Does Your Oven Need to be Recalibrated?

You’ve been making chocolate chip cookies once a week for years and they always turn out great, that is until the last couple of batches. Underbaked cookies don’t necessarily mean your oven is malfunctioning, but it certainly can be annoying. Well, never fear! It doesn’t take a costly appliance repairman to correct the problem.

Begin by understanding that oven temperature isn’t precise. Ovens are designed to bake at an average temperature which is between factory preset thresholds. For example: you set the oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven heats to near that temperature, the heating element will shut off. Then as the temperature edges closer to the lower preset number…say 335 degrees, the heating element will once again kick on, raising the temperature back up to near or above 350 degrees. In fact, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine determined that internal oven temperatures can vary by as much as 90 degrees.

The easiest and cheapest way to troubleshoot the problem is by purchasing an inexpensive oven thermometer. Pick up one during your next trip to the grocery store, hang it in the center of the oven’s middle rack, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Leave the oven on and the door closed for approximately 20 minutes after the timer dings signifying the 350 degree temperature has been reached before opening the door and reading the thermometer. Then for the next two hours take readings every 20 minutes to see if the oven is maintaining its heat. At the end of the two hour period divide the sum of the readings by the total number of readings taken. That number should be close to the original 350 degree setting.

If the number isn’t close then it’s time to dig out your oven’s instruction manual or get online and Google how to calibrate your particular model. Generally it’s a simple process requiring nothing more than pressing a couple of buttons in the correct order.

Have a non-digital oven with knobs instead of a touchpad? Once again, consult the owner’s manual or go online to determine how to reset the adjuster on the back of the temperature dial.

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