If you suspect that your oven temperature is off, the first thang you gotta do is get an accurate temperature reading inside that oven. That means you need to start with an accurate thermometer. Your assessment of your oven’s temperature accuracy is only as good as the thermometer you’re using. So, start with an accurate thermometer, such as this one to verify the actual temperature of the oven.
During the course of my vast and awesome experience practicing the ancient martial art of Fixite Do, I’ve learned that most inexpensive dial thermometers are no more accurate than the oven’s built-in thermostat, which are notoriously inaccurate. To get a good reading, I always use a thermocouple-type thermometer. Oh, I know, that’s a big ol’ expensive-sounding title but I have one that’s very well suited for this purpose and at a good price. Check it out, Hoss.
Ovens take time to reach the temperature you set. Even a preheat cycle only gets the oven temperature close to where you’ve set it. To get an accurate reading, let the oven cycle on and off at least three times, which takes about 20 minutes.
Also, even the best oven thermostats have an ‘acceptable range’ of operation. This means that most manufacturers consider a thermostat in perfect working operation if it can achieve an oven temperature within 25 degrees of what you’ve set it to. For example, if you’ve set your oven to 350 degrees, it is acceptable for the actual temperature to be 325-375 degrees. That’s one of the reasons recipes typically offer a range of time for baking. Plus, factors like humidity and altitude also affect baking time.
Too many technicians have tried to satisfy a customer by replacing a thermostat that was 25 degrees low – only to find the new one is 25 degrees high! That’s why you need an accurate thermocouple-type oven thermometer to double-check the calibration of the oven’s thermostat.
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To accurately check an oven temp, once you’ve gone through the three cycles, how long after the element turns off should you take a temperature reading?