Can You Recalibrate Your Oven?
How to be sure it's not reaching the correct temperature and what you can do to fix it.
If you've ever wondered if your oven was accurate, you're not alone. Even an oven thermometer might not tell you what you need to know. According to Larissa Taboryski, a culinary appliance educator, "It's not unusual for people to think there is something wrong with their oven even though they have paid a great deal of money for it. They rush out and buy a $10 oven thermometer and believe that reading. Unfortunately, that reading is often incorrect because of where it is placed in the oven."
Just opening the door to the oven will change the temperature and, at best, the thermometer is only measuring the temperature in one spot in your oven. Oven temperatures fluctuate and because both gas and electric ovens cycle on and off to maintain a specific set temperature, something that manufacturers say is perfectly normal.
Know Your Oven
Taboryski reports that there is big frustration in the appliance industry, because often technicians are called to a person's home only to find the calibration is correct but that the consumer needs better product education. She says that many consumers are unaware that small ovens cook faster than large ovens, that gas ovens generally cook faster than electric ovens. What's more, some of the large 30 or 36 inch electric ovens can be on the slower side, especially in the regular bake mode. And to make things even more confusing, Taboryski explains that because they come with a choice of convection and non-convection modes, consumers are easily confused.
Rather than just using an oven thermometer—which doesn't account for normal fluctuations—to confirm that your oven temperature is correct, Taboryski recommends conducting a baking test. She tells her clients to buy a packaged cornbread mix and bake it in regular bake mode, on the middle rack in a metal pan, according to package instructions (if using a glass pan, a temperature reduction of 5 degrees is recommended as glass transfers heat faster). If the cornbread is evenly baked at the end of the recommended cooking time, it's likely the oven is correctly calibrated.
What if your oven temperature really is inaccurate? According to Taboryski, a homeowner can't really recalibrate their oven—that can only be done by a technician. With that being said, it's important to note that some ovens do have an option to slightly adjust calibration in the settings menu, so check yours before you call in a pro. With some ovens, you may be able to remove the oven temperature knob and move the dial clockwise or counterclockwise to adjust up or down. Consult the owner's manual for model specific instructions, and keep in mind that it's not a true recalibration, but rather a minor adjustment. If your oven temperature is way off, you will still need to have a technician check the oven sensor and thermostat.