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Dec 27, 2012 11:40 AM

oven too small?

I think my oven may be small. I don't know what the problem is, but I canNOT bake chicken any more :(

I've been home cooking for about 9 years now. We made the switch to organic / free range about 6 years ago. We have moved several times. I've baked in electric ovens and gas ovens, new and old, digital and electric - and I've never had a problem baking/ roasting meats.

Back in April, we moved to a new-to-us-house and I haven't been able to properly cook chicken since then.
I have a Frigidaire oven that measures 18" wide by 15" tall by 18" deep.

The chicken takes longer than usual to cook. I bought both an anolog and digital meat thermometers just to make sure I'm not underestimating the meats.

The 'typical' amount of time to bake chicken leaves the chicken still pale and bloody. Double the amount of time usually gets the chicken up to temperature and by then the meat is dry and unpalatable.

I've tried brining and/or marinating.
I've tried high temps for a fast roast, and I've tried slow and low. I've tried starting high to brown the outside then turning the oven low to finish. I've tried starting low to cook the meat more thoroughly and then turning the oven up to finish.
I've tried wrapping baking dishes in foil or parchment paper.
I've tried fresh cuts from a local butcher. I've tried 'fresh' chicken from the grocery and cooked it that same day. I've tried previously frozen meats.

Thin fillets of flaky fish have been okay - a little dry, but okay.
Whole brined roasting hens with tons of butter in the cavity turn out fine.
But whole breasts, breast tenderloins, legs, quarters, drumsticks, and all other cuts of chicken I've tried are ruined in my oven.
We typically do pork in the Big Green Egg and hubby will only eat grilled steak with regard to beef, so chicken I guess chicken is my only issue.

Any suggestions?
I used to be fabulous in the kitchen! Now our grocery budget has doubled because we're wasting so much food and my hubby doubles up on snacks to get by.

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  1. My first question would be whether or not the oven temperature is being regulated correctly. I don't know exactly how to check it, but that is where I would start, especially since you've used ovens successfully in the past.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Heidi cooks and bakes

      Excellent suggestion. Thank you!

      My whole roasted chickens and occasional pork tenderloin have turned out perfect.
      This is so bizarre...

    2. Oh and my bread is fine. I bake all our own breads, cereals, etc from scratch. My daily bread has always been fine.

      1. I would invest in an oven thermometer to make sure the temp you set is what you're getting. In addition, it may also be wise to watch it's recovery time.

        My mom had a recent issue similar to yours. She called the gas company, made up some story about occasionally smelling gas in the kitchen. They immediately sent someone out to check the pipes and the connection. They even performed a free calibration of the oven and was able to tell her there was an issue with the ignitor. It delayed the oven's recovery time once the heat dropped below the set temperature.

        just a suggestion.

        1. I second (third?) the suggestion to check the temperature. I remember reading an idea to spread out slices of bread on a cookie sheet and put in the oven at 350F for a few minutes, to figure out where the hot and cold spots are. That might also give you some clues as to what's going wrong.

          I have a small oven too, and it really stinks; it's a cheap electric model that doesn't have even or consistent temperatures. When I get my dream house it will have an Aga.

          1. Y'all are awesome. Thank you.

            I'm using my digital meat thermometer hung in the air in the middle of the oven. Thermostat set to 200* results in air temps as high as 282 and dropping as low as 143 before rising again in to the high 270s.
            My thermometer maxes out at 350 so I can't accurately test higher oven settings, but let's assume it's the same issue.

            Unfortunately, it's an electric oven so the gas company can't help. But it looks like if we set aside hubby's snack budget for a new oven I'll be back in business :)

            5 Replies
            1. re: allergymomma

              Yes, this is too much swing. My oven goes +/- 25F from the setpoint (I happen to have a thermocouple so I can accurately measure). You might look to see if there is a manual available to see if the controller can be adjusted. And if you do get a new oven, would recommend convection.

              1. re: firecooked

                Thank you. It's a digital oven so I don't know how much home calibration could occur.
                I think the previous homeowner bought it new. But she admits she never turned it on (take out or microwave dinners...)

              2. re: allergymomma

                Your digital meat thermometer is not meant to register correct temperatures for anything other than meat. You need to get a dedicated oven thermometer. Once you have that, you will be able to tell whether or not your oven is heating correctly. (I'm guessing it isn't.) After you have that information, I'd go to the Frigidaire web site. (they must have one) and contact someone about how to fix the oven.

                I hope you're in good with your landlord, because it could require a replacement.

                Good luck,.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  We own :-P
                  Do you really think a digital thermometer could flux that much without the oven being responsible?

                2. re: allergymomma

                  If there is that big of a fluctuation and you're not in the market for a new oven, try adding tiles (unglazed quarry tiles are cheap), cast iron, or anything that retains heat in the oven. Let it preheat for a while. It will help maintain a more constant temperature. I'd also e-mail the stove manufacturer to see if anything can be done about it.