Tips from Martha: Preheating the Oven (Part 1 of 2)

As I read through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook I’m picking up pearls of baking wisdom. But many of the recommendations and To Do’s don’t have a lot of the “Why” behind them. In these “Tips from Martha” I further investigate the deeper reasoning.

Take, for instance, Preheating the Oven. Yes, of course, pretty much all recipes that entail using the oven tell you turn it on ahead of time. Martha Stewart goes so far as to recommend preheating the oven for 20-30 minutes before baking.

But why is this?

Before we investigate how long one should preheat the oven, first we must decide about preheating the oven at all. There are two sides to the oven preheating argument, which would be 1. to preheat vs. 2. to not preheat.

Those of the #2 to not preheat at all camp claim that it wastes energy and that food essentially will cook the same whether it goes into a hot oven or not. You may have to cook it a smidge longer, but probably not as long as you would’ve been preheating the oven. Okay, I guess I can see that argument. I haven’t seen the scientific data to back up that theory so I can’t say for sure, but it could be plausible.

Those of the #1 to preheat mindset argue that food needs to be cooked at an even temperature for the duration of the process to have the correct qualities of taste, texture, etc. (And I would argue that for baking certain desserts this is more true than for instance roasting vegetables.)

So first it’s time for you to decide whether you think preheating at all is worth it. It probably depends on what you’re making, how well you know your oven and how well you trust your senses to let you know when something is done. But whether or not #1 or #2 is universally or occasionally correct, doesn’t tell us why the advice to preheat for so long…

Next week will reveal more in Part 2!



13 thoughts on “Tips from Martha: Preheating the Oven (Part 1 of 2)

  1. I don’t think it matters for roasting/braising, etc. But I think it would for baking, especially breads. I don’t know as fact, but I would think that the “oven spring”. That’s the immediate rise of the bread after putting it in the hot oven before the crust forms. High heat is needed for that and gradually heating might kill the yeast before it has a chance to create the spring. Or, as it would lose air before the crust fully forms?

    May not have an impact – don’t know, not a baker – but Interesting topic


  2. I never preheat for anything BUT baking, and there I always preheat. But I put the item into the oven as soon as the proper temperature is reached. Why wait?

    However, as a New York City girl, I always claimed that I didn’t know how to bake, I just knew to walk around any corner and find a wonderful bakery.


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