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My oven is a Westinghouse. The serial numbers are as follows:- POL660S*02 230-240 V a.c. SERIAL: 52610542 APP NO: S/91

The problem is that it cooks unevenly and burns the base of everything no matter what rack I use. The heating element is on the bottom and fully exposed (which I have never seen in previous ovens I have used.) As I am in a rental I cannot replace the oven. Is there a solution to this problem? TIA

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    Are you sure that it's heating unevenly and not that it's simply uncalibrated? Calibration issues are the number one complaint for ovens. If you don't have one, get an oven thermometer and heat the oven to 350 F and compare the oven temperature reading to what the thermometer says... then put the thermometer in different parts of the oven to see if the temp is really different in different areas. Also, you might check the manual to see if the heating elements are supposed to be exposed... if not, the oven is essentially broken and you should complain to management. – Catija Jul 6 '16 at 4:33
  • It isn't exactly uncommon to have an exposed heating element on the bottom. The usual little oven (that barely fits a half sheet pan) many student oriented housing places have has an exposed heating element on the bottom. – Batman Jul 6 '16 at 5:47
  • "the cooking element is on the bottom" - is this the only cooking element, or are there more and this one is simply heating more than expected? If there are more, can you set their strength separately, or not? – rumtscho Jul 6 '16 at 12:57
  • Thanks everyone for your answers. I am off to invest in an oven thermometer to calibrate the oven temp, op shop for some lighter coloured baking tins and scrounge for a slab of stone that will act as "heating stone" in my oven.....and in answer to catija and rumtscho..unfortunately yes the element is exposed and it is the only one...google my oven specs as mentioned and you will see I am dealing with a very basic entry level oven....but hey, thanks for thinking of those things too!! Overwhelmed by the supportive answers....simple home baking is my passion and dare I say therapy! – Angela Bell Jul 7 '16 at 6:27
  • See my answer here: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/62788/… – Ecnerwal Jul 7 '16 at 13:46
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One solution is to use a baking stone. There are lots of variations available, from thick ceramic baking trays to pizza stones to bit of tile or stone scavenged from contractors or construction people. The point is, the (well cleaned) stone goes in your oven, and stays there. It takes more time to heat up, and also to cool down - but in exchange for this the temperature is more consistent since it takes longer to change.

People use them to avoid or lessen the effects of the kind of cyclic heating ovens normally use (heats up until it senses the temperature, stops heating until it cools enough to trigger the sensor, heats again) a style of heating which means oven temperature is usually a wobbly average, not an absolute temperature. The stone also helps lessen the effect of hot-spots and areas, since the heating element preheating the stone, lets the stone be used as a sort of secondary heat-distributor... one which collects and distributes the heat more evenly, since it doesn't have the same hot-spots as the original element. Hot spots from the top element might still happen, but the stone helps.

In your case, the heating element on the bottom would have to be buffered through the heating stone to reach the food - so the whole stone would heat more slowly, and more heat would cook the rest of the food instead of just getting the bottom burned.

Some dishes which use a shorter cooking time will cook a little differently, since being in contact with the hot stone means they will heat up a little faster (cookies, for example) - but it usually isn't a big problem, and dishes which cook longer will have time to even the heat back out.

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I have the same problem. It seems landlords prefer lowest cost appliances, but as you said you cannot choose. Having the heating element below the oven interior is preferable. In this situation I do two things differently:

1) Use an oven thermometer and check it both before and several times while cooking. In my case, the oven temperature is 50F above the dial, and temperature regulation (between when food is in or out) is poor.

2) Use heavy gauge pans or cooking sheets. Also Pyrex seems to work well. Thin metal baking pans or sheets tend to burn food easily.

Using a baking stone as mentioned by @Megha is also a good idea.

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The pan that you use can greatly affect how things cook from the bottom --

Dark metals will absorb radiant heat, while light colored shiny metals will reflect it away. Glass dishes allow it to pass through to the food.

What I would try doing is use something light colored (either aluminium or an opaque white casserole dish) in an upper rack, while placing an aluminum sheet pan on the lower rack to help block the radiant heat.

Depending on what you're cooking, I might also try cooking at a lower temperature to warm through, and then finishing it with top heat only (broil or grill, depending on what your country calls it) to brown it.

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My response is similar to @Megha's -- buffering with something.

I suggest purchasing an AirBake pan. You can try cooking right on the pan, I've always had success there. An alternative is to put the AirBake pan on the bottom rack as a buffer, and cook on the middle rack per your usual routine.

Note: I mention the AirBake brand because it's what I know. There might be other similar pans.

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