As a professional appliance service company, we are prepared to help consumers identify the reasons for poor cooking results and offer help to improve the results.
About Oven Calibration
Oven calibration is a tricky topic. There are many reasons why a consumer may believe their oven is not maintaining the temperature properly. Oven temperature is often at the bottom of the list when investigating poor cooking performance.
Reasons for Poor Cooking Performance
This issue is often a result of improper pans or cooking racks, wrong rack position, incorrect cycle selection, high altitude, half voltage due to a tripped breaker, and/or comparing a new appliance with an old appliance which may have been out of calibration itself. It is the exception that a part has failed, leading to an oven malfunction.
A significant amount of dissatisfaction results from the amount of pre-heat time the oven is given. When the oven’s control has indicated the oven has reached the desired temperature, it helps to understand that the air inside the oven may have reached the selected temperature, but opening the door to insert food allows hot air to escape into the kitchen.
This may be the single most important thing to consider improving baking results. It’s much better to allow the walls, ceiling, and racks inside the oven to absorb the heat so the temperature doesn’t drop as much when the door is opened.
When baking, it’s recommended to let the oven pre-heat for at least 30 minutes to allow this to happen. The shorter the recipe’s cooking time, the more important it is for the entire oven cavity to be heated to prevent a big temperature swing that will lead to poor results.
How Ovens Control Heat
All ovens with an electronic control allow the consumer to raise or lower the temperature. Your model’s use and care guide will explain the steps to accomplish this. Even though a consumer can purchase an oven thermometer to hang from the rack to check the temperature, we do not suggest this. These thermometers are slow to react, so the temperature change will not be reflected immediately which can create confusion.
In addition, a modern, electronically-controlled oven may have software that uses “fuzzy logic” while pre-heating. This leads to the inaccurate conclusion that the oven temperature is erratic. Patience is required. A professional appliance technician will have an expensive, fast reacting, and properly calibrated meter to check oven calibration.
How to Test Oven Temperature
A simple and effective way to test the oven temperature is to cook a batch of regular Pillsbury Biscuits. Allow for the proper pre-heating time as described above, and follow the cooking instructions carefully. If they do not cook perfectly, consider raising or lowering the temperature by 10 degrees, then try again. Once the biscuits bake perfectly, then you’ll know that the oven temperature is accurate.
Electric ovens cycle their heating elements on and off to maintain an “average” temperature to match what you’ve selected. Some have a temperature swing of up to 30 degrees. For example, when selecting 350°, the oven may heat to 365° and then drop to 335°, thus averaging the 350° setting selected. If this is how the control is engineered, we cannot change the outcome. Many ovens have a temperature swing within a much tighter range which would result in better baking performance.
Best Bakeware for Oven Cooking
The type and size of cookware are extremely important and vary depending on what is being baked or cooked:
Cakes: Metal bakeware is the ultimate heat conductor. It heats up fast and cools down quickly, making them ideal for cakes and cookies.
Cookies: Aluminum cookie sheets are the most versatile. Their light color prevents unwanted overcooking or browning. They dissipate heat quickly to prevent overcooking after being removed from the oven. Sheets with shallow sides or no sides are best. Tall sides prevent the heat from getting to the cookies for proper baking. Don’t use cookie sheets that are so large that air cannot circulate around the oven.
Non-stick surfaces are coated with Teflon which tends to warp. This can cause issues for those who may be sensitive to toxins or chemicals. Even though they clean up easily, they do not usually perform as well.
Dark cookware is best when you want the bottom of whatever you are cooking to get browned. For example, a pizza would be a good item to cook in a dark pan.
Glass and ceramic cookware are poor conductors of heat, but they cook more evenly. Use glass when cooking casseroles or similar dishes. Do not use glass when broiling though because the high heat may cause it to shatter.
Best Oven Cooking Methods
The convection cycle is the best option when baking. It circulates air to help provide even cooking. This is especially important when cooking multiple sheets of cookies at the same time.
Note: Cooking a turkey is a poor method for judging oven temperature issues. I mention this due to the large number of calls we typically get right after Thanksgiving to check oven calibration. Size, shape, and density of meat can change the cooking time dramatically. Use a meat thermometer to determine if a turkey is cooked properly. Also, pre-made frozen meals can be tricky because of the many variables with the types of foods in the container.
Before a technician arrives at a home to check oven calibration, he will call the consumer 30 minutes before arriving and ask them to turn on the oven and set it to 350°. This will allow him to get his probe in the oven right away to test the temperature and cycling swing. During this observation, he can discuss the customer’s concerns, check their cookware, and offer suggestions.
Cost of Oven Calibration Service
To calibrate an oven, you should expect a technician to be in your home for 45 to 60 minutes while observing and changing calibration if needed. Oven calibration is often not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and as a warranty service provider, we must follow the guidelines set forth by each manufacturer. For example:
- Dacor, Bosch, and Thermador will allow for one oven calibration and/or customer education visit during its first year after being purchased. This allows us to calibrate the oven under warranty.
- Whirlpool, KitchenAid, JennAir, and Maytag will allow only one oven calibration and/or customer education in the first six months after purchase.
- Frigidaire and Electrolux will only allow for only one oven calibration and/or customer education in the first 30 days after purchase.
If the oven is not covered under warranty for a calibration check, then the consumer must be alerted that they’ll be responsible for the charges. We hope this will help consumers avoid unnecessary charges if possible. They can refer to their model’s use and care manual which will explain how they can raise or lower the oven temperature through the control settings.
The manual will also offer advice for correct cookware, rack position, and cycle selection. If the consumer cannot locate their use and care manual, one can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website. Locate your oven’s model and serial numbers found on a sticker or metal tag on the appliance and use this information to download the correct manual. Of course, we can always check (and correct the oven’s calibration if needed) for a set price.