I'm looking for a reliable way to test the accuracy my oven's temperature.
Oven temps fluctuate wildly, especially if you have an electric stove/oven. My daughter, the pastry chef, installed an oven thermometer and it made all the difference. Here is a link to oven thermometers. http://www.cooksillustrated...
Just ordered the "winner", thank you!
The full test would be, using a reliable oven thermometer, measure temperature in the middle of the oven on the middle rack. Repeat for each corner. Repeat for bottom rack and top rack. A bit of work yes, but then you will know exactly where the hot and cool spots are.You can go as far as doing this at 250F, 350F and 450F!
I recently bought a Maverick Oven Thermometer -- it has a probe for the ambient temperature in the oven and a counter-top digital read out. I'm already hooked.
A good oven thermometer (and it doesn't have to be expensive). In addition, you might also want to test your oven for hot spots.
Hot spots, especially in electric ovens, can be crazy and can affect how things cook and bake. Buy a loaf of cheap, sliced, American white bread and place slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Preheat your oven to 350F. When preheated, place the baking sheet in the oven and leave until the slices start to get visibly brown. The slices that brown faster and darker indicate hot spots. Knowing where the hot spots are will help you know where to place baking dishes and such.
Finally, this is tangential to your question, but it might be useful to you. I have lived in apartments for all my adult life, meaning I have always used cheap electric ovens that can be wildly inaccurate and jump around in temperature (our last oven would fluctuate 50-75 degrees). To ameliorate this, I have kept a baking stone on the lower rack of the oven. The stone gets hot and becomes a heat sink (meaning that when you open and close the oven door to check on food, it doesn't take long for the temp to get back up to where it needs to be because the stone holds heat and releases heat into the oven when the temp drops). It also protects the food above it from the lower heating element when it comes on and gets super hot. Generally, it evens out the heat in your oven and minimizes hot spots. Last year, we splurged on a baking steel (basically just a 1/2-inch thick slab of steel) and keep that on the bottom shelf of our oven at all times. With a baking stone, you have to take it out when using the broiler or it might break. Just a matter of preference for us. You could even put a large cast iron skillet on the bottom shelf of the oven if you don't have a baking stone or steel.
Great ideas, petit bleu. Merci mille fois!