Is it Necessary to Pre-Heat an Oven?

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Dear Home Ec 101:

Please solve an argument between my husband and myself! When heating up the oven, I don’t wait for the required temp to reached before putting the food in, but do give extra time in case it wasn’t quite hot enough. My husband says that you have to wait until the temp is reached or the food won’t cook right. Who’s right?

~Consternated in Concord

Heather says:

I have the feeling that neither of you will be happy with the answer. You are both right.

The temperature is very important with baked goods such as breads and cakes. A lot is decided in the first few minutes of baking. Take bread for example, if the oven isn’t hot enough the crust may not form properly.

If you do a lot of baking, I highly recommend investing in an oven thermometer. Oftentimes the thermostat may not be calibrated and that can effect some recipes.

Temperature is also important when trying to achieve certain effects when roasting. Some cooks swear by “blasting” roasts and whole chickens and turkeys.

With many items it doesn’t matter, things like baked chicken, casseroles, or the kid’s fishsticks. In those cases check at the end of the prescribed time. Often the cooking times are generalities and not exact in the first place.

I hope this information helps and I hope it didn’t take all the wind out of your sails. I know I get far too much enjoyment out of a big “I told you so!”

Good luck!

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