It's the most essential and inexpensive kitchen tool.
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Baking is as much science as it is art, and that's why recipes using the oven always list the temperature and often require preheating. Knowing that the temperature of your oven is accurate will help ensure better results. So, how can you determine the actual temperature of your oven? The only reliable method is by using an oven thermometer.

woman removing tray with baking dishes on from the oven

Ovens are notorious for running "too hot" or "too cold." An oven that is too hot can burn or overcook while an oven that does not reach the right temperatures can leave your baked goods undercooked. A number of factors make checking the temperature in your oven challenging, even with a thermometer, starting with how your oven works. In order to maintain a consistent temperature, ovens have internal thermostats and cycle on and off, heating and cooling to stay as close to the temperature you set. Inside your oven, there are likely spots that are cooler and hotter, and when you open the oven door, the temperature goes down quickly. Leaky door seals, aging thermostats, and poor calibration can all wreak havoc when it comes to reaching and maintaining a consistent temperature.

Having a thermometer designed for use inside an oven allows you to see what the temperature is without relying solely on any indications your oven may give you. On that front, there are two different types of oven thermometers to consider.

Dial Thermometers

Dial faced models use an internal spring and take a while to register, so it's best to place them in the center of the oven, where you are most likely to be baking. Look for a face that is large with markings that are easy to read and an NSF certification. The CDN ProcAccurate High Heat Oven Thermometer ($10.53, is an inexpensive model, but it should last five years. It also measures much higher temperatures than most other models which is useful if your oven runs very hot.

Digital Thermometers

A probe style meat thermometer can also be used to check oven temperatures. You can place the probe on the oven rack or on a heatproof clip to attach it to the rack. These thermometers have a display that is kept outside of the oven, and a cord attaches to a probe, so you don't have to open the oven to read the temperature. Because the oven will cycle on and off, you will see a variation in temperature. By taking an average of the readings over the space of an hour or two, you will get a better sense of how your oven is performing.

The ThermoPro TP-16 ($17.99, can also be used as a meat probe and has a large LCD display. The top of the line option is the Thermo Works Chef Alarm ($64, with an AirProbe and grate clip. Designed for commercial use, is not only accurate but beeps to indicate when the oven reaches the target temperature and shows the minimum and maximum readings to most accurately track the performance of your oven.


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