So, you’re starting to get the hang of quarantine cooking, and your oven is seeing more action than ever. You’re baking desserts, casseroles, and roasted meat without a second thought. But are you using the oven to its full potential (and keeping it clean for future use)?
We’ve rounded up some common oven mistakes so you can keep your appliance in tip-top shape. Here’s how to use—and clean—your oven the right way.
You’re not waiting for your oven to preheat.
Whether you’re baking cookies or roasting a chicken, you need to let your oven preheat before letting it work its magic. Cook times in recipes are based on a fully-heated oven, and you could end up with a parbaked dessert if you put the cookie tray in your oven too early.
And if you want something to do while the oven is preheating, there is one way to use the heat source! Put a cast-iron skillet in the oven as it preheats to preheat your skillet before using it to cook food on the stovetop.
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You’re not using the right tools for the job.
Ovens can do a lot, including self-cleaning and high-heat broiler functions. But before you put a dish in the oven, make sure your baking vessel can take the heat. A former roommate of mine once cracked a glass casserole dish by putting it in the oven on the broil setting. (While glass dishes can be great for baking, the Pyrex website notes that broilers and stovetop burners aren’t safe for glass baking dishes.)
Another thing to look out for is transferring pans with plastic or rubber handles from the stovetop into the oven. Some materials may only be able to withstand heat up to a certain temperature, or for a certain amount of time. It’s worth reading the instructions that come with your cookware to make sure it’s oven-safe.
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You’re not using the oven light.
If you have a habit of opening your oven door to check on your food, stop! Every time you open the oven door, your oven could become 50 degrees cooler. And if you keep losing heat, your food won’t cook the way it should! Instead, peek at your food with the oven light, leaving the door handle untouched.
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You’re putting multiple pans in the oven without a second thought.
Yes, baking multiple cookie sheets at a time seems a lot easier than doing them one by one. But doing so could make your cookies bake unevenly. If you notice your baked goods aren’t cooking evenly when you put more than one tray in your oven, try putting in one baking sheet at a time, on the middle rack of your oven.
You’re not using the oven to finish cooking your chicken.
Even if you’re cooking chicken on the stovetop to get a nice char, finishing it in the oven can still help it cook through evenly. That way, you’ll get a perfectly cooked bird that will have a little crust, too.
You leave the oven racks in during the self-cleaning cycle.
The oven’s self-clean cycle is a game-changer, but there’s one major caveat: You need to take your oven racks out before you use it. The self-cleaning feature can damage the finish on oven racks; you’re better off scrubbing them by hand.
You’re not cleaning the oven by hand.
Yes, the self-cleaning function is a lifesaver. But it’s still good to clean the gunk out of your oven by hand from time to time, too. With a bit of elbow grease, your oven will be clean and safe in no time—here’s How to Clean an Oven, According to an Expert.