Tips for baking in conventional and fan-forced ovens

Baking is one of the oldest cooking techniques, and today refers to the cooking of food, by dry heat (convection) in an oven, at a consistent temperature.

The most commonly baked goods include bread, cakes, muffins, biscuits, pastries and pies. Baked goods can also include meatloaf, baked potatoes and egg custards.

Some ingredients when baked require protection from direct heat, so may be cooked in a crust, en papillote, wrapped in baking paper or foil, or bain marie, cooked in a water bath.

Many ovens now have a fan-forced (convection) setting, and they are especially popular in commercial kitchens. Fan-forced ovens have a fan that circulates the hot air, resulting in a faster cooking time, as well as browning more quickly. When using ovens with both fan-forced and conventional settings, it is best to use conventional when you are baking long and slow (like for cakes) and fan-forced for fast cooking at high temperatures. If using a fan-forced oven, as a general rule, drop the temperature by 20°C to imitate conventional.

An oven thermometer is a great tool to use when baking, and can be purchased relatively cheaply at most homeware stores. They are left inside the oven, and help determine what temperature the oven is actually cooking at. The temperature does vary from the top to the bottom rack, so it is best to place the thermometer on the rack on which you are cooking the food.

Tips for baking

  1. When baking, it is really important to heat the oven to the required temperature before adding the food.
  2. It is also generally best to bake on the middle shelf of the oven to ensure even heat distribution.
  3. Minimise opening the door during baking, as this will decrease the overall temperature of the oven.

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