Preheating an oven sounds like an easy task, but we all know it can get really tricky when you don’t have an oven thermometer, or when you don’t know all the details about your oven (and any other oven for that matter).
The truth is, preheating an oven is quite basic (and very necessary), but some people struggle with it. Usually, it’s because the oven is brand new (or it is different than the previous one), or the oven doesn’t have an alert or a light to let them know that it is preheated.
If you are one of those unlucky people, trust me, I understand your struggles.
Until my husband and I bought our family house, we used to move a lot, always looking for a better place and smoother living. It was so irritating to finally get used to one oven, and then change it to another one with entirely different functioning and quality.
Why is it essential to preheat your oven properly?
Preheating an oven is a standard procedure in cooking, particularly in baking.
If you paid attention, you would notice that almost every baking recipe requires preheating the oven. This is what ensures that the food to be baked or broiled will be done properly within the period that is stated in the recipe.
Preheating is important because you want to get your oven to the desired temperature. That includes all surfaces inside it, such as walls and racks. This ensures more even temperatures throughout the oven so you don’t lose all your heat when you open the door.
Before, I didn’t think that preheating the oven is THAT important, but I have learned my lesson. Apart from saving your time, preheating ensures more even cook on the outside AND the inside, which is what is usually the problem.
How to prepare your oven for preheating
Before you preheat the oven, you should ensure that it is empty and clean.
Then adjust the racks you intend to use (you should put away the others because they use up the heat). You may have to place the racks higher or lower, depending on the recipe you are following. That is why I suggest double-checking, so you are following the proper instructions.
If you want the food you are cooking to be crispy at the top, put the rack higher. If you want the food well done and soft on the inside, then place the racks in the center of your oven. As for pizza and other foods that require a crispy bottom, the racks should be closer to the bottom of the oven.
There is also the question of what you’re putting in the oven. A piece of parchment paper with a few room temperature cookies on it won’t pull the temperature in the oven down like, for example, a turkey would.
I remember when my cousin, who was just starting cooking, decided to make chocolate chip cookies for our family reunion. She accidentally preheated the oven as if she was making a casserole, and her cookies came out burnt. Needless to say, she bought an oven thermometer the next day!
Related: Learn To Find The Best Oven Mitts
Preheating different types of ovens
Probably the most important thing you need to know about preheating an oven is to know the type of oven you have. This makes life so much easier!
I know many people go online and search for approximate preheating time, but you need to know that this doesn’t apply to every oven.
Each oven is unique and many factors go into preheating time.
As microwaves don’t need preheating, some people choose them as an easy escape from regular ovens and preheating. So, if you are always in a hurry and don’t have time to waste, this might be the choice for you.
But, if you have an oven that needs preheating, I’m here to help!
1. Convection oven
- Convection ovens, or fan-assisted ovens, work by heating the air first, then using a fan the hot air moves around the oven and cooks your food. This way of preparing a meal helps to produce evenly cooked food.
- I personally use my convection oven all the time, it is extremely fast, and I have no worries that my food won’t be evenly cooked on the inside and out. Most convection roasted items will cook about 30 percent faster than they would in a conventional oven.
- What is important to know is that convection ovens need to be set at a lower temperature than the recipe says, so preheat it to 25°F (14°C) below the conventional oven temperature. It will usually take about 5 to 10 minutes to preheat to the maximum temperature.
See Also: Convection Oven Vs. Microwave – Which Is Better For You?
2. Conventional oven
- The conventional oven has a single heat source (usually on the oven walls) and does not have any fan. The result is that hot air doesn’t circulate around food but just surrounds it. This difference of heat distribution could make an impact on dish quality, time and energy saving, etc.
- They are slow to preheat and generally, might not distribute heat equally, so make sure you go by the recipe from top to bottom. You will need to wait at least 20 minutes until your conventional oven is ready to be used at the maximum temperature. Also, if you have an older model, be prepared to wait even longer.
3. Toaster oven
- Toaster ovens are mini-ovens with some extra options like, for example, defrosting. They use fast-warming heating elements, usually placed on the top and bottom, that warm the air up and then we can use our oven for toasting, broiling, and baking.
- They are practical and fast in use, so you can make all kinds of food in them, be it salty or sweet. Cleaning is also effortless, which is always a plus.
- When I was still moving around during my studying, I had this small toaster oven I used to carry everywhere with me. I had some of my first baking adventures on that very oven! Unfortunately, it is quite small now for a family of 4, especially when you have three men to feed!
- As it is so small, your toaster oven will preheat up to 50% faster than your traditional oven so it will take only a couple of minutes – this one is undoubtedly the fastest one when it comes to preheating!
Further Reading: Toaster Vs. Toaster Oven – The Battle Of Appliances
4. Roaster Oven
- I have never owned or used a roaster oven, and to be honest, I didn’t really know how it worked. The first time I had the chance to see it for myself was at a friends house, where I was helping with some birthday preparations. (Update: I already bought one!)
- Most roaster ovens not only roast but also cook, steam, slow-cook and even bake. They vary in size so you can fit a whole turkey in a larger-sized roaster oven!
- When you decide to start cooking, simply plug the roaster oven in and preheat for approximately 20 minutes to prepare it for baking. Even though it takes around 20 minutes to reach the maximum temperature, the cook itself is faster than with the traditional ovens and it will save you time and energy.
Now you are prepared!
I know all this information can be overwhelming, but now you can go prepare any meal without worries. Not knowing how your oven works and when to stop preheating can be really stressful, as it was for me when I was only beginning my cooking career.
I always needed to know how to adjust to different ovens, as I cooked for lots of people at many different places. If you don’t have an oven yet, or you are thinking about buying another one, maybe this can help you in that aspect as well.
Happy cooking! 😉