How to Handle an Unevenly Heating Oven

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So your oven doesn’t heat evenly. This is one of the most common home appliance problems in the business. There are a number of oven element malfunctions that may cause your oven not to heat evenly. Your element electrical component may have burnt or shorted out. The heating element may be too old or may have taken damage. The only thing you need to know for sure is that your oven isn’t heating food the same amount from one side to the other.

When this happens, it’s time to call for repairs or prepare to perform the repair yourself. But you might have a few more meals to cook before the oven repairs are complete. You may still need to make toast, bake treats, or prepare meals for the family using the oven, even if it’s not heating evenly. To do this, you’ll need a few tricks up your sleeves so the food comes out reasonably tasty and well-cooked while you wait for repairs. 

Assess the Situation

The best place to start is to know how your stove is heating unevenly. By understanding the pattern, you can use it to your advantage. There are two ways to get a good feel for the heating pattern in your oven. The first is to look directly at the elements. The second is to bake a wide pan of cookies.

The Glow Pattern

Turn the oven on to 350 or above and wait a few minutes. Watch how the heating elements glow red as they begin to heat up the oven. In a properly working oven, the heating elements would glow an even red from end-to-end, both top and bottom elements. In an unevenly heating oven, your heating elements probably show a different pattern.

Look for dark spots and dark sections to tell you where the cold sections of your oven will be.

The Cookie Sheet Test

A more fun way to confirm your findings is to make a large sheet of cookies. Space the cookies in an even grid over the sheet. Then slide the pan onto the oven rack and cook for a little longer than the recommended time.

When you pull the cookie sheet, you will have a map of your heating elements. Chances are, the cookies will be crispier on one side and gooier on the other side of the pan. 

Little Problem Solvers

Before you start trying clever hacks to cook with an uneven oven, try a few quick problem-solvers first. Sometimes an oven heats unevenly for issues that are less serious than a broken heating element. The feet, for example.

Level the Feet

If your oven is heating only slightly unevenly, the problem might actually be the evenness of the oven, not the element. Grab bubble level and test the top and bottom of the oven, along with the line of the oven racks. If they are uneven, adjust the oven’s front feet until they are even. These adjustable front feet are known as leveling legs. If your oven’s feet are broken, you can easily order and install replacements to make your oven even.

Wiggle the Element

When the oven is cool (or barely warm) you might also try gently touching the heating element. Push it a little to see if it has come loose from its brackets or connections. A small wiggle might be enough to properly resecure the electricity if wire connection was your problem. 

Use an Oven Thermometer

Now for the clever tricks for cooking in an uneven microwave. Start by placing a metal oven thermometer in your oven. Because your heating elements are off, there’s a good chance that your thermostat is not working correctly either. You need to know how hot your oven really is on the inside, even if it’s not heating evenly. An internal thermometer you can trust will be more reliable until your oven can be fixed. 

Avoid Delicate and Rising Recipes

Some recipes are just not viable in an uneven oven, but some are. What you want to avoid are delicate recipes and deep-pan recipes that absolutely need to heat evenly to be good. Unfortunately, this knocks both cakes and casseroles off your list. Now isn’t a good time to try a souffle either. Delicate and deep-pan recipes rely on even heat to rise or to be safe to eat without drying out. If one half or one corner of your oven heats unevenly, these recipes won’t be rewarding.

Instead, stick with simple things and portioned meals that don’t need cross-pan heating. Now might also be a good time to switch to your stovetop recipe options or microwave instead. 

Cook on the Hot Side

If you do cook something in the oven, from homemade cookies to hot-pockets, cook on the hot side. Use a smaller pan and slide it in long-wise on the side that is hottest. This way, the pan is actually more likely to get even heating because you are focusing only on the area of the oven that provides total top-and-bottom heat coverage.

Cooking on the hot side allows you to cook individual and shared meals in smaller pans, making use of your oven while it can’t cook larger panned meals reliably. Heat your wrapped sandwiches, reheat leftovers, and make toasty things from scratch with the hot side of your oven. 

Keep the Door Closed

Don’t keep opening the door to check on your food. That’s what the oven light is for. Opening the oven door releases heat every time. This can lengthen the time it takes for food to cook and it can cause uneven heating and cooling patterns. Uneven heating can change the consistency of food and opening the door exacerbates an uneven heating problem that may already exist. 

Clever Use of Tin Foil

Last but not least, use tinfoil on a baking sheet(not on the oven liner). Foil is designed to trap and distribute heat for food and is great for toasting in the oven. Foil works wrapping and burying food in a campfire, which does not always heat evenly, and the same trick can work for your meals at home. Wrap food or pans in foil and then pop them into the hot side of the oven. The tinfoil will reduce the impact of uneven heating by creating a mini-oven around your food that may heat more completely inside.

—If your oven is not heating properly, contact us today for quick home appliance repairs. In the short time between your call and our technicians arriving, you can use these techniques to continue making meals without letting this oven problem slow you down.

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