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How to Use an Oven Thermometer for Better Baking

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

If you suspect that your oven’s temperature isn’t properly calibrated—for example, your dishes are consistently over or undercooked after following a recipe’s guidelines—an oven thermometer can help you ensure that the number on the oven dial matches the temperature inside.



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What Is an Oven Thermometer?

An oven thermometer is a small, stainless steel oven-safe thermometer with a clock face dial that allows you to take the most accurate temperature of the oven. An oven thermometer allows you to measure the exact internal temperature of your oven—or as close as you can get—to ensure even more exact cook times and results.

What Is the Purpose of an Oven Thermometer?

An oven’s internal thermometer may not be calibrated correctly or gives an inaccurate reading due to placement within the oven. The true temperature of the oven can be off by just a few degrees or up to 25 or even 50 degrees, which makes a big difference when you’re cooking something with very specific temperature needs, like meat or baked goods. An oven thermometer gives a more accurate temperature reading of the inside of your oven.

Where to Place an Oven Thermometer

Most oven thermometers are designed to easily stand or clip onto oven racks. There are pros and cons to each model (clip models can sometimes be hard to read or unsteady, and too-small standing models can slip through the racks and break) but the most important thing is finding one that’s easy to read through the oven door. Cracking the door to check the temperature reading allows heat to escape and can alter it slightly.

Most ovens have hot spots—areas of the oven where heat congregates and becomes more intense—so moving your oven thermometer around during your test will give you a sense of the different temperatures present at any given time.

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How to Use an Oven Thermometer

  1. Place the thermometer inside. Put the oven thermometer in your oven, and preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take a reading. When it’s fully preheated, check the reading on the thermometer.
  3. Recalibrate, if necessary. If the number on the oven thermometer largely differs from the one on your oven dial, you can call a professional to adjust it. You can also make note the difference in temperature range and keep that in mind when using your oven. For example, if your oven temperature is set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and your oven thermometer reads 415 degrees, you will know that your oven runs about 15 degrees to hot and can adjust accordingly.

Oven Thermometer vs. Meat Thermometer: What’s the Difference?

An oven thermometer measures the temperature inside of the oven. If food safety, especially concerning the doneness of meat, is your biggest concern invest in a good digital meat thermometer with a stainless steel probe. Digital instant-read thermometers will give you an accurate temperature reading for all types of meat, even while grilling, which can be an even harder environment to control than an oven.


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