Revelations of the Oven Thermometer

December 29, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

The Revelation of The Amateur Gourmet, which his new oven thermometer gave unto him, to shew unto his readers a new way of baking: blessed is he that readeth, and they that readeth will baketh better forevereth more…

For I, The Amateur Gourmet, have seen the light. Many a baker, many a cookbook has told me to purchase an oven thermometer. My attitude’s been similar to that of the lookout at Pearl Harbor who was told “watch for planes.” “Sure, sure,” he probably thought. “I’ll watch for planes.” Well we know what happened to him. He starred in a movie with Ben Affleck and Josh Harnett. Me? I’ve been cooking at the wrong temperature for more than a year now.

Last night I roasted chicken (see post below) and I wanted the oven at 425. I inserted the oven thermometer:

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And turned the oven on to 425.

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I waited til the timer went off telling me it was preheated and I checked the oven thermometer:

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Can you see that? I made the picture small cause it’s an ugly picture. Ok I’ll make it bigger:

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400.

Ok, ok, so maybe it just needs more time. I waited another 10 minutes. Still at 400.

So let me get this straight: I heated my oven to 425 but my oven’s 425 is really 400?

I reset the oven for 450 and waited. The thermometer went up 415. I raised it to 470 and finally the thermometer read 425.

This is the revelation of the oven thermometer: your oven temperature is not what you think it is. Go forth and purchase an oven thermometer and let the light of truth shine, finally, into your oven. The time is at hand.

Categories: Essays

  • Richardab

    Maybe its your thermometer or its position in the oven?

  • http://www.bakingfreakrecipes.blogspot.com Corianne

    My oven is a 100 degrees off. Luckely i bought an oventermometer too, it saved my brownies :)

  • http://undelicious.blogspot.com Jeff

    Ever since Alton Brown talked about the need for an overn thermometer I have had one in my oven. I had an old oven that was alway 50-75 degrees colder than I set it. Even our new oven can be off by 10-15 degrees.

  • Chris

    How do you know that the oven thermometers not incorrect?

  • josh

    There is a lot less to go wrong with an external thermometer. If you are really worried, get two different ones and test them together. My problem is that the one I got doesn’t really hang on the rack that well. And once it falls off at 400 degrees it’s a bit hard to pick up. Eventually sitting on the bottom of my oven caused the glass to cloud over making it unreadable. Now I’m back to the intuitively-set-the-temp-a-little-hotter method.

  • Edmund

    Putting it so close to the door might cause the thermometer to be inaccurate. I used to do that and I thought my oven was off by 50 but it was actually off by a lot less, hence resulting in quite a few baking mishaps.

  • http://www.xtrinity.com/vignette/ Stephanie

    I recently had the same epiphany. Amazing, isn’t it?

  • steven

    the numbers on the nob that tells you the correct temperature is missing so i have no idea what temperature the oven is cooking at .So you are so right by suggestimg to by anw oven thermomitor h e numbers on the nob that tells you

  • aline

    I don’t understand steven’s comment at all. Is it in English and if so, what is he saying? This is not meant to be a slight or an offense at all but I have no clue what he is saying.

    Thanks :)

    Aline

  • http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com pyewacket

    I’ve had ovens that were too cold, ovens that were too hot, and my favorite: an oven that started out at the right temperature, but would get about ten degrees warmer every twenty minutes. So if I were braising a big chunk of meat in a 325 degree oven, for example, I would have to go over every twenty minutes and either open the door for a while or turn down the heat, or it would creep, creep, creep up to 475 degrees. Want to make a landlord laugh? Tell him you would like him to fix the calibration of your oven.

    A thermometer is a necessity.

  • http://www.theunprofessionalchef.blogspot.com s

    This makes so much sense. I’d been wondering about my oven for a while when I realised most of the stuff I have baked/cooked is usually a bit underdone and I have to leave the food in it for a lot longer.

  • cpr

    I think it was Alton or Cooks Illustrated who did a special on oven thermometers and temperatures. Anyway, he/they put the thermometers on every shelf, and in different places on each shelf, and even in the same test oven the temperature ranged 40 to 70 degrees difference depending on placement. And this was their professional oven for the show! Amazing. For us, probably best place to test is the center of the middle rack (?)

  • Jay

    williams sonoma sells this pricey remote thermometer.

    I don’t know if it’s worth it.

    can you suggest other affordable brands.

  • http://daintee.bellechanson.org lisa

    Wow! That is quite a difference, indeed. I received Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook for Christmas, and it hammers home how important an oven thermometer is, but I didn’t believe her.

    Did you hear me, Amateur Gourmet? I didn’t believe Martha Stewart, but I believe you! Thank you for enlightening me!

  • http://www.toomanychefs.com Meg

    Adam, definitely try re-positioning the thermometer in the center of the oven before taking drastic action. I received an oven thermometer for Christmas this year and also was shocked to see how far off the temperature was…until I moved the thermometer into the middle of the oven.

    Interesting to read about the oven that got hotter over time, though – obviously this is a subject that needs careful research!!

  • Sarah

    I also suggest putting the thermometer in the center of the middle rack where you actually bake things, and taking the temp there. I had the same experience as the poster above. However, I still found it distressing that 8 inches equalled a difference of 25 degrees! I guess it is important to rotate your cookie sheets after all.

  • http://andreayaya.typepad.com/rookie_cookery/ Andrea

    I put my oven thermometer in the middle of the oven. But what Alton (my hero) says is that electric ovens do not keep the heating element on constantly once it reaches the desired temperature. What it does is cycle on and off continually in an attempt to maintain a temperature. That means it is a range of temperatures that is being “met”, hopefully, in your target area. I don’t think the same thing is true for gas, though, making it prefereable I think.

    You just inspired me to write on this topic, Adam. For more oven tips I invite you to visit my blog, Rookie Cookery. :)

  • http://www.muddylemon.com lance

    After I read this I decided to buy an oven thermometer, as the oven in my new house tends to burn everything.

    I set the oven at 300 – ten minutes later the thermometer read well over 650 degrees.

    I think that’s a problem.

    At the “warm” setting it hovers around 400 degrees.

  • Andrew M

    I work in a calibration lab and something I have learned there is that the majority of the thermometers we receive are not terribly accurate. We end up rejecting about 1/3 of the thermometers that we receive for calibration. As someone said earlier both the thermometer on your oven and the one you purchased could be suspect and most likely are. Contrary to popular belief you can not calibrate a thermometer by simply adjusting it to read 32F/0C by placing it in ice water.

    To properly check the calibration of a thermometer you need a temperature standard for each third of the full range. Next you need to allow the thermometer to sit at that temperature for atleast 10min to allow it to stabalize. A thermometer can be what we would call non-linear meaning it is maybe +/-2deg in the middle but as much as +/-30deg at the high and low ends meaning no manner of adjustment will fix it. If the thermometer is linear we can adjust the scale and return it to the customer.

    Personally, I’m going to purchase a few thermometers and take them into work and find one that is accurate then return the others.

  • Stephen Buck

    I purchased a condo with 68 units and thus 68 new Miele ovens and speed ovens. While not all have been tested, the majority of owners are reporting undercooked results and there is no field calibration available on the unit. Oven temps have been reported as 50F lower than the display across the temperature range. So forget trying to think of a Miele oven as a highly engineered oven with precise temperatures!

  • Mike S

    Stephen Buck is correct! Miele oven temperatures are way off. I have two ovens and they have both failed to live up to their reputation.

  • Susan

    My new (and expensive!) Miele oven temps are way off too–very unhappy with it!!

  • Susan

    My new (and expensive!) Miele oven temps are way off too–very unhappy with it!!