It’s something that’s bewildered people for decades – preheating the oven before baking. Does it really make a difference? Well, when it comes to baking cookies and cakes or even heating up frozen foods from the freezer, it really does make a difference!
Unless you’re a professional chef or oven manufacturer, you may not be aware that ovens vary in how their heating elements work during the preheating stages and as a result, they deliver different results. The type of oven you’re using and specifically, how your oven preheats can have a major impact on your baking results.
For example, if you whip up your favorite dish at home and throw it in the oven before it preheats and then does the same thing in your mother’s oven at her house, you may have very different results because each oven preheats differently!
Heating Elements Differ from Oven to Oven
If you read a cookbook, a recipe online, or a recipe on the back of a box, you’ll notice that they always say to “preheat the oven” at X degrees. Recipes never say to throw the dish in, then turn on the oven at a certain temperature.
Even though we all know recipes say to preheat ovens, we can have a hard time waiting. Instead, we’ll jump the gun and slide the food in early; it’s like we can’t help ourselves. As we mentioned earlier, the main issue is how ovens differ, specifically in how their heating elements work.
Some ovens preheat using only the bottom heating elements, while others preheat while using the bottom and top heating elements. If you happen to have an oven that preheats using both the bottom and top elements, you’ll have the most trouble. You run the risk of food being charred on the outside before it’s cooked all the way through.
No matter which type of oven you have, results can suffer when you put food in the oven too early, before the oven is preheated. It’s better to err on the side of caution and wait until your oven is properly preheated before you place any food inside, whether it’s cookies or a meat dish.
And for energy savings, Georgia Power says to, “Place food in the oven as soon as its preheated and avoid opening the oven door excessively.”