Baking Survival Guide
Tips and tricks to help ensure your baked good turn out brilliantly.
Baking is the cooking of food in the enclosed dry heat of an oven with a consistent and steady temperature.
Many feel lost when it comes to baking which is unfortunate. With a bit of attention to detail and care used in precise measurements those baked goods will turn out brilliantly.
Use the proper size
Use the proper sized pan or baking dish that a recipe calls for and prepare it according to the recipe. Try not to substitute another baking vessel unless you must.
If you have to swap one pan for another, check the baking pan volumes chart and try to match characteristics as best as possible.
Measure ingredients first
Measure all of your ingredients before you start cooking and place them all in the appropriate sized preparation bowls or measuring cups. Have all the ingredients within easy reach before you start assembling that batter or dough.
There are two measuring methods used in baking when measuring flour. The dip and sweep method and the spoon and sweep method.
For more on measuring flour refer to our Flour Measuring Tips.
If using a cookbook look at the introduction where the author hopefully will state the preferred measuring method.
Position oven racks
Position oven racks at the specified positions before preheating the oven!
If a recipe doesn't specify the oven rack position it is safe to assume the rack should be positioned in the center of the oven.
Preheat that oven
Make sure to preheat the oven for at least 10 or 15 minutes to allow it to reach a stable temperature. If baking bread it is advisable to preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes.
Know your oven
Use an oven thermometer. It pays to know your oven.
The temperature setting on ovens vary tremendously from the actual temperature achieved. A 25 degree difference in the setting vs the actual temperature will affect your results. Use and oven thermometer placed in on the center rack and check how accurate your oven is. It is a good idea to test various locations to identify hot and cool spots which will help you learn the idiosyncrasies of your oven. We have seen oven temperature variations of 50 or even 100 degrees F!
Don't over mix
Follow the timings and steps in the recipe. A very common problem is over beating batters.
Be careful to not overbeat. Overbeating will make baked goods more tough and can cause eggs to begin to break down.
When beating a batter, stop and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula at least twice during mixing.
Also check the bottom of the bowl, many stand mixers don't scrape the bottom of the bowl well.
Keep the oven door closed
Keep the oven door closed and place the pans into the oven quickly and get the door closed. Every time you open the oven door to peer at your creation a large amount of heat is released and the oven will take up to 5 minutes to get back up to temperature.
Space and rotate
Space multiple pans or baking dishes apart so that air can circulate freely. Your oven may have hot spots (you checked with an oven thermometer right?) so rotate the pans from front to back halfway through baking.
If baking two baking sheets of cookies on different racks, switch the racks and rotate them front to back halfway through baking.
Use a timer
While waiting for the baked goods setup some space for cooling. In particular cookies need plenty of space. Setup cooling racks as needed. Inverting cakes make require and extra rack so it is good to have it on hand to help facilitate the process.
Allow adequate cooling time. Often home bakers try to remove delicate cakes and baked good without allow enough time to cool and set. Removing cakes and quick breads too quickly can cause them to crack.