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Mar 10, 2011 03:01 PM

How to solve my oven problem

I recently moved into a new apartment, and the kitchen has a small stove with a conventional oven (Magic Chef, to be exact). Facing the oven, I measured the inside dimensions at approximately: 16" wide x 19" deep x 14" tall. I also measured the four rack settings: from the heat source (a coil at the bottom of the oven), they are at roughly 2", 5", 8" and 11". So far, I have primarily used the 8" setting.

At first, I noticed that this oven took a rather long time to preheat. Then I noticed certain foods taking longer to cook than I expected. I thought the oven's temperature might be off, so I bought a good thermometer to test it. As it turns out, the oven runs about 25 degrees hot. Since then, I have roasted various foods and adjusted the cooking temperature accordingly. But the results have been erratic. If I roast browned pork tenderloin with vegetables (uncovered at 375 in a non-stick roasting pan), the vegetables burn while the pork takes forever to reach 140. If I roast salmon (uncovered at 375 in a pyrex pan), it's perfect after about 10 minutes. If I roast vegetables -- green beans, Brussels sprouts, beets, garlic, etc. -- according to the times I've been used to, the results vary quite a bit.

Can someone please explain these inconsistencies? What's causing some foods to heat too quickly and others not quickly enough? I've noticed that, when the oven door is closed for a while, the internal temperature can run about 25 (sometimes even 50) degrees hot. But I don't imagine that such variation is too unusual.

So why are my foods either burning or taking an unusually long time? Are the small dimensions of the oven part of the problem? Should I roast everything on the top rack? If so, then what should I do when I use my dutch oven? Is the issue related to my cookware? Should I switch to stainless roasting pans? Should I plan to reduce heat for all recipes and extend anticipated cooking time? increase heat and reduce anticipated cooking time? I'd appreciate any thoughts and/or suggestions.

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  1. I once had an gas oven with similar dimensions, and it was a near antique. It was lovely, actually. But it did, as yours, run anywhere from twenty-five to fifty degrees hotter, I just adjusted the oven downward by twenty or so degrees, and checked on the food more frequently, and was always aware that I could only use the cooking time noted in a recipe as a guideline. Even so, I did tend to cook more toward the top of the oven, to prevent scorching (and my DO's are stainless steel).

    I have similar issues with my current oven (which is standard, gas, old, and a cheap model) in my apartment. It took me awhile to notice that the oven, after preheating, seems to then have to work very hard to keep the temperature going. I hear the whoosh of the pilot to re-heat the oven far more often than I've ever experienced. I think that either the seal/insulation around my oven door is no longer doing the job, or the hinges no longer have enough spring to properly seal the door. I can tell the springs are weak, and the insulating liner on the edges is very dry, and cracked in places.

    1. Since you're renting, I'd talk to the manager but you could also keep a pizza stone or unglazed quarry tile on the bottom shelf of your oven. It'll take a little longer to preheat because you want to make sure they come up to temperature but they'll help keep the temperature more constant.

      1. I'm also renting an apartment with a Magic Chef stove. I thought it was just me that noticed that the oven was off! Guess that's the downfall of rented apartments...

        In my case things seem to take longer so I always start off with the a recipe's suggested cooking time. Check on it and then add in increments until i'm satisfied. Can be a pain when baking cookies but there's nothing worse than an overbaked cookie!!

        1. shaxberd, I think I know the problem, but a simple test will show whether my WAG is correct.

          Many, many years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, of course, when we had guests coming, of course, our turkey started smoking long fefore it was due to be done. However, when we rescued if from the oven, while it was blackened on the outside, it was undercooked on the inside.

          What we discovered was that the element at the bottom of the oven had failed and the oven's thermostat had compensated by overworking the oven's top element to keep the temperature at the level of the control setting at wherever place within the oven that the thermostat was sited. After we replaced the bottom element, the problem went away completely.

          Check to see whether your bottom element is getting hot enough to glow.

          1. Thermostats probally out of calibration. You can calibrate by the small set screw inside the stem where the knob pulls off.