Oven Temperature: A Hot Topic?

Knowing precisely what temperature my oven “thinks” it is cooking at versus the ACTUAL temperature inside has sooo reduced my cooking stress, and I know it is such a silly thing to have made such a big difference.  Let me explain…

We had a new range cooker with double ovens installed four years ago, and for 18 months the thing would cook some things perfectly to time, and then famously it delivered up a half-raw roast chicken one Sunday.  Pork meatloaf was another near tragedy, along with a couple of yukky, eggy-in-the-middle cakes…but sometimes it was just fine, other times, it was a burnt, charred mess…Argh…there seemed to be no consistency.

I do feel somewhat dumb and stupid now the issue is resolved, but back then, it was all just one great big mystery that made me so anxious I was becoming sort of phobic. It aint particularly healthy to be so wary and distrusting of an everyday inanimate object like an oven.

I finally called in an engineer just before the oven guarantee ran out.  He arrived with all sorts of tools and kit, and an amazing industrial digital thermometer.  He also arrived with a piece of paper from the manufacturer with their “Temperature Tolerance” tables.  Aha.

It transpires that legally, companies can sell you a cooker that on the dial states 190 degrees, but their “Tolerance Tables” mean than the actual temperature can be up to 20 degrees out.  Either way.  Yes, that’s right, you could be cooking your roast chicken at 170 degrees or 210 degrees.  The worst part is, because this is a “tolerance” they do not consider it a “manufacturing flaw”, which would be more accurate, in my humble view.

So, engineering chap spent a long time heating the ovens to different temperatures and testing with his thermometer.  Turns out that Oven #2 cooks consistently 15 degrees below the stated temperature across all the ranges.  That explains the pink chicken then.  Oven #1 is spot on almost all the way through the temperature range, apart from right at the high-end where it cooks 10 degrees even hotter, unless it is on the fan, where the range is a wee bit iffy in the middle.  Hence, therefore, the eggy-cake.

Gosh.  Obviously, I will not be replacing that oven with the same brand again, and will be emailing manufacturers next time before I purchase to confirm their “Temperature Tolerances” while sourcing my own incredible industrial thermometer.  My cooking experience is much, much improved, and the oven is no longer a big bete noir in my life.  I am curious though, has anyone else had similar experiences?

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Categories: Ovens, Gadgets and Gizmos

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2 Comments on “Oven Temperature: A Hot Topic?”

  1. Kat
    June 10, 2011 at 8:48 am #

    Hi there, I haven’t had this experience but I did hear about ovens have tolerances during a project management course when we covered the topic of tolerances. My BF and I are building a house next year so this is something I’m very interested in becuase I want to get the right oven, that has a minimal tolerance. Our teacher made the comment that this is why say German ovens are more expensive because their tolerance is 1 degree either way, as opposed to the 20 degrees you discovered. Its very difficult to find this information out, and like you mentioned, I guess the only option is to contact the manufacturer directly and hope they share the info with you. Can I ask you to share what brand oven you have? Thanks, Kat

    • June 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      I have a minor German brand, i.e. not probably one you would have heard of and it certainly does not have 1 degree of tolerance. I would be surprised if any manufacturer could guarantee this to be honest. I could suggest you narrow your choice down to say, three ovens and then hunt down the manufacturers on the web and see what they say, it should be published in their handbooks/spec books, failing that, email them. If cooking/baking is really important to you then maybe consider a smaller professional oven? The other thing if you are building is to make sure the levels around the cooker are are absolutely flat, my oven is only a tiny bit not level but this is enough to provide some interesting sponge cakes! Bar this, a professional oven thermometer would be able to give you a really good idea if you tested it at 10 degrees difference over the range, and you can adjust your future cooking times accordingly. Best of luck with the build.

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