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I need advice from those who bake in gas oven without fan. I bake on the middle rack and have an oven thermometer(my oven is -20 deg off). My cakes get baked darker on bottom and paler on top. Cookies can get burnt at bottom if I wait for them to change color on top. The result is that the cookies, puff pastry are not crisp, the sheet cakes are sticky on touch when they cool down. Really need advice from those who had faced and overcome this. Many thanks!


Edit: What I really want to know is how to increase the top heat? The cake or pastry is getting baked faster at bottom but since top heat is less though the cake rises fine it does not get browned on top. If I wait longer for it to brown it starts getting burned at bottom.

  • Do you have top heat at all? In another question, I doubted advice given for an oven with no top heating elements, until somebody explained that has ovens (which I have never used) frequently don't have an upper heating element. – rumtscho Jan 25 '15 at 10:03
  • @rumtscho you are one of the lucky ones :-) you have to change your whole cooking style to accommodate such an oven. Sometimes I think I'd be better off with a wood powered range from the Victorian days... – Doug Jan 25 '15 at 11:31
  • @Doug poor you, I would never have thought that such bad tools are installed in pro kitchens. I live in Germany, where gas cooking is almost unheard of. So I get to use good electric ovens, but also no gas stove. At least current resistive technology with Ceran is decent, and induction is just great, but years ago it was a cramp to cook on stovetop. – rumtscho Jan 25 '15 at 12:09
  • @rumtscho they are rare, it generally happens when the boss has never had to work in a kitchen before and thinks an oven is an oven why pay £12k for a rationale oven when you can get an oven + stove top for £1-2k. Everywhere else I've worked we've had these ovens but only for the stove tops and and oven itself would be used for storing cloths and pans or for drying out meringue and cooking creme brulee. You can imagine my bosses face on my first day here when I couldn't find the oven... – Doug Jan 25 '15 at 12:27
  • @rumtscho I have a grill on top. There is no top heating element like there is in electric ovens. – surefoot Jan 25 '15 at 17:34
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This is an issue I've had to come to terms with myself. I spent most of my catering life spoilt by having a massive fan assisted electric ovens with space for 24 trays at once. Then one day I left it all behind to work in a tiny 2 chef kitchen where all we had was a bottom heated gas oven. The first 6 months was a nightmare. It's still not easy even to this day but I'll share a couple of tricks me and my colleague have found.

Its all about the airflow:

Forget about the middle shelf for baking it's useless. It's there for roast joints and ... Stuff. Get your baked goods on the top shelf. The reason you are not getting browned tops is all the heat is hitting the bottom of your tray, by the time it reaches the top of your oven and bounces back down to your food it's nowhere near the temperature required.

In order to help cushion the bottoms of your food and direct the heat towards the top, you need to put a tray slightly larger than the tray you are cooking on, on the shelf below. You can add water to this tray for bread and Yorkshire puddings as the steam helps regulate the heat also, but when cooking pastries I find it makes the pastry more likely to split and crack.

Locate the thermostat in your oven. In ours, it's at the top right, in the middle. Always ensure there is sufficient space around it for the heat to hit it. If it's blocked in any way you'll find the oven just keeps pumping heat out. It'll be 300c at the bottom but the thermostat will still think it 100c.

Sometimes you will find the tops are now cooking perfectly but the bottoms are a little less done. At that point, you will be safe to either move the food down a shelf to help crisp the bottoms or if making scones you can safely flip them over just to finish off.

Good luck.

  • Does this means even if I bake on the top shelf I place a pan on the shelf below or is this for only when I bake in the middle? What if I am using a bundt pan then that won't fit in the top shelf? – surefoot Jan 25 '15 at 14:24
  • Depends on your oven to be honest. It's worth experimenting. Personally in our oven I always have a tray beneath any baked goods. Usually a pan or something else I'm cooking (roast beef etc) to be honest. Also its worth noting we don't have a middle just a top and bottom shelf plus the oven base which is used for toasting tea cakes... – Doug Jan 25 '15 at 15:02
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    Thanks! when the advice comes from someone who faced the same issues it registers faster. Puff pastry on the upper rack baked awesome. Baking cake had a problem as my pan height was more and I could not view through glass door how it baked. I then tried baking on the middle rack. A black tray which came along this oven was lying pretty useless. I placed this below the middle rack and this time the cake browned evenly. I am now confused about 2 things. 1. Why is placing a pan below has such a effect? 2. Where should I place my oven thermometer, dangle from the rack or on top of it? – surefoot Jan 27 '15 at 9:54
  • Sorry for the slow reply I hadn't received a notification to say you had. The tray helps by 1. Absorbing some of the heat. 2. Directing the heat to the top of your oven instead of directly at the bottom of your food. Try and imagine how the air flows around a car in a wind tunnel. As far as your thermometer goes I'm not sure, I don't have the benefit of being able to move mine, as its welded to the oven. For a guess the ideal place would be on the base of your cooking tray (Bottom of your food). If you have the patience I'd suggest moving it around until you get perfect results. – Doug Jan 30 '15 at 18:54
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It sounds like your oven may be miss-calibrated. I would get an oven thermometer and check to be sure it's heating properly.

A couple of things to check;

1.Make sure you're using the middle rack in your oven so that the heat can circulate.

