In this issue:
How to Calibrate Your Oven's Temperature
I usually find myself calibrating a lot of ovens this time of year
with Thanksgiving and Christmas closing in.
That oven that's been a
little too hot or that you've had to set 50 degrees higher needs
to be *right* for all the baking you see in your near future, and
this can be panic time! So I thought this might be a good time to
go over a couple of the basics of oven temp's.
First, even though electronic
controls can be adjusted up or down a bit, they rarely need it,
so I'll focus mainly on 'analog', or 'hydraulic' thermostats
here. If it has a rotary knob and no digital display, this
If the temperature's 'off' in
your electronic control oven , I'd contact your local pro, as
there are so many different adjustment procedures for these,
depending on brand, there's not space here to get into them.
Check your owner's manual first, though; the procedure is often
We will be talking a bit
about the various error ('F') codes in the electronic range
controls next month, though.
Contrary to popular opinion,
when you set your oven temp to 350F, it doesn't heat to 350F and
*stay* there. (In a perfect world, it would, but in this old
fallen one, it just doesn't work that way <grin>).
An oven 'ramps up' in preheat
- usually 5 to 10 minutes - to a temp that's usually well above
the 'set' temp. At 350, for example, you'll see the average
electric oven heat to around 400F before cycling off the first
After preheat, the average
'differential', or range of temp's between on and off, will vary
from one oven to another. But a 50 degree F differential is
considered very accurate, and even electronic controls don't get
much better than this in the real world.
So what we want at the 350
setting is an *average* of around 350 or a little less. Ideally,
this is an 'on' temp of around 325F and back 'off' at around
375F, yielding an average of 350. Setting this a bit lower than
350F isn't a bad idea, though. I usually aim for an average of
340F or 345F, because it's easier to put your food back into the
oven for a few minutes if under - done than it is opening the
door to find a 'burnt offering'.
OK, so now we know what to
'shoot for', so how do we measure the actual oven temperature?
Well, let me answer that by telling you how *not* to try it.
Don't rely on those $2.99 dial - type thermometers from the local
grocery or hardware store. They're never very accurate, and it's
pretty much impossible to get a good idea what's going on inside
the oven using one.
One note that I'll insert
here, before you start: check the position of the thermostat's
sensing bulb inside the oven. Make sure it's fastened securely in
its mounting, usually with two small steel clips, and is *not
touching the oven wall*. This is very important.
The t'stat senses air
temperature, and if its sensing bulb's touching metal, the
accuracy will be severely 'off' - usually averaging very low
(electronic sensors are mounted more securely, but it pays to
take a quick look at one of those before you start, too, just to
The best way to read this
accurately is with a remote - reading thermometer. These days,
digital ones are very inexpensive (much less than a pro's service
call!), and one will last you a *long* time. I've had my old
Maytag unit for nearly 20 years (!), and use it several
times per week, at least.
Way back when I bought it,
cost was around $70, but these days you'll often see temperature
capability built into inexpensive digital volt-ohm meters. Usually accurate to within one degree or
so F, which is way more than enough accuracy for our purposes
When testing, place the end
of the meter's thermocouple in the center of the oven - I usually
twist it around the center of a rack - and then watch the temp
change up and down with the door closed.
Allow the oven 30-45 minutes
or so to preheat and run at
least 3 on/off cycles up and down, then adjust, and run 2 or 3
more to verify that it's right.
Write down the 'on' and 'off'
temps for several cycles, and divide the difference between them to
get the average, or total them and divide by two (remember doing
averages in elementary math class? I'm feeling so old, I believe we
did them on a slate! <grin>)
Adjustment procedures vary
widely between brands and models, but on many newer ones, you'll see a pair of
screws on the back of the tstat knob, and by loosening
these the indicator can be rotated to the correct setting,
matching the average you've measured.
If your tstat knob has no
screws, you'll commonly see a tiny screw inside the hollow tstat shaft,
and this is turned a bit to change setting.
On most of these, turning
that little screw CW lowers temp, CCW raises it. The 'trick' is
finding (or grinding down) a screwdriver small enough to fit. We
used to buy them from our parts distributors, but I've had
trouble finding them the last decade or so, so have had to carefully
grind small 'pocket' screwdrivers down to fit.
If you can't get enough
adjustment to bring your oven temp into line using the available
range on the knob or with that little screw (or if the screw's
'frozen' - not uncommon), you'll have to 'bite the bullet' and
replace either the tstat or the range, I'm afraid.
If it should come to that,
drop me an email with your model number and I'll be happy to
research one for you. I have some pretty good parts sources, and
I can get parts to you pretty fast. I get a 'kick' out of helping
handy folks, especially when they realize that they actually
*can* do way more in this area than they previously thought.
Thanks again, for inviting me into your
Happy Thanksgiving! May God
richly bless you & yours!
Dave’s Repair Service
New Albany, PA
Dave's Repair Service,
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