Preheating the Oven: Necessary or Not?

Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Gaertringen

In many cases, preheating the oven is a waste of energy, but sometimes, it is an important first step that you shouldn’t skip. We’ll help you tell the difference between when this is really necessary and when it’s not. 

Preheating the Oven: “But The Recipe Says So” 

Whether it’s bread, cookies, or casserole, in almost every recipe that you’ll find in books or online, the instructions always direