Grab a copy of my Temperature Conversion Chart
- Very slow oven: between 200oF (93oC) and 250oF (121oC)
- Quick oven: (Or a hot oven) – 400oF (204oC)
- Very hot oven – Between 450oF (232oC) – 500oF (260oC)
Oven baking temperatures
325-350oF: (moderate oven)
For cooking, this is a good temperature when something needs to cook a long time, like slow roasts.When it comes to baking, this is what I usually set my oven too. And there’s a good reason why. Above 300oF is when your baked goods begin to experience caramelization. The sugar begins to caramelize and browning of the proteins occurs (something called the Maillard reaction).
375 – 400oF: (moderately hot oven)
A higher temperature is usually used for a shorter term baking. In cooking, this higher temperature for a shorter cook or when you want bubbling golden cheese!
- Cookies: I like to bake my chocolate chip cookies usually at 375oF instead of 350F because then you get crisp edges on the cookies and they set faster, making for a cookie that doesn’t spread as much with a nice golden color.
- Pastries: You might also use this higher heat for certain pastries that need a burst of high heat to help the rise – like muffins and scones.
- Pies: I use a higher temperature like this at the start of making my pies, so the crust can have that burst of heat to develop flaky layers and browning, but then will reduce the temperature to allow the pie to cook fully through without burning.
425 – 450oF: (hot oven)
In cooking, this oven temperature is a perfect roasting temperature for vegetables. This higher heat is ideal for certain pastries where the temperature will help for steam to release and puff up the dough.
- Choux pastry: This temperature is great for baking choux pastry like cream puffs (or profiteroles), eclairs
- Laminated doughs: It’s also good for laminated doughs like puff pastry like in these apple turnovers. I also like to bake my biscuits at this high of temperature to ensure a fluffy biscuit that rises tall. The high heat will push apart the layers of the flour creating a flaky biscuit.
(extremely hot oven)
This high heat is good for bread doughs where you want the dough to rise quickly and bake, before the gluten has a chance to set.
Be sure to grab my temperature conversion chart!
Let’s Bake Together!
— Find baking tips and more onThe Cook Up with Adam Liaw, second season airs weeknights on SBS(Ch.30) at 6.00pm and 7.00pm on SBS Food(Ch.33). All episodes are available anytime on SBS On Demand. —
Did you know you’re supposed to cook everything 20 degrees cooler in a fan-forced oven? That’s only if the recipe you’re using is based on a conventional oven, of course. Some recipes account for the fan-forced factor from the very beginning, in which case if your oven is old-school conventional, you’ll need to set the temperature 20 degrees higher to get the results you’re after.
But how would you know?
“While we try our darndest here at SBS to make sure our recipes include as much info as possible, sometimes a recipe doesn’t stipulate whether the oven temperature is for a conventional or fan–forced oven,” says SBS Food’s recipe editor Christine Osmond. “If in doubt – and as a very general rule – 180 degrees celsius conventional or 160 degrees celsius fan-forced, is a good place to start for most baked goods.”
For most roasting and browning, Christine recommends starting at around 220 conventional or 200 fan–forced.
But let’s take a bit of a deeper-dive into exactly what the difference is between these two most-used ovens.
Conventional verses convection ovens
Conventional ovens – sometimes called a traditional oven or regular oven – have elements on the top and bottom of the oven space that radiate heat.
Fan-forced ovens – known as convection ovens – have these elements but also use a fan to circulate hot air throughout the oven cavity.
Layered passionfruit sponge recipe here.
The circulating air in a fan-forced oven helps keep the temperature consistent throughout the oven. That means the top rack of your oven should be the same temperature as your bottom rack – something conventional ovens have never managed. Not only does this make things more convenient when you need to use both racks of your oven at the same temperature, it also means your oven uses energy more efficiently. That’s why you can set the temperature 20 degrees cooler than for a conventional oven.
The majority of ovens sold today are fan-forced ovens – you get the best of both worlds.
That said, when baking many people prefer using a conventional oven because the circulating air of a fan-forced oven can cause the outside of a bake to cook and rise too fast for the middle to rise effectively. Cue lopsided cakes and soggy bakes.
The thing is, you can use a fan-forced oven as a conventional oven simply by turning the fan off. This is why the majority of ovens sold today are fan-forced ovens – you get the best of both worlds.
Preheating the oven
It’s not just a fan-forced/convection oven fight to the death, though. There are other important considerations when cooking in your oven.
David McGuinness of Bourke Street Bakery fame knows a thing or twenty about getting the most out of your kitchen workhorse. He can’t emphasise enough the importance of correctly preheating your oven.
Depending on how zippy you are at loading in your trays, you can lose as much as 50 per cent of your oven heat when you open the door
“I like to preheat the oven to 20-30 degrees higher than the required baking temp,” David explains. “I preheat the oven until the thermostat has reached the required preheat temp. Then I let it sit for 20 minutes at the required preheat temp to ensure the oven is well heated and will hold its temp when the door is opened to load.”
Oven-baked chicken thighs with olive, tomato and lemon recipe here.
David makes a critical point here – depending on how zippy you are at loading in your trays, you can lose as much as 50 per cent of your oven heat when you open the door. Preheating accounts for this heat loss and ensures your oven temp is the temperature you need once your dish is cosily tucked inside.
“Baked goods need to go in at a certain temperature, not be gradually warmed up,” agrees Anu Haran from popular Sydney bakery Flour Shop. “With cakes, there’s a chemical reaction taking place – baking powder requires heat to activate. With pastries or bread too, that initial jolt of heat is important for the final rise in the oven- that’s when croissants and bread gain an additional 30-40 per cent volume and develop their crumb structure.”
So, without exception, preheat your oven.
Of course, you’ll want to be sure that the temperature you’re preheating is in fact the temperature you need. Ovens are remarkably individual things, with each oven setting its own notion of what 180 degrees might be.
Anu adds that even the time of day you’re setting your oven can influence the time it takes to heat to a particular temperature. “A lot of bakeries try to turn their ovens on during non peak hours when electricity charges are less, he explains. “And because less people are using power at 1am, the oven heats up faster.”
Both David and Anu recommend getting to know your own oven and all its quirks. Check its temperature using a separate oven thermometer and make a note of what the oven is saying and what the actual temperature is so you can work out your settings for baking different items. David recommends keeping a handy list written down for your own oven. For example:
- Bread bakes at X
- Cakes bake at X
- Veg roast/bake at X
- Meat roasts at X
Christine sums it up perfectly: “At the end of the day, ovens are a bit like kids (apart from the fact they come with manuals) – you know how yours works best, so use the recipe as a guide and make adjustments when necessary.”
Old-school temperature setting
Most modern recipes will helpfully state the oven temperature rather than just mention ‘cool, moderate or hot’. However, if you want to bake something from your grandmother’s copy of ‘Australian Home Cookery’, you’ll need to know your old-school temperatures.
Keep your cool
If you’ve ever held a dinner party, you’ll know how helpful it is to be able to keep food warm in your oven after it’s finished cooking. This is when a ‘cool oven’ – sometimes called a ‘slow’ or ‘very slow’ oven – is called for. But beware, a cool oven for warming food is not the same cool oven you need for baking something like a sweet tart.
Treacle and vanilla salt tart recipe here.
“If I was holding something in a cool oven to keep it warm I would consider this to be a 100-110 degree oven,” says David. “If I was baking a tart, cake or custard in a cool oven I would consider this to be 140-160 degrees.”
Not all things in moderation
A ‘moderate’ oven is your basic middle-of-the-road oven temperature. It’s a good baseline temperature for most roasting and baking. If you’re not sure the oven temperature a recipe needs, stick it on moderate and keep an eye on it.
You’d use a high oven to get a good crackle going on your roast pork or to quickly brown lean cuts of meat.
It’s generally accepted that 180 degrees is a moderate conventional oven, or 170 degrees fan-forced. A ‘moderately-hot’ oven is 190 degrees conventional, or 180 degrees fan-forced.
Hit the highs
A hot oven – sometimes called a high oven – is your basic scorcher at 220-230 degrees for conventional or starting at the 200-degree mark for fan-forced.
Pork belly one tray roast and roast potatoes recipe here.
You’d use a high oven to get a good crackle going on your roast pork or to quickly brown lean cuts of meat. Generally, an extremely high oven is only ever used for a brief cooking period before the oven is turned down.
“Traditionally, many breads are made in a falling oven – that is, turning off the oven after everything has been baked,” explains Anu. “An example is the dark, dense pumpernickel loaf.”
The exception for high heat cooking is dough. Most bread and pastries love prolonged very high heat and it’s critical when cooking pizza in order to get a good crust on your dough, cook your toppings through and ensure the bubbliest cheese oozes over the lot.