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Oven temp is all over the place???

Hello all.

Was wondering if anyone has a solution to this:

We moved into a new house - with an electric oven, about 7yrs old. We have had gas ovens until now and the temps seemed to be fairly stable, but now this electric oven runs high and low. I ran a little test with a thermometer inside the oven the other day. Set the oven to 170 and watched what happened.

The temos ran from 150-200. This is a problem. Wife baked an awesome chocolate cheese cake the other day (first use of oven in new house) and the top looked less than aesthetically pleasing - it tasted great though. The top looked like it did probably becasue the oven got too hot at times.

Short of buying a new oven, does anyone have any tips on how to counteract this fluctuation in temp?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. The average is 175, which is close to your setting. Is this how electric oven thermostats work - they heat past the setting and wait for the oven to cool low before building up the heat again?

    Putting the cheesecake in a pan of hot water might stabilize the temps around the cake.

    1 Reply
    1. re: icecone

      That's how *all* oven thermostats work. Fifty degree setting is a wide range, though. I'd expect even a gas oven (which have poorer regulation) to do better than that. It's quite possible that 170 F is below the range of temperatures at which the oven is designed to work. How does it do at a more reasonable temperature?

    2. The generally acceptable swing is 25 degrees on either side of the set temperature. Some of the newer electric ovens have a much narrower range though, as little as 2 degrees. The gas heat is a more moist heat so maybe that made a difference. A water bath might help as previous poster suggested.

      1. I had an oven about the same age as yours that was doing what you describe. On mine you could remove the temperature dial and under it was a screw which could be turned to tweak and bring the oven temps into line with the markings on the dial (use your thermometer and screw driver). That worked for a while but ultimately that wasn't the problem with my oven, the regulator itself was going out causing the fluctuations. The cost of a new regulator was more than the cost of a new stove (go figure) and I ended up replacing the stove.

        1. We rented an apartment, once upon a time, that had a oven that simply cycled too far in each direction, plus the numbers on the dial sometimes were accurate, but others times were not. We bought a replacement thermostat, installed it, and the oven was completely reliable from that day forward. Sears is actually a pretty good place to find these types of parts if your oven was manufactured by one of the major brands.

          1. Put a pizza/baking stone in your oven to help regulate the temp.

            Regarding your temp tests, I wouldn't trust the standard oven thermometer to be very accurate and respond very quickly.

            And use convection if you have it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tommy

              Once the thermometer is heated it responds pretty well but if it is cold and you put it in a 350 degree oven you will have a 3-4 min lag time. I bought a new oven a few years ago that I had trouble with. I actually found the little round oven thermometers (Trutemp was the brand) to be accurate as long as they are not dropped or get wet. I bought 2 and had another oven that was very accurate to test them. I would ask the OP what brand of oven do you have? Does it have computer boards to control the temperature? What is you temperature range with the oven set at 350? Your swing may be quite a bit more at that temp.. Another consideration is to make sure your oven is fully preheated for 30 min if temperature is important.Some of the prostyle ovens have to be preheated for 45 min. It is interesting to look at temperature range over 1 hour. Also how quick does it recover after you open the door. How do other items cook? At what temperature are you cooking you cheesecake? Maybe what worked on you old oven is too hot on this one. Maybe your old oven was off.

            2. According to the appliance repair guy my friend had in to fix the same problem, this is how electric ovens work (eg, it's the old "that's not a bug, it's a feature" line). The advice others have given regarding pizza stones and water baths to replicate the moister heat of gas ovens and to modulate the effect of heat swings on your cheesecake is good advice.

              1. tommy's pizza stone idea is dead on, but rather than just a pizza stone, line the entire bottom of the oven with unglazed quarry tiles to maximize the thermal mass.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ricepad

                  Thanks everyone for all the helpful advice. I used a Maverick ET-73 wireless thermo to monitor the oven temp. I checked recently, and the thermo was calibrated correctly. I monitored temps over ~1hr.

                  I will try the ideas of a water bath or pizza stone. The water may help a lot - the top of the cheese cake looked like it might have dried out a bit (moist when eaten though) and was thus cracked and not so pretty looking. But a heat sink may prove to be useful also.

                  If the simple fixes don't work, I will consider replacing the thermostat.

                  Thanks again everybody!

                  1. re: ricepad

                    You have to be very careful putting tiles in your oven-I would only use something that is approved specifically for food preparation. No sense in taking chances on what tiles for non food use may contain.
                    You have to careful putting stuff on the bottom of the oven-you might void your warranty. For instance the caution box on pg 9 of the use and care manual for this oven:
                    The reason for this is it can build up heat and burn the element out. Some people do use tiles on the rack being careful not to obstruct air flow.
                    If there is a problem with a computer board or thermostat you will still have the swings with a pizza stone or tiles they will just take a little longer. The thermostat is measuring air temp and the element will not come on until the temp reaches that lower parameter and the increased mass will prolong this process. The water bath will provide some stabilization of the immediate environment of the cheesecake because the cake is sitting in it.
                    Ultimately you need to find out how much swing there is at different settings. Call the manufacturer to find out if it is within their specs and if not get it fixed and if it is within their specs, decide if you can live with it. If not get an oven with narrower specs.