Oven temperatures: Experience is everything

Although most recipes give you an exact oven temperature, it is useful to remember that every oven bakes differently. Always take indicated temperatures with a pinch of salt and never trust them blindly. You can only bake successfully when you know your oven and this knowledge comes just with experience.

Basically there is a fundamental difference between electrical ovens and ovens powered by gas. An electric oven provides a much more uniform heat than gas which makes baking sweets and cakes a lot easier as the dishes cook evenly from all sides. An electric oven needs quite a bit of time though to reach working temperature. When you have an electric oven it is advisable to preheat it at least 10 minutes before you place anything into it. In Germany I always used electricity for cooking as power cuts are practically unknown. The only thing you have to remember is switching on the oven or the cooking plate well in advance.

As power cuts happen frequently in Goa I decided to use an oven fired by gas. This keeps me independent although a gas oven is a lot trickier to use than an electric one. A gas oven usually operates with a single row of flames, which is placed at the bottom of the oven. As the heat comes exclusively from below, it is very easy to burn cakes or cookies. I must admit it took me quite some time to get used to the gas oven. I don’t know how many cakes I have burnt in the process, but there were quite a few failed experiments.

Now I follow a simple rule with my fast burning gas oven: When I bake sweets I normally choose the lowest temperature possible and I place the cookie sheet in the middle of the oven. The lowest temperature available at my gas oven is 180 degrees Celsius (but that is just what is written at the switch. I have no idea what the actual temperature is). At the end of the baking time I switch on the grill – the row of flames from above – for a couple of minutes to ensure that the top of my cake, pie or cookies is properly baked as well.

Remember, when you use a gas oven, burning your sweet is the biggest danger. Nothing can replace experience, that’s why you have to find out by yourself how your oven works.

Essentially, meat can take a lot more heat than sweets. When roasting meats, you don’t have to be so careful. As a rule of thumb, I roast meat at 200 – 220 degrees Celsius. The following table gives you an idea about the relationship between Celsius degrees and Fahrenheit. I cannot stress enough though: Every oven works differently. Know your oven and you can forget all tables.

 
 

Celsius  

Fahrenheit

160

325

180

350

190

375

200

400

220

425

240

475

250

500

Both my cook books 'Kornelia's Kitchen' & 'Kornelia's Kitchen 2'
have won the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards for India.

'Kornelia's Kitchen'

Kornelia's Kitchen 2

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