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I have a KitchenAid electric oven. I've cooked with good results for 3 years now.

I have been watching Joanne Chang's Masterclass where she advised to test your oven against a good thermometer. I got one today (also a KitchenAid thermometer), to find that I am cooking at 325° when I have set it to 350°. I did move the thermometer a couple of times to be sure position was not a factor.

I have read the manual and see how I can calibrate it.

But should I? I cook confidently with it now. My wife did say that when she cooks apple and pumpkin pies that they require more time than the recipe suggests.

Are there any downsides to calibrating it to what the control says should be the actual temperature?

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    You calibrated the calibration thermometer, right? (Yes; seriously. Maybe it was pre-calibrated, and came with a certificate.)
    – Kingsley
    Dec 15, 2023 at 2:39
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    Well, there's this method: scientificamerican.com/article/making-a-sugar-thermometer
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 15, 2023 at 4:00
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    We also have a kitchenaid oven. We checked it with three thermometers. If it's on for over an hour, the oven heats up and it's pretty accurate (+- 10 degrees). Any less, and you'll read cold. Also - we're at a higher altitude, which seems to affect stuff like this as well.
    – PeteCon
    Dec 15, 2023 at 21:21
  • @PeteCon, thanks. trying that test now. Dec 15, 2023 at 22:12
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    @Kingsley For ultimate accuracy, sure. If your oven is out by tens of degrees though, pretty much anything will be an improvement. You don't need perfection, you just need it better than before.
    – Graham
    Dec 16, 2023 at 10:13

2 Answers 2

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The advantage is not having to make adjustments in baking to compensate for how your oven is different than the one in the recipe (allowing for the generous assumption that the writer of the recipe has a correctly calibrated oven, or the publisher has a test kitchen and actually tested the recipes against one...)

The disadvantage is that you'll have to make allowances for your oven now being "correct" if you are used to it not being "correct". That hopefully won't take too long to get used to.

Or you can ignore what the dial (or digital readout, etc.) says and just look at the thermometer, and turn the dial (or push the buttons) until you get the temperature you want. If you trust the thermometer, that is.

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    calibrated. A cake I made this morning came out perfect, thanks. Dec 15, 2023 at 14:41
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Electric ovens cycle on and off. On average, your oven is colder than its target temperature. The element cycles off once the capillary registers the target temperature. The oven is also colder away from the convected heat, (in the corners and sides) and hotter between the element and the capillary when the element cycles on. As @Ecnerwal's answer mentions, it's a huge leap of faith to assume that the instruction "Bake at 350F" really means the heat inside the oven is a consistent 350F; but a cheaper oven will almost always give inferior results.

I take the baking temperature for a given recipe as a "suggestion". If the actual temperature of the oven is just a surrogate for the desired outcome, consider that what you really ought to be doing is monitoring the external and internal temperature to whatever you're cooking. For meats this is a matter of safety and preference. There is no rule that will give you even good results for a number of hours to roast a bird versus its weight; conventional rules verge on the side of safety which can be a horror when it comes to the actual eating.

Because of that, I like using a leave-in internal probe thermometer for almost everything. I've found temperatures of 200F to be good for breads and cakes. YMMV. Experiment and rethink baking temperatures and times so that the crust and interior have a perfect texture and doneness for you. Even low-end probe thermometers take readings at the tip and at the hilt - so for instance, even if the oven is 350 you might know that the heat in the air immediately outside your roast/cake/bread is only 300. The difference will be a function of the size of what you're roasting, it's oven location, the size of the pan, etc. so there's no clear rule to offset a oven, even one that runs cool.

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    "On average, your oven is colder than its target temperature" - Why? I can see the average error being 0 (over a long enough period of time), or below 0 (avg temp colder than setpoint), or above 0 (temp above setpoint), depending on the exact characteristics of the oven. Is there something about a typical electric oven that will cause the "cooler on average" case? Dec 15, 2023 at 23:32
  • @WayneConrad because the element cycles off when the desired temperature is reached, not after, unless you configure it to be so.
    – AdamO
    Dec 16, 2023 at 0:49
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    The element cycles off at whatever temperature it's calibrated for, which may or may not be the desired temperature.
    – barbecue
    Dec 16, 2023 at 16:47
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    It does not seem likely that every single electric oven cycles off exactly at the temp. Many similar things are configured to go slightly over, like some home thermostats. And it seems like there is more downside to being consistently under than there is to being mostly average. (I.e., the cake isn't going to burn at a momentary 355.) Dec 16, 2023 at 20:25
  • @MatthewRead The relay that switches the element does turn off when the oven reaches the stetpoint, but the element doesn't cool off immediately--there's thermal inertia. That doesn't prove that the average temp will be at setpoint, of course--more data would be needed to know that. But it's not impossible. Dec 18, 2023 at 15:14

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