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Some details that may help: my gas oven averages 10 degrees off when I heat it up to a set temperature with nothing in it. Also it says it has reached the set temperature before it actually has so I wait until it averages my desired temp before putting anything in it. I also tested and know that calibration is not the issue.

When I put something in my oven, the temperature can dramatically drop, depending on how much I put in. It starts to very slowly increase, but then the time comes that I have to rotate my pans. After rotating my pans, the oven loses any temperature progress it had made. My baked goods “finish baking” (according to the timer) a long time before the oven can finally reach back up to the set temperature. It takes way longer than 10–15 minutes for my oven to recover and come back up to the set temperature. My oven heats, it just really struggles to keep up after I put something in it. Because of that, when I am supposed to bake at 350, I actually end up baking at a way lower temperature; and my oven does not always drop in temperature the same amount every day. I am getting mixed results while baking. I’d really appreciate anyone’s input. :)

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    Preheat your oven to 50 or 100 degrees higher than you plan to bake at and then when you put the food in it will drop to closer to the baking temperature, then adjust the temp setting to the actual baking temp. E.g., preheat to 450, put food in and the temp drops to 325, close door and set oven to 350 (the actual desired temp). Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:33
  • Sounds like the oven is malfunctioning. My oven does the exact same. The workaround for me is that I use the grill function, which does still works fine. Note that this is considerably hotter; you should set the temperature and time 20-30% lower each to avoid burning your food.
    – paddotk
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 11:34
  • Thanks Todd and Paddotk! I apologize for the late response, I've just now had a chance to respond. That sounds like a good idea. I will definitely try it and see how it goes. Thanks again! :)
    – September
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 10:19

2 Answers 2

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This is all very normal, nothing special about it. Some of your assumptions happen to be untrue, and others don't apply to modern ovens.

First, temperature fluctuation is the normal way an oven operates. There's nothing wrong with this, it's expected, and recipes work with it. Less fluctuation is better, but you'll never get rid of it entirely, nor do you need to.

Second, you seem to be very focused on air temperature. That's only a secondary indicator of a well-working oven. What you need for good baking is good thermal mass. This means that you want to heat up the oven's body, or if it's too flimsy, use additional thermal mass in the form of pizza stones (preferably proper ones), cast iron pans, or whatever is convenient to you. Then you have to ensure that this mass is properly heated, which takes around an hour. Once you have reached this state, your root problem will be solved, and you will see improvement both in technical details like measured air temperature, and in real results in the sense of tastier food.

Third, you seem to think that a timer is about "finishing baking". That's also not true. Your food is finished baking when it's baked, which is something you recognize by appearance, smell, taste and texture, or in some special cases, by measuring the food's internal temperature. Any duration mentioned in a recipe is just auxiliary information that helps you plan your day, and gives you some orientation when to start checking the food for doneness. Setting a timer and taking the food out when it dings will mostly result in disappointing food, no matter how good your oven is.

Fourth, that "preheated" indicator is not especially interesting. Producers have strong incentives to make it lie. If you want to optimize for food quality, you should ignore it completely.

Bottom line: an oven is just an enclosing pile of thermal mass. Ensure that it has enough mass (by design, or add some) and then heat it sufficiently. It works like a charm.

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  • "Fourth, that "preheated" indicator is not especially interesting. Producers have strong incentives to make it lie." could you elaborate on this? Why would manufacturers make the oven temperature light not turn on at an (approximately) appropriate time? Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:09
  • @TylerShellberg the "appropriate" time is about 1 hour, and only has an effect when the oven is heavy enough. Most people don't want to wait so long and spend so much energy, and also don't want to buy heavy ovens, which are expensive to purchase and to operate. Some don't know that preheating for 10 minutes doesn't give the same results as preheating for 1 hour, especially when there's a light which reassures them that preheating is done. Others do know, and don't find it worth it.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:33
  • @TylerShellberg oh, and another factor: I don't think that many engineers are very deep into cooking. When they get the specification of "create a device that heats to 175 C", they stick in a thermostat that heats to 175 C. That thermostat may happen to measure air temperature or a hot spot on the metal surface right under the heating element, but on paper, it may very well seem that the task was done properly.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 17:39
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    @TylerShellberg it's bang-bang process control. If you have an oven with 200C air inside surrounded by 50C metal, once the element turns off that air temperature will start to drop quickly compared to the case where you have 200C air surrounded by 150C metal. It will still fluctuate, but not as much.
    – llama
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 20:46
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    @TylerShellberg what llama said. The sensor may be at 400 C, but this doesn't mean that the oven's main thermal mass is at a temperature which will be able to keep a consistent 400 C on the inside. What bakes is not the sensor, or heating element; it's the oven walls, and the air that is heated by them.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 10:42
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Assuming you are measuring accurately, this is surprising. Do ensure you are measuring the oven temperature using an accurate thermometer in a suitable central location, rather than for example measuring the temperature of the dish you've just put in.

If it takes a long time to get back up to cooking temperature, this is a sign that it is heating slowly. You might want to have it checked or replaced as there might be something wrong. The insulation could also be an issue here.

If that's not an option, you can try to reduce the temperature drop from putting food in the oven. Consider putting heavy items like a pizza stone or cookware into the oven which will hold heat better than air; they should go in before you preheat and stay in. Also try to avoid adding big cold things; let food come up to room temperature (if safe) before putting it in.

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    Thanks for the suggestion! I am looking for a pizza stone, and will give this a try. Thanks! :)
    – September
    Commented Sep 7, 2023 at 10:35

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