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How can I master the oven temperatures at which to cook things and corresponding cooking times without having to remember them specifically for each dish? Are there some charts anywhere on the internet, for instance in gif format?

Thanks.

  • You mean like 'warming things up : ~275°F or below (covered); to ensure browning : 325-350°F;...' ? Because some things are "heat through, then put under the broiler to get the top browned". There are concepts like 'warm oven', but people don't always map them to the same temperature. See the links in cooking.stackexchange.com/a/27517/67 – Joe Jan 3 at 18:35
  • There is wide variation within a category -- roasted vegetables may cook at 400°F or 425°F depending on the veggie, my personal preference, and how much time I want it to take. I could also put them in for a much longer time at a lower temperature. Point being: there are an awful lot of "correct" temperatures even for the same for item, which is why recipes specify rather than relying on a general reference. – Erica Jan 3 at 18:35
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What you're really trying to do is add a measured amount of heat to your food in order to achieve the effects you want: in the case of e.g. a roast chicken, crispy skin and safe but juicy meat. As noted by Erica there is comparatively wide band of temperature in which this will work, so why not measure the temperature where it matters?

Buy yourself a digital thermometer. America's Test Kitchen has rated ThermoWorks as one of, if not the, top brand. A 'Chef Alarm' by TW will cost you about US$50, and consists of a probe you stick into the food, and a digital reader. It will make more of a difference to your meat dishes than anything else. Roast meats at around 210C as a base temp. This will seem pretty high, but will ensure you get a crispy outside while the inside cooks, and you can always modify once you see how your oven behaves. Chicken is cooked internally at 70C, pork about 65C, lamb or beef at 55C. You can even set an alarm on your unit to tell you when it's done. No more guessing - ever. In terms of veg, see a nice summary (conveniently, all cooked at about the same temperature too) at ChefSteps: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/tips-tricks-perfect-roasted-vegetables

Most braises or casseroles will go in at about 150-170C for several hours depending on the thickness of the meat. The point in slow cooking to break down tough collagen into tender and tasty gelatin. For a great, instructive and short video on understanding the difference between tough and tender cuts (and why you can use the same techique for a shoulder of pork or a shoulder of lamb): https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/decoding-tough-and-tender-cuts

Oh - and cakes always seem to be cooked at about 180C. No idea why but most recipes seem to be written for that temp.

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    Also, buy an oven thermometer that you put on a shelf. Use this to judge how hot your oven actually gets when you set the dial to a specific temperature and how long it takes to get there. My oven "pings" when it gets up to temp after 10-15 mins, but I know now that it takes at least 30 minutes to actually get there. Placing the thermometer in different places gives you a good idea of variation (top/middle/bottom shelves). – Snow Jan 4 at 8:59

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