Sometimes, no matter how diligently you rotate (or how hard you pray), one section of your pie crust will be pale and another nearly burnt; one part of the macaroni and cheese will be golden-brown while another is pasty; or you'll pull out a roasted chicken or cheesecake to find it speckled with sunspots.
A potential culprit for weirdly-dappled, unevenly-cooked bakes and roasts? Hot (and cold) spots that are not at the oven's displayed temperature.
To sniff out your oven's funny spots, all you'll need is a loaf of sliced white bread: Turn the oven to 350° F, use the slices of bread to cover the oven racks, and wait a few minutes, until they begin to toast. Make note of which turn brown (hot spot) and which stay pale (cold spot).
You'll be left with tons of toast to turn into breadcrumbs or top with cashewtella—and you'll have some enlightenment regarding where to place a single item, like a pie or butterflied chicken, and how to rotate multiple sheet trays of cookies.
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We found this tip from master baker and author of Art of the Pie Kate McDermott via The Sweethome's guide to the best pie plate. Marguerite Preston, who conducted the very thorough review, found McDermott's method very effective, but you can also use a bag of shredded coconut spread out over a sheet tray to run the same test, as Dorie Greenspan recommends.
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.