How to achieve oven success: tips and tricks
- Accept that all ovens are a little different. Test your oven to determine what moderate temperature works best for you.
- If you are using a fan-forced oven you may need to lower the cooking temperature by up to 20°C.
- Always preheat your oven. Some can take up to 15 minutes to heat up so do this before you start preparing your dish it will be ready by the time you need it.
- Set your timer for any stage in the cooking process you feel you need reminding about such as rotating trays, taking the lid off or adding an ingredient. If you don't have an oven timer use your mobile, watch, stopwatch or egg timer.
- Know which shelves to use. Hot air rises, so as a general rule put those things you want to be browner or crispier – biscuits, potatoes, pastry – at the top and others below. If you are cooking meat and cake at the same time make sure the cake is above so meat juices cannot drip in accidentally.
- Know how to work around hot and cold spots. There will be certain spots in your oven that don't heat evenly so find out where they are so you can avoid them or rotate things for a more even cook.
- Oven cooking isn't that precious. With the exception of fancy baked goods, you'll find you can adjust the temperature and cooking times up or down a little if needed to fit in with whatever else is cooking. For example, our Asian-style Beef cooks in a moderate oven for 2 hours but if your oven was already heated to 200°C cooking muffins, you could cook the beef at the higher heat for the first 20 minutes, drop the heat back to moderate ASAP and maybe shave 10-15 mins off the total cooking time. After you've cooked a few dishes you'll know how it looks when it's 'done' and will be able to adjust automatically.