Not everyone was born a great cook. For some, the preheat setting is just another dial on the oven. Did you know preheating the oven will decrease your chances of serving undercooked food? The truth of the matter is, before cooking anything, you should always preheat your oven.
You get home from work and you’re starving. The only thing to eat for dinner is a frozen pizza. You quickly turn the oven on to the desired temperature, open the pack, and slide that bad-boy in the oven. You shut the door, and plop yourself on the couch, turn on Netflix and watch an episode of Fuller House for the umpteenth time until your timer goes off.
You pull the pizza out of the oven and cut it. So far everything seems great. The cheese is melted. The pepperoni is crispy. The onions and peppers still have some water around them, but hey, that’s a given if you don’t want to burn the crap out of that pizza.
You sit down to eat it only to realize, although the crust may have risen, it’s still doughy in the middle.
Immediately, you blame Dollar General or where ever you bought the pizza, for selling shotty food. Money says it’s not always the store’s fault. 9 out of 10 times its user error.
That error my friend was, you didn’t preheat the oven.
Why do I have to preheat an oven?
The reason you need to preheat the oven is to not only get it to the proper temperature, but it’s gonna start the cooking process as soon as you put your food in it.
Foods cook unevenly in cold ovens, which may cause you to accidentally give you and your family food poisoning.
Oven’s aren’t like race cars. They don’t go from zero to 150mph in 3.7 seconds. It takes an oven approximately 15 to 20 minutes to heat up to the temperature you set. Of course, that time-frame is subjective, since all ovens are different.
If you think about it, your foods just hanging out in the oven taking a nap. It’s sort of like you sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room. Your appointment’s at 1:15 pm, and it’s now 2 pm and they haven’t even called you to the back. Like you, that pizza’s doing nothing, and wondering why it’s just sitting there being ignored.
How long does it take for an oven to preheat to 400°F?
Every oven is different, and the elevation in which you live and the internal temperature of your home is also something to be considered. On average a new state of the art oven should take around 10 or 15 minutes to reach 400°F.
What happens if you’ve had your oven for over 15 years? I’d recommend preheating the oven for a minimum of 20 minutes, but to play it safe, you may want to preheat it for 25 minutes.
Let’s say you decide to not preheat your oven. By putting food in a non-preheated oven, it’s going to first warm your food up to room temperature, before it starts the cooking process. Due to this, your food isn’t going to be properly cooked and some spots will be more thoroughly cooked than others.
There’s also a slight possibility, the food will hit the “danger zone” before cooking and you and your family may get a bout of food poisoning.
The importance of preheating your oven when it comes to cooking meat
All types of meats and poultry won’t brown in a cold oven. Did you ever wonder why your boneless chicken breasts never had that golden brown appearance? Odds are you put them in a cold oven. Granted, most meat when cooked is brown anyway, but in a non preheated oven, they tend to take on a weird grayish-brown color.
They’re still eatable, but you’ll have to slap on a lot of steak sauce to cover the fact your steak looks spoiled.
Preheating your oven when cooking meats will ensure the meat is cooked evenly. A lot of times when chicken isn’t evenly cooked it tends to be rubbery. Now, that’s appetizing.
Preheating your oven when cooking casseroles
You can kinda get away without preheating your oven when cooking casseroles; however, once again, it’s going to be fully cooked in spots and undercooked in others.
Preheating your oven is even more important when it comes to baking
Unlike basic cooking, baking is a science. The baking soda, baking powder, and yeast you use all react to heat. By not allowing your oven to preheat to the correct temperature before putting your baked goods in the oven, they won’t be cooked evenly and before you know it, that beautiful chocolate chip cookie may cause you to have a bout of food poisoning.
If your cookie or baked good isn’t thoroughly cooked, it may still contain some raw flour, which can promote food poisoning. You can read more about the effects of eating raw cookie dough here.
How do I know when my ovens preheated?
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Your best bet would be to purchase an oven thermometer, like the KT Thermo Thermometer for $12.99 at Amazon; however, a good rule of thumb is to follow your oven manufactures guidelines. If you tossed out the guide that came with your oven, you can always search out the required timeframe from the manufactures website.
Or, if you’re crazy like me, you still have the guide book. If you can’t find yours or if you’re too lazy to read it, preheat the oven for a good 25 minutes before putting in your food.
The good news is, nowadays, some recipes and websites will tell you how long to preheat your oven. Don’t you just love people who offer so much value?
Can I put food in the oven while it’s still preheating?
You can, but, once you open the oven door, the internal temperature from the oven will no longer be at the exact temperature. By doing this your the timing of your food will be off. Your oven could have been at 350°F, and by opening the door, the temperature could have dropped to 325°F.
However, baking is a different story. You’ll always want to let your oven preheat for the specified time.
Preheating the oven doesn’t waste energy
I know, you love to conserve energy every second of the day; which may make you feel like preheating is a waste of electricity. Guess, what? If you don’t preheat the oven you’ll be cooking your food longer until you need a ball-pen hammer to break it apart.
You’ll also be exhausting all your energy mustering up enough upper body strength to hammer your meat apart.
Your oven has this thing called an internal thermostat which will consistently keep your oven at your designated temperature. Let’s say you set the oven to 400°F. Once the oven hits 400°F, it will stop heating; hence, no longer use up your precious energy until the temperature drops to 400°F.
There’s a time to be cheap in life, but this isn’t one of them.
Don’t worry about preserving your energy sources for when your grandkids get older. They’ll have to deal with the rise of the machine before harboring on the fact grandma took their energy away by preheating the oven to cook grandpa’s roast.
What’s your stance on preheating the oven? Is this something you forget about or is it something you make a point to do? Share in a comment.
Always make a point to turn that dial.
Juan Barnes says
So my oven has a timer on it. So if I’m baking let’s say some chicken and put it in the oven first. Then set the oven temperature and timer is that okay? Or do I need to wait until the oven is preheated first and then stick my chicken in there?
Preheating the oven is always the best way. You can gauge the cooking time more accurately. No one wants under cooked chicken. Preheating can be a pain, but it is worth it in the end. Especially if you are baking cookies or cupcakes.
Yes, I totally agree. When I first started baking I often wondered why my cookies and cakes were never throughly cooked. I always disregarded the pre-heat instructions because I was always in a rush. Once I realized the importance of pre-heating, all of my baked goods and the other foods I cooked always came out better, plus; it ensures your food is properly cooked.