(BPT) - Measuring, mixing, blending and kneading - there is so much that goes into the art of baking. You start with the right materials and techniques, but you also need to be familiar with how your oven works to get the best results.
Getting to know your oven could be the difference between a beautiful baked good and a not-so-great one. Here are five questions to ask before you get started on your next batch of goodies.
Gas, electric or convection?
This is an important distinction. This not only determines where the heat comes from, but also how it moves around inside the oven. Convection ovens - such as the LG ProBake Oven - are the best for baking as they circulate the air inside the oven for even heat on every rack. They have a bottom heat source but are also equipped with fans to blow the hot air around. Many gas and electric ovens are also heated from the bottom, but the heat is not evenly distributed.
When was it last cleaned?
Many people go months, or even years, without cleaning their ovens. But months of buildup can cause smoke and ruin your food. Remember to wipe away any spills in the oven after each use or use a drip pan to catch any grease or drippings.
Are the nooks and crannies clean?
Crumbs and spills hiding in the gaps around your oven can attract pests. One easy way to get these areas clean is to wrap a damp cloth around a butter knife and run it through the cracks, shaking out the dirt and food morsels in the trash as you go. Then, repeat this step with a vinegar-dampened cloth to ensure the area isn't a welcoming home to mice, ants or other unwanted guests.
Where are your oven racks?
The placement of the racks inside your oven is more important than you may think. Most ovens get hotter at the top, so if you have two baking sheets in at once, the one on the higher rack tends to cook faster. For best results, place racks in the middle, and be sure to rotate your pans from front to back and top to bottom.
Do you have an oven thermometer?
Many home ovens are off by five to 15 degrees, some even up to 25 degrees or more. It might seem insignificant, but the wrong temperature can affect your final product. Use an oven thermometer to make sure you're baking at the correct temperature.
Get to know your oven. Answer these questions and follow these tips for delicious, successful baking every time.