How to Cook Food in a Bad Oven

Do you have one of those ovens that only seems to cook on one side? The ideal solution is to repair or replace the oven, but that's not always an option. If you have to make do, here are some things that can help.


  1. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 1
    Preheat the oven every time you bake. Preheating gives the oven a head start, and it's necessary for most pastries to go into an oven that's already warm. If your oven seems to take longer to get started, give it more time. Turn the oven on before starting to mix things like quick breads and muffins. Ten or fifteen minutes will let even a tired oven get up to speed.
  2. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 2
    Get an oven thermometer. If setting the temperature doesn't produce that temperature, you may be able to adjust so that the resulting temperature is correct, or at least closer to where it should be. You can also see exactly how long it takes the oven to preheat, so you can plan accordingly. Do not use a "stick" thermometer, these are made for making contact with meats and other foods directly. You should put the oven thermometer into the oven at the same time you start preheating, and once it is finished preheating wait another 1-2 minutes for a more accurate reading.
  3. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 3
    Keep the door closed while baking, as much as possible. Make sure that your oven has a chance to do its job. Opening the door of any oven, working or not, drops the temperature dramatically.
    • Some foods are more sensitive to having the door opened than others. Casseroles and roasts will probably be just fine; cookies may take a bit longer if "checked" too often. Things like souffles, popovers, and other such pastries will almost certainly fail from having the door opened at all.
  4. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 4
    Adjust cooking times. If things are coming out consistently over- or underdone, try baking them for more or less time. Use a timer and learn how long things take in your oven as compared to what's given in the recipe. You may have to adjust the cooking times and the temperatures concurrently to get things to come out right.
  5. Image titled Cook for a Diabetic Step 3
    Rotate the food. If you notice that the top or bottom, front or back of the food is scorched, move it around so as to distribute the heat more evenly. Partway through the baking, switch things from a high shelf to a low shelf and rotate it front to back if it helps.
  6. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 6
    Move your shelves around. Most oven shelves will pull out if you lift them past their stops. Ovens generally heat only from the bottom unless they are set to broil, so try to center the food in the oven and keep it up and away from the heating elements.
  7. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 7
    Bake only one tray or pan at a time. Having one large tray of cookies on the lower shelf may very well mean that no heat reaches the thing on the top shelf. If you can place two smaller pans side-by-side on one shelf, go ahead, perhaps swapping their locations and turning them mid-way.
  8. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 8
    Use an air-filled baking sheet or try glass or silicone bakeware. Different materials conduct heat differently than straight metal, so they may help the bottom not to scorch. For things like roasts, put the roast up on a rack, and wrap it or cover it in foil.
  9. Image titled Cook Food in a Bad Oven Step 9
    Use a heating stone. Place an unglazed ceramic tile or clay bricks into the bottom of your oven. Earthenware, once heated, more evenly disperses heat throughout the oven. This will cause the oven to cook more evenly.


  • Observe the ways that your oven goes wrong. Is one side always a bit hotter than the other? Do things seem generally over- or under-done? Choose your corrective actions accordingly.
  • Clean your oven. A clean oven will work much better than a dirty one.
  • If you rent, let your landlord or manager know that the oven isn't working properly. It might get replaced or repaired, but only if the management knows there's a problem.
  • If you own the oven and can't afford to replace it, see about getting the oven repaired. You may be able to get just the thermostats, heating elements, or ignition system repaired and end up with a working oven.
  • Choose cooking methods that don't involve the oven. Could you grill your next chicken, pan-fry it or stew it in a slow cooker?
  • Try different approaches to see what works best for your oven.
  • Turning the oven knob higher will make the final temperature higher, but it won't make it heat up any faster. Thermostats work by turning something off or on depending on the temperature.
  • Reduce the temperature by about 15 °F (−9 °C) when baking in glass dishes.
  • Choose baking projects that are less sensitive to variation.
  • Do a bit of troubleshooting of the oven on your own, before you make an expensive service call. You may be able to mail-order a replacement part inexpensively and replace it on your own. [1]


  • If yours is a gas oven and you smell gas or suspect that it is flowing gas without igniting, do not use it. Make sure the pilot light is correctly lit if there is one; otherwise, get the ignition system serviced.
  • Oven thermometers measure the temperature of the air in the oven, not of the food. Always cook meats to the recommended internal temperature measured with a meat thermometer in the thickest part and not touching a bone. Cook baked items containing eggs until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cooking meat and eggs insufficiently could lead to food poisoning.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Basic Cooking Skills