Guys Baking Cookies For Science

Does Preheating Your Oven Really Make a Difference?

Most baking recipes, or any recipes for that matter – usually begin with preheating instructions, followed by the preparation instructions. When you start to gather your ingredients together and measure them out, that’s the time to turn your oven on.  Depending on your baking and cooking needs, the benefits of preheating may not be as significant as the energy disadvantage you may experience.

So Why Does Every Recipe Say Preheat?

Preheating used to be a necessity back in the days of wood and coal powered stoves.  The stoves needed time to warm up in order to spread the heat evenly before baking.  Cookbook authors included the instructions in order to ensure the foods were properly cooked and baked goods turned out properly.

Today, gas and electric ovens are much more efficient than the stoves of the past.  Because of that, it may not be necessary to preheat your oven before you insert certain foods.  Still, certain delicate baked goods can come out undercooked, burned, or even fallen, depending on the oven temperature.  If the heat is constantly changing, you may ruin your breads, cookies, or cakes based on the recipe.  By preheating, you ensure the oven maintains the optimal environment and your recipe will turn out as planned.  Yet another reason to keep that oven door closed.  NO PEEKING!!

How Do I Know My Oven Is Up to Temperature?

While in operation, ovens cycle on and off to maintain an average temperature.  These cycles vary by oven and are time based rather than temperature based.  Some ovens cycle further from the desired temperature than others and some more frequently.  This is why many recipe and cookbook authors give time ranges or visual clues like:“Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean”; or “Bake until the muffin is springy to the touch”; or “Bake until the crust is golden brown around the edges.”

It is important to get to know your oven and learn to trust your own judgment.  Still, when you are in doubt, you can always use an oven thermometer.

We decided to put preheating to the test  with the help of some of the staff at our Orchard Park location and some premade sugar cookie dough.  We baked the first batch without preheating the oven and a second batch there after and timed the results…

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