Dear Home-Ec 101,
How do you keep the bottom of the cornbread from burning? I use an electric oven and I’ve tried putting my muffin pan on the higher rack but that didn’t help. The bottom burns but the top stays light.
I Would Prefer Cajun Style Blackening
It’s fairly common for household ovens to not heat to an accurate temperature. This is an incredibly frustrating experience, especially for new cooks who may think, “I followed the directions! I’m a complete failure at cooking.” How would a novice know that it was mechanical failure and not their fault? Heck, I get frustrated on their behalf and please don’t even get me started on flimsy cookware.
Cooking food is a balance of applying enough heat to cook the inside of food in a reasonable amount of time and not so much that the outside burns before the interior has cooked. This is true regardless of the cooking method. When baking or roasting, the temperature of the air in the oven is responsible for the majority of the heat transfer (indirect heating). However, the baking sheet (or muffin tin or pan) gets heated by the air, too. Metal is a great conductor of heat, in fact it is far better at heat transference than air. Once the pan reaches the temperature of the oven, it also cooks your food through direct heating. This is why the bottom of your cornbread gets done before the top (and quite possibly the middle)
The first thing I suggest is getting an oven thermometer, this will give you an accurate indication of whether or not your oven is heating to the proper temperature. To test your oven, place one of the racks in the middle position, hang the thermometer from the rack, set the oven to 350F and wait for 20 minutes. Now check the temperature on the thermometer, this should be a much more accurate indication of the actual cooking temperature your oven is maintaining.
If your oven’s temperature is off, it may need calibrating, check your owner’s manual of your oven. If you can’t find it, use Google and perform a quick search of the make and model of your appliance. Many manufacturers have the pdf of the owner’s manuals available online.
If your oven’s temperature is off by 20 degrees or more, the thermostat -the part that controls the temperature- may need to be replaced. If it’s only off by five or ten degrees it won’t matter for all but the most delicate of baked goods. Just make a note and set your oven’s temperature accordingly.
As a stopgap measure to try to keep the bottom of your cornbread from burning, place the pan on a room temperature baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven. This may delay the direct heating long enough that the top of your cornbread has a chance to finish cooking.
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This question came from a comment on the post: Sweet Cornbread Recipe.