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Oven cooking (not baking) at 6500' elevation

We have a second home at 6500' elevation and so deal with some cooking adjustments. What I haven't been able to solidly deal with is what my oven temp should be. I don't bake bread, cakes, etc. so it's roasting and general baking that I'm talking about. I generally turn the oven up about 25 degrees higher than a recipe states but I'm just not sure what works best. I roasted a chicken the other night (25 degrees higher) and it took MUCH longer than it should have. I would appreciate any information that anyone has. Thanks.

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  1. One thing that helps at high elevation is to raise the humidity in your oven. A shallow pan of hot water below the item you cook will do the trick. Hope this helps.

      1. re: Antilope

        Thanks for all the links and info. My mother-in-law lives at 5000' and I have no problem there. I always use my meat thermometer but "cook until done" doesn't always work. When the roast chicken takes 30 minutes longer than anticipated and you've timed other dishes somewhat around a shorter time AND dinner guests are starting to circle the range.... I'll check out all of these and try them. The humidity issue is interesting to me because it is VERY dry where we are. Thanks all.

      2. The key point is that boiling water (and steam) is colder at higher altitudes. So cooking that is dominated by the transfer of heat from boiling water is going to take longer. That includes braising, simmering, and steaming. Dry heat cooking, such as grilling a steak or burger isn't affected as much. Roasting might fall somewhere in the middle. The oven temperature is determined by its thermostat, but transfer of that heat into and through the meat will be affected by moisture in the meat. That moisture will evaporate at a lower temperature. So the meat may dry out, and may take longer to heat up.

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          I live at 8500' and I agree with paulj.
          Braising takes 20-30% longer than at sea level.
          Steaming takes just a little longer.
          Simmering varies a lot.
          Some sauces take a little longer and need a bit more moisture to avoid too much boiling off.
          Dry roasting is about the same: I do most meat at a low temp so evaporation is limited. I only use high heat on a roast to get a crust. I do filet mignon in a cast iron pan at 350 after browning on the stove -- works great: medium rare, moist and tender.

          I generally use a convection oven 20degrees lower than a standard oven recipe calls for and times tend to work out.

        2. I'm at almost 5000 ft. and I don't make a lot of adjustments, especially if you aren't baking. Cook 'til done. Use your thermometer.

          1. I live at about 5600 feet, and find many things take longer (even baked potatoes)... the pan of water in the oven does help... but also, I tend to increase the temp about 15-25 degrees like you mentioned... I also use my dutch oven a lot... don't ask me the science behind it, but same with boiling water on the range top... things cook or boil faster with a lid on them.

            I had to laugh about waiting for your chicken to cook... I nearly starved my dinner guests to death one night... ended up serving salad and side dishes... and then dessert... we ate the chicken the next night on a salad.
            :)

            1. One thing worth doing no matter your altitude is to get an oven thermometer. I have seen very few ovens that don't need adjusting. Get one the next time you're at Target, and just leave it in your oven.

              2 Replies
              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                I totally agree. But isn't it pathetic, you pay $ 500 to $ 1000 for an oven and then have to verify it's working correctly with a $ 5 thermometer? Shame on the oven manufacturers for not building more reliable, robust ovens with built in self checks. We have a digital oven/range that's about 3-years old and it was off by 50 degrees.

                1. re: Antilope

                  I don't know about your digital unit, but the oven temperature adjustment for conventional electric ovens is just a little disk on the back of the oven control knob. It just alters how the numbers on the knob line up with the mark on the panel.

              2. I have the same problem! I have great results at home with high-heat roasting, but when I visit my family in Wyoming, I'm often cooking for dinner parties. Roasts should be the easiest thing for a group, but not here! I start with the meat at room temperature, and it takes seemingly forever for the meat to come up to 100 degrees internally. Then, when the meat finally reaches the appropriate temperature for the doneness we want (usually medium-rare), and let it rest, we cut into it to find it done to medium-well or well!

                Oven temperature is accurate & 2 instant thermometers confirm the meat temperature. I'll gladly try the pan of water in the oven, but I'd still appreciate other explanations/advice. I'm generally a good cook & this is very discouraging!

                Thanks!!

                1 Reply
                1. re: misspastina

                  I live at 7,800 feet, and if I cook beef to 112-115f and rest 5 minutes to achieve medium rare. I don't understand why it has to be that low, but after many very disappointing steaks and roasts, I just do it this way. I put a fixed meat thermometer into the center of the roast and then test in random spots (making sure the center is one of them) with a Thermopen, which is an instant read from the tip of the probe. I was told at a cooking class that the Thermopen works best to insert it all the way into the beef, then pull it out very slowly, getting readings from different depths of the meat. It seems to work great this way. I am still perfecting the Sous Vide temperature for beef, but it is not above 120f for sure. I will try 118 next time. I also don't understand the temperature variation in cooking, but I do know what works now. (So much for safe beef temperatures)