2.Make sure you're using a pan that doesn't take up the ENTIRE rack. Space around the sides will allow for better circulation.

Possible Solutions:

  1. Try setting your oven temperature 25 degrees less than what your recipes call for. A lower temp will aid in even heating.

  2. Place a pan of water on the rack below the product you are baking. The steam created will help even out the oven's temperature all around. (This is good for cookies and cakes but if you're attempting bread, macaroons, or more delicate pastries the added moisture could affect your end product.

  3. A baking stone placed on the bottom rack and preheated with the oven will allow for a bit of a buffer in heat fluctuations. (A pizza stone works great, or any Unglazed quarry tile from the hardware store)

  • Sorry, I failed to mention that I already bake on the middle rack. – surefoot Jan 25 '15 at 7:07
  • If I bake at a lower temperature how will it help in browning the top? – surefoot Jan 25 '15 at 14:27
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    It will help to let the whole thing bake evenly, thus improve browning on top. – Rhapsody Feb 8 '15 at 3:57
  • As for the baking stone, I now find myself wondering if putting it on the top rack might help, if well preheated (extra time since it's further from the heating element). It will absorb the heat and radiate it back, and once the food is placed in the middle rack, it could serve as a lesser heat source above the food as well as keeping the temperature even. – Megha Mar 17 '17 at 0:40
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Perhaps it's because I grew up in a house with a gas oven and have had gas ovens in most of the apartments I lived in for years, but I've never had problems baking with them. But I've also never had the kinds of experiences discussed in this question, even in multiple apartments with cheap old stoves. (The only place I ever had problems cooking things was with a cheap electric stove/oven that would burn the tops of everything.)

If things like this ever happened to me, I would seriously consider having the oven checked or serviced. It sounds like the air is simply not circulating properly and/or may be vented (or have the vent partly obstructed) in a way that is not allowing the oven to heat uniformly. Or perhaps the thermostat is really off. You could start by checking with an oven thermometer on various shelves while baking and see if you're seeing vastly different temperatures at the top and bottom. Maybe those who grew up with electric ovens or convection ovens just bake differently in ways that I'd never think of, but I currently have an electric oven, and I don't do much differently from when I baked in gas ovens, and everything pretty much works the same. (The only differences I've noticed usually come from venting issues: gas ovens are built with more venting due to combustion and gases, so electric ovens generally act more tightly sealed -- which can be an issue for steam venting occasionally, but can be an advantage for steaming bread or something.)

Anyhow, I agree with other answers' advice to bake on a higher rack and use a larger pan/stone/cookie sheet on a lower rack to deflect some of the heat from the bottom if the bottoms of food are getting done too fast. (I needed to do that above just about everything I baked in my miscalibrated cheap electric oven I had years ago that would burn tops.)

I also agree with the idea of trying to lower temperature slightly on some recipes. This may cause rising problems in some food that depend on rapid "oven spring" in the beginning of a bake. But if you don't need that hot heat in an initial burst, a lower temperature may allow the top of the food to dry out over a longer bake and then begin to brown.

Similarly, you might consider different pans or cookie sheets, particularly if they are dark-colored. Dark pans will brown baked goods more quickly due to heat radiating from them more strongly.

Basically: browning reactions don't start to happen quickly until the outer layer of the food dries out (and can thus increase in temperature above boiling). The top of food starts to turn brown once it dries out from the air circulation (i.e., a "crust" forms), and the bottom of food starts to turn brown when the radiant heat from the pan dries the "crust" out. You want to speed up the former (e.g., by placing the food higher in the oven) while slowing down the latter (e.g., by blocking any direct heat on the bottom, using light-colored pans, and perhaps lowering the overall temperature to allow time for the top to dry out and catch up with the radiant heat from the bottom).

  • This was not cheap for me. I paid 41K(INR) when the same size electric version was 29K(INR). The reason for my choice was that in India we have frequent power cuts but I was not prepared for the challenges. Its 2 years since I bought and the first year was spent in complaining to the company as it has other issues too like, you have to keep the start button pressed till it reaches 100 deg C or it switches off. :( – surefoot Jan 27 '15 at 8:54
  • Well, I'm sorry to hear that. As I said, to me it sounds like something is malfunctioning (or perhaps poorly designed). I've spent many years baking in gas ovens and never had such extreme issues, so I hope you figure out how to work with it. – Athanasius Jan 29 '15 at 1:32
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I'd agree with @Athanasius that this seems like a bad example of the gas oven, as I also have rarely had troubles of this sort with the vast majority of gas ovens.

I have however had similar troubles with what I'd characterize as a probable bad gas oven (from design through construction) and compensated for them pretty successfully.

Being on vacation in a rural area, there was not a lot of fancy stuff available, but there was aluminum (or aluminium for those that prefer) foil, which was all it took. I just folded a sheet onto the shelf, shiny side down, hanging slightly below the shelf, to reflect away some of the bottom heat. I left space at the sides for air to circulate. No more burned bottoms.

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I think I have similar gas oven as you have.What I do is bake for some time from bottom till I see slight brownish bottom of bread/ bun then I switch to top gas burners( broiler) and bake. This is risky as the bun becomes brown very fast. Problem is the browning is not even and get some dark patches here and there.

I will try keeping the bottom tray with holes on side ( which I received with the oven) and try to bake.

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