To test whether your oven is heating and maintaining the desired temperature when cooking or baking, you will have to purchase an oven thermometer. Oven thermometers are easy to find and reasonably priced at any local grocery store. Most are designed with a hook on the top that allows you to hang the thermometer on one of the racks located in your oven.
To get started, while your oven is off, hook or place your thermometer on the center rack of the oven. This placement will provide the most accurate temperature reading because it is not too close to either the lower or upper heating element. Then, set your oven to bake at a temperature that is easy to read, either 200 or 300 degrees. It’s best to perform this temperature test when you’re not cooking any food. The thermometer is the only thing that should be in your oven during the test. Also, make sure to keep your oven door closed the whole time. Opening your oven door even for a few seconds will lower the temperature inside your oven and affect the accuracy of the reading.
After your oven alerts you that it has reached the set temperature, turn on your oven light and see if you can read the temperature on your oven thermometer. The thermometer reading should exactly match your oven temperature setting. If necessary, you may open the oven door to read the thermometer. But try to get a reading quickly because the temperature on the thermometer will drop fast once you remove it from the oven.
If the thermometer matches your oven setting, there could be a few other factors at play. Take some time to double-check your recipes, including the suggested temperature, cook time, and materials used to cook specific dishes. Using glass, stoneware, aluminum, cast-iron, and non-stick pots can affect how rapidly a dish cooks. You may have to experiment a little and alter the cooking time for certain dishes depending on the material you are using to cook in. Also, make sure that while cooking, your oven door remains closed for the duration of cooking. This is not to suggest that you can’t check on your dish a few times, but opening the oven door too often lowers the oven temperature. This means the dish will need more time to fully cook. You should also check your oven’s timer for accuracy. Try using your cell phone or another timer to confirm it is working properly.
If your oven is not reaching or maintaining the proper temperature, there are several common reasons why. One is that the temperature control thermostat within your oven is not correctly calibrated. If you have a gas oven, it’s possible that your igniter is malfunctioning, or your burner is partially clogged. For an electric oven, it could be a faulty baking element. Although you might think that taking these issues on will be an easy fix, that is not the case. Repairs, especially those that involve a gas stove, should always be performed by a trained professional. Even electric appliances should only be serviced by a professional to ensure the repair is done correctly and to avoid problems later on. The only DIY you should do on your oven is routine cleaning.