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I'm not in any way any kind of good cook, I just eat a lot of chicken breasts.

I used to have a bargain basement janky gas oven that I would run on full heat, and I would put a Costco precooked frozen chicken breast in ("cooking time 35-40 minutes fan oven 180 degrees") and after 43 minutes it would come out absolutely perfect, with crispy skin and not too dry or tough.

I moved house and now have a more expensive oven, which is electric.

I have tried to cook my chicken breasts but the results are always disappointing. Generally, the skin seems to cook then burn. The instructions say 180C so I have used a laser temperature probe pointed at the chicken and adjusted the dial so that this value is 180C.

I find that after 33 mins the skin starts to burn. So I often cook it for around 30 minutes but it's a little bit tough and doesn't taste as great as my old oven.

I can't really tell what I should change to improve it. I feel like I need to cook the inside longer without burning the outside, but I am not certain.

The variables I can think of are to increase/decrease the temperature and increase/decrease the cooking time.

Is there a general rule of thumb about temperature vs time based on what aspect of your food is cooking incorrectly?

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    What does the dial say the temperature is set to after this adjustment? Is it a fan oven or conventional? – Tetsujin Feb 20 at 14:05
  • Fan oven, dial is on around 160 but it's very inaccurate as it's not clearly defined or labelled. – NibblyPig Feb 21 at 13:51
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    Then that 'should' be right, rule of thumb is knock off 20° for a fan oven. Seems like it does run hot, You'll have to experiment, as 180° is pretty much 'standard temperature' for many things, so once you get it, it ought to then become repeatable. If the oven was 'inherited' with the house, it might be worth investigating a replacement thermostat… or even just put an accurate thermometer inside & manually recalibrate the scale with a Sharpie;) – Tetsujin Feb 21 at 13:56
  • oh,. you already quoted the fan oven temp, forget that bit ;) – Tetsujin Feb 21 at 13:58
  • Just checked it's actually pointing to 140 lol Instructions for chicken are 200 but 180 fan oven Calibration is a good idea, I will try to do that. Because it's electric though I suppose there's never any equilibrium, should I measure the peak temperature or something in the middle? – NibblyPig Feb 21 at 14:13
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so I have used a laser temperature probe pointed at the chicken and adjusted the dial so that this value is 180C

That's not how you are meant to do it. 180 C is the oven temperature, not the temperature of the chicken skin. If you turned it up until the chicken surface became 180, that's way too hot, and of course it causes the exact symptoms you describe.

You should just set your oven dial to 180 C and use it that way. If it continues to burn on the outside, go down in the temperature until you find one at which, when you wait until the inside is done, the skin is not burnt. Then write down the time and (dial setting) temperature it needs, and continue using that, no matter what the package says.

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  • Thanks, that is basically what I did, but the duration also comes into play. On 180 it burns at the 30 minute mark. Since the package says 35-40 minutes, I could say, stick with 35 minutes and keep lowering and lowering until it's not burned at 35 but I can't help but think if I did that the middle would still be frozen. I suppose I can try it... but I suspect the answer is a combination of duration and temperature. I assume putting something in an oven at 180 will eventually result it in reaching 180 degrees which is why I thought measuring the surface of the item would be accurate. – NibblyPig Feb 21 at 13:53
  • @NibblyPig I would do the opposite: Start lower until the chicken is almost cooked (but the outside is not browned) and crank the heat up for the last few minutes to brown the skin. – JS Lavertu Feb 24 at 18:01
  • I dropped the heat a bit more and added 2 mins to the cooking time and it seems to work great. It's alarming to have the dial set to around 130 for cooking at 180 but if it works... – NibblyPig Feb 25 at 10:36
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Oven thermostats are wildly inaccurate. The variability across ovens is great. What was "full heat" on your earlier oven, might not be anywhere close to what your new oven is achieving. You are correct about temperature and time.

Additionally, oven temperature is not the temperature at which your food is actually cooking, due to evaporative cooling. So, your laser pointer is not helpful in this situation.

Chicken breast need to be cooked fairly precisely, otherwise they dry out. If the outside is burning before the inside is cooked, turn the heat down to begin with. However, to get the best results, purchase a probe thermometer so that you can monitor the internal temperature of your food.

In the US, the FDA recommends cooking chicken breast to 165F (74C). You can remove it from the oven at 160F(71C), or slightly higher,and let it rest for 10 minutes, as carry over cooking will bring the temperature up.

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  • It's important to keep in mind that chicken cooked to 160F will most likely be overcooked. The 160F value means that chicken is safe if it's held at that temperature for less than 30 seconds (aka almost instanteneously). You can get the same level of safety by holding the chicken at 150F for 3 minutes, without ending up with a dry puck of meat. – JS Lavertu Feb 24 at 17:57
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You might try putting a pan of water in the water oven to create a more humid cooking environment. One of the by products of burning gas is water vapor, which may have slowed down how quickly the skin of the chicken was browning.

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