I'm making a lemon bars/squares recipe that I've made a few times before, and I keep having trouble deciding when to take it out of the oven. I don't want to overbake it, but I don't want to underbake it either as I won't be able to cut it properly into squares. The recipe says "until set, about 25-30 minutes". My lemon bars have been in the oven over half an hour; the top has gone light brown, but it still jiggles around like liquid when I move it. How do I know when it's "set"?

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    They are going to jiggle a bit, that's OK. If they are starting to brown, methinks you have taken them too far.
    – Jolenealaska
    Jun 2, 2014 at 11:05
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    @Jolenealaska - bettycrocker.com/recipes/luscious-lemon-squares/…
    – clueless
    Jun 2, 2014 at 11:36
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    Your recipe doesn't say until set; it says "Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center. " Jun 2, 2014 at 13:49
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    @Satanicpuppy Agreed, I'm just wondering if that's actually the correct recipe since it doesn't match the question. My best guess is a bad recipe Jun 2, 2014 at 15:20
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    @Jolenealaska: Depends on the custard. If you're making one that doesn't have a starchy binder, then sorta...It'll curdle and you'll end up with lumpy soup. For this sort of thing, you'll more likely get cracking if it overcooks. Jun 3, 2014 at 12:55

4 Answers 4


Custard without any flour or starch should be baked to about 83 Celsius internal temperature. Below 80 is underbaked, above 90 it curdles, so you have a very small window of good texture. It may be even narrower, it depends a bit on the other stuff you have in there, sugar gives you wiggle room but acids (including lemon juice!) will make it harder to get right.

If you have starch or flour, you need to reach almost boiling temperatures. 95 Celsius should be OK.

If you want high confidence, you really need to measure the internal temperature. External signs are not reliable, and time even less so.


Custard is always sort of jiggly, even when it's "set"; furthermore, it's one of those dishes that sets properly only after you remove it from the heat of the oven. The link you gave in the comments mentions a thumbprint test for doneness:

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched lightly in center.

Next time try that, and see if it sets to the desired consistency when cooling. Browning is not usually desired for this type of dish, so I'd say 45mins is too long :)

Note: The part that still baffles me is that you mentioned it still being liquid when cut into. That's definitely not supposed to happen, and I'm not sure what went wrong there, so perhaps try a different recipe next time?

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    I'd put my money on the creaming/beating step (#4 in the recipe). If that's not being done sufficiently, or done too far in advance, then the mixture may be too dense for the heat to properly penetrate and set.
    – logophobe
    Jun 2, 2014 at 20:04

It can also be something related to the size of the dish. I always use an 8x8 Pyrex. I was at a friends house the other day and didn’t have one so I doubled the recipe, without thinking about the fact that 8x8 is (64square inches) and the dish i was using was maybe 9x12 (108square inches), so when I poured my mix into the pan I realized that they were much thicker than usual. Because of this they were nowhere near done in the usual baking time. I left them longer and the top turned a golden brown (which was ok, I scraped it off with a knife immediately and it basically peeled off like a giant band-aid) however the center was still liquid while everything else was done so I turned down the temperature and placed them back in the oven for another 10 minutes and they actually came out fine. Not perfect mind you, but they were definitely ok. Better than what you would find at a hotel or casino buffet.


If the middle of any baked good does not look done but sides are browned, I turn oven off and leave dish 19 minutes longer in turned off heat.

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    May I ask, why exactly 19 minutes? What kind of oven do you have? Is this amount of time accurate for all temperatures and all baked goods? Cookies/pies/cakes/etc?
    – Catija
    Jul 18, 2018 at 22:49

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