Christmas Day is just around the corner, and your oven will be used for turkey, pies, rolls, yams, green bean casserole…the list goes on and on! Your oven needs to operate at peak performance on turkey day, and now is the time to make sure it’s calibrated properly.
The Truth About Your Oven’s Heating Cycle
Not every oven is created equally as far as accuracy is concerned and oven temperature accuracy can drift over time. In fact, most ovens are off their set point by about 25-50°F. For example, if your oven is set to 325°F (163°C), but averaging a higher temperature of 360°F (182°C) at that setting, your cooking results could be off the mark.
Ovens have thermostats that trigger a heating cycle to keep the internal temperature near the set temperature. During heating cycles, your oven will likely heat above the set temp, then gradually drop below it again. ChefAlarm® with an Air Probe and Grate clip are perfect tools for testing your oven’s accuracy.
Set the ChefAlarm’s high alarm to your target temperature, and an alarm will sound once it’s reached. More importantly, the Max/Min feature will let you know how high and low the temperatures are during the heating cycles. You can use these numbers to calculate your oven’s average temperature over time and recalibrate if your oven is manifesting any error.
How to Test Your Oven’s Accuracy
Follow these easy steps to test your oven’s accuracy with a ChefAlarm:
- Start with your oven off completely.
- Set an oven rack to the oven’s center position and attach the grate clip to the middle of the cooking rack.
- Attach an air probe to the middle of the cooking rack with a grate clip (Pro Series® Air Probes work best, but your standard ChefAlarm probe can work as well).
- Set the High Alarm to 350°F (177°C).
- Start the count-up mode on your ChefAlarm by tapping the “Timer Start/Stop” button. (This will tell you how long it takes your oven to preheat.)
- Set the oven to 350°F (177°C) and close the door.
- When the alarm sounds, you can silence it by tapping the “Alarm On/Off” button. (If the alarm doesn’t sound for a full 20 minutes, that means your oven is running cool. Skip this step, and proceed as usual.)
- Clear the recorded Min/Max temperatures by holding down the “Clear” button.
- Set your timer for 30 minutes using the Up Arrow button, tap “Timer Start/Stop” to start the count-down mode, and wait.
- When the timer sounds after 30 minutes, note the Max and Min temperatures shown in the upper left-hand corner of your ChefAlarm. This shows you how much oscillation your oven manifests while stabilizing around your target temperature.
Test for Your Oven’s Offset Temperature for Greater Oven Accuracy
Your oven’s high and low temperatures reached during heating cycles will become less dramatic over time, so we’ll wait until the oven has had a chance to preheat before checking for our Offset Temperature.
- Clear the Min/Max readings by holding down the “Clear” button again and set another 30 minutes on your ChefAlarm timer.
- After the second half hour (when your ChefAlarm timer sounds a second time) note this second set of Max/Min temperatures on your notepad, as well. This second set of temperatures will give you a better sense of the performance of your oven over time.
- Take the average of the second two numbers to see what the average temperature of your oven is at that set point. (For example, if your second set of temperatures yielded a Max of 378°F [192°C] and a Min of 354°F [179°C], your average oven temperature when your oven is set to 350°F [177°C] is actually 366°F [186°C].)
- The difference between this number and the original setting is your “offset.” (In our example, your oven would have a 16°F [9°C] offset—the difference between 366°F [186°C] and 350°F [177°C]).
How to Adjust with Your Offset Temperature
- Some ovens allow you to recalibrate your setting knobs by turning a calibration pin. Consult your oven owner’s manual.
- If not, use your offset to manually adjust your oven settings. (For example, a 16°F [9°C] offset would mean that if the recipe calls for 350°F [179°C] , you should set your oven to 334°F [168°C].)
- The same offset should hold true for higher and lower temperatures since the error is in the thermostat. But to be completely sure, you could perform this same calibration test at different set temperatures—every 100°F (38°C), for example.
You should also note that convection oven instructions often call for adjusting down the time and/or temperatures of your recipes (consult your oven owner’s manual for details). Most convection ovens will need to be set 25°F (14°C) lower than the oven temperature called for in your recipe.
But the accuracy test outlined above will still be effective, verifying the relationship between the oven temperature setting and the actual internal temperatures for any type of oven.
Test your oven now and enjoy more consistent baking and roasting results this holiday season!
➤ Check out our series, Turkey: 5 Things You Need to Know, for all the thermal tips you need to make this year’s turkey the best ever!