It’s 4:15 and my husband starts to discuss dinner. “What can we make in less than an hour?” he asked. I said “you will have to go downstairs and look.” He asked “if we had something to go with the thawed chuck roast in the fridge?” “There’s an Onion Garlic Marinade on the table”, I replied. He took the marinade and made a pressure cooked chuck roast that had tons of flavor in about 45 minutes, along with asparagus.
When we set our oven to pre-heat we wait for the beep and know the oven is ready. The light shows us as well right? But as soon as we open the door the light changes telling us the temperature has dropped. But what if the oven isn’t hot enough to start with? What is the oven is too hot to start with? How do I know that the number shown or the dial is set just right? If you are like me you say “just go get a thermometer”, it’s not that easy. Manufactures may take care in making the product but the shippers, store workers, and we customers don’t. This means the thermometer could be wrong as well. Using sugar we can check to see how our oven is heating.
I have looked many places on the internet and have found that Sucrose (table sugar) melts at 367°F / 186°C. The sugar turns from a powdered, granulated substance to something resembling glass. Later as the temperature reaches 375°F/190°C it melts and caramelizes, which is the breakdown of the molecules of sucrose.
Pour a spoonful of sugar into an oven-safe dish that you can see into or on a cookie sheet lined with foil, set the to 350°F / 177°C. Even after an hour, it should still be powder or granules. It might turn slightly brown due to decomposition, but it shouldn’t melt. If it does, your oven is too hot. Next, turn your oven up to 375°F / 190°C. The sugar should completely melt within 15 minutes or so. If it doesn’t, your oven is calibrated too cold. Check to see if your oven has either an adjustment knob or a calibration offset setting; otherwise, just keep in mind the offset when setting the temperature. Note that your oven will cycle a bit above and below the target temperature: the oven will overshoot its target temperature, then turn off, cool down, turn back on, etc. It’s possible that your oven could be “correctly” calibrated but still melt the sugar when set to 350°F / 177°C due to this overshooting, but it would have to overshoot by about 15°F / 8°C.
Use this chart to help, next time your cookies don’t turn out! via
There are many variables in baking. Pictured are cookies with various problems using the same dough (with flour adjustments in numbers 3 &4).
1. This cookie is done just right. It is pictured to compare with the rest.
2. This dough was not refrigerated. It is still good but a little flatter than it should be.
3. This dough contained too much flour and did not spread much at all. It is interesting to note that the dough looked identical to the correct dough, but was much stiffer and drier.
4. This dough had too little flour. It spread too much and didn’t bake evenly.
5. This dough was over-mixed. It had a poor color, baked flat and had a strange consistency.
6. This dough was formed too small. It was overcooked at eight minutes. It is fine to make smaller cookies, just bake them for less time.
7. This dough was formed too large. The outsides were done while the middle was too high and underdone.
8. This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too hot. The outside was overdone and the inside was slightly underdone.
9. This dough was baked in an oven 25 degrees too cool. It fell flat and became too crisp without much of an inside.
10. This dough was frozen when baked. It took longer to bake and didn’t cook as evenly. To use frozen dough, set on cookie sheet at room temperature while oven is preheating, 15-20 minutes. It takes the frost off and bakes perfectly.