Kitchen Hacks

9 Very-Clever Hacks to Get the Most Out of Your Oven

Never burn your baked goods again.

November  6, 2020
Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

We teamed up with LG Studio to share useful hacks for making your oven work smarter, not harder. Using these simple tips and tricks, your baking, roasting, and more is sure to be a success every time.

We already know that our beloved ovens are the best for roasting a whole chicken to juicy-crisp perfection, baking gooey chocolate chip cookies, and making the best-ever cheesy lasagna—but what else can they do? Aside from the more obvious uses, a few simple, time-saving tricks will help you get through the busy holiday season—and beyond—without breaking a sweat (or burning something).

Here are nine smart oven hacks and tips—from how to cut down on preheating time to why you should readjust your oven racks—that’ll help make this kitchen workhorse work for you.

1. Use The Broiler To Cut Down On Preheating Time

If you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table and completely forgot to preheat the oven, there's no need to panic. Instead, crank on the broiler setting for three to five minutes to raise the temperature in your oven. Then, once you set it to the appropriate temperature for your recipe, it'll only take a fraction of the time to heat up (rather than if you were starting with a completely cold oven).

2. Revive Stale Bread

Have a stale loaf of bread? Before you turn it into crumbs, croutons, or pudding, you may be able to salvage it with this simple trick: Run the loaf under cold water quickly to wet the exterior, then bake for five minutes in a 350°F oven. You’ll be surprised to find your rock-hard baguette turn pillowy-soft in a matter of minutes.

3. Caramelize Large Batches Of Onions (Or Other Alliums)

Instead of spending an hour or more standing over the stovetop, stirring onions until they're caramelized, pop them into the oven and let it do the work.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I love your tip regarding carmelized onions and want to try it, 'cause I just love them but don't have the patience to stand over the stove. I keep a bottle of orange essential oil, when it's real cold like today in Colorado I put on a big pot of tap hot water to boil and put in a few drops of the orange oil, which imparts a lovely freshness to the house via the steam, another trick when the calendar is close to the Holidays is to put in apple cider vinegar (which helps ward off calcification from the water on the ottom of the pan and some cinnamon, the downside is it makes me hungry -but if dinner is on the way, why not?”
— Pineapple

Spread four thickly sliced, large white onions—or any other alliums of your liking—on a sheet pan. Season with salt, pepper, and drizzle with about five tablespoons of olive oil. To infuse your onions with even more flavor, feel free to add aromatics like garlic cloves or sprigs of thyme, and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, to help promote the caramelization process.

Mix the onions with the other ingredients on the sheet pan until they're lightly coated. Cover the pan with foil and roast for about 50 minutes at 375°F, tossing two to three times during the cooking process. If your onions haven’t fully reached the caramelization you want after about an hour, use the broiler to help speed things up (just keep a close eye to make sure nothing burns).

4. Adjust The Temperature Of Your Recipe When Using Convection

The temperature your recipe calls for comes in handy when using a convection oven, which can cook food up to 20 percent faster than a conventional oven due to its increased airflow capability. You’ll want to consider this when determining the appropriate temperature to set your oven.

Typically, you'll want to lower the temperature by 20°F to 25°F than what your standardized recipe requires. You should also check the doneness three-fourths of the way through the cooking process to ensure you don't burn or undercook your baked goods. Unless the recipe specifically mentions it, it's likely the recipe was written using a conventional oven instead of a convection one.

5. Don’t Open The Door To Keep The Heat In

This may sound obvious, but don’t open the oven while you're cooking something. That little peek inside can quickly drop the oven's internal temperature by 25°F to 50°F each time. Let the oven light do the work for you!

6. Readjust The Racks Depending On What You’re Making

In case you didn’t already know, the positioning of your oven racks can be a make-or-break factor when cooking anything in the oven. So make sure to readjust the racks to expose your dish to the appropriate amount of heat.

Here are the general rules of thumb: You’ll want to place your oven racks near the top of your oven when broiling. The middle portion of your oven, on the other hand, is ideal for baked goods like cookies, layer cakes, or casseroles. Meanwhile, the lowest racks are best for roasting larger, tougher cuts of meat. If using multiple racks, try to evenly space them to allow for uniform air circulation. Regardless of what you're making, LG Studio’s extending gliding racks help prevent spills and burns as you're taking things in an out of the oven, whether you're basting a turkey or rotating a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

If using a convection oven—as opposed to a traditional one—you may not need to change the placement of your racks as frequently. That's because the fan in a convection oven will help circulate hot air between the racks continuously, resulting in a more even, uniformly cooked dish.

7. Use it to Proof Bread

Once the weather begins to cool, it may be harder to find a toasty spot in your kitchen to proof bread dough. Quickly turn your oven into a proofing box by creating the perfectly warm and humid environment to promote yeast activity.

If your oven doesn’t have an automatic “proof” setting to maintain the ideal temperature, position a rack in the middle of the oven, and a second rack on the bottom. With the oven off, place an empty loaf pan on the bottom rack, and fill with three cups of boiling water. Lastly, put the dough in a covered container on the rack above, then close the oven and allow the dough to rise. Use an oven thermometer to periodically check the internal temperature; it should be kept around 75°F (you may need to replace the hot water during the process, depending on the length of your proofing time).

8. Choose The Right Bakeware

Though you may have a few trusted pans and dishes you simply swear by, not all bakeware is created equal. Choosing the right type of pan for what you're making is ultra-important for ensuring the best results. Cooking times and the level of browning achieved can vastly differ depending on the color, finish, and material of your bakeware.

Dark, coated metal pans absorb more heat, which results in darker browning; shiny pans, which reflect heat, lead to lighter, more even browning. If you’re looking to bake cakes or cookies, reach for the shiny pans that won’t risk burning the surfaces of your batter too quickly.

An extremely good conductor of heat, glass bakeware should be reserved for more forgiving recipes like cobblers, lasagna, or bread pudding. Make sure to lower the recipe’s cooking temperature by 20°F to 25°F to better account for this extra retention of warmth. Similarly, ceramic baking dishes conduct heat evenly, meaning they're great for cinnamon rolls and hearty, savory dishes.

9. Turn It Into A Powerful Air Freshener

Need to get your kitchen smelling fresh and inviting in just a few minutes? Use the old open-house ruse, and infuse your home with decadent smells radiating straight from your oven. But unlike the traditional baking-cookies trick, there’s no need to actually whip up a batch of dough to scent your home. Instead, all you need is a strong essential oil or extract, like lemon or vanilla.

Place one to two tablespoons of oil or extract in an oven-safe dish, and bake for 20 minutes at 300°F, for a heavenly scented house.

What are your best tips and tricks for optimizing your oven? Tell us in the comments!

We teamed up with LG Studio to share smart tips, tricks, and recipes for getting the most out of your kitchen appliances, from the oven to the fridge. Thinking about upgrading your setup? Check out LG Studio’s Double Built-In Wall Oven with EasyClean self-cleaning technology (it gets the job done in just 10 minutes!), smart wi-fi enablement, and a gliding rack system for effortless access. Bonus: With two ovens in one, it can handle any size meal, from weeknight dinners to holiday feasts.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Pineapple
  • Samantha
  • Stephan Hoppe
    Stephan Hoppe
  • isw
  • AntoniaJames
Maki Yazawa

Written by: Maki Yazawa

Food Writer & Recipe Developer


Pineapple November 9, 2020
I love your tip regarding carmelized onions and want to try it, 'cause I just love them but don't have the patience to stand over the stove.
I keep a bottle of orange essential oil, when it's real cold like today in Colorado I put on a big pot of tap hot water to boil and put in a few drops of the orange oil, which imparts a lovely freshness to the house via the steam, another trick when the calendar is close to the Holidays is to put in apple cider vinegar (which helps ward off calcification from the water on the ottom of the pan and some cinnamon, the downside is it makes me hungry -but if dinner is on the way, why not?
Samantha November 9, 2020
WOW! This is a tough crowd! Personally, I quite like the heavenly smelling house trick and I sort of feel if you don’t want to use AN ENTIRE BOTTLE of essential oil then perhaps you could throw a whole lemon 🍋 in your oven. Hope it works out for you.
Stephan H. November 7, 2020
Two tablespoons of essential oil?! That's an entire bottle.
This and the other issues previously mentioned throw the veracity of the entire article into doubt.
isw November 7, 2020
#5 -- "Don't open the door" is nonsense. Calculate the amount of heat stored in the air in the oven (hot air is what you feel coming out when you open the door) compared to the amount of heat stored in all the metal in there (including the walls and floor), plus the food (which is mostly water) and get back to me. Want proof? While that door is open, just stick your hand in (don't touch anything) and see how long you can keep it there. Now do the same thing except lay your hand flat on the oven wall. What's the problem? -- they're both at the same temperature.

Same with the 'fridge, FWIW.
Cynthia January 9, 2021
Well.... I used a very good internal oven thermometer and in fact the internal Temperature dropped 20-25 degrees then took about 10 minutes to get back to temperature. So maybe it depends on the oven?
isw January 9, 2021
Consider that the thermometer itself might be that thing that is slow to respond. Most oven thermometers are nowhere near "instant read".
Cynthia January 9, 2021
Yes for the most part I would agree with you. I had my oven checked and recalibrated. The service rep used his instant read thermometer and also put mine in and I was 2 degrees off, so I use the theory I’m under 5 degrees off.
AntoniaJames November 6, 2020
The rule against opening the oven door should be broken in the case of roasted vegetables. Opening the door a few times, just for a second or two, during the cooking period to let out steam makes the roasted vegetables more crisp and appealing. If you're roasting at a high temperature, any temperature loss will be insignificant, and far outweighed by the better final result ;o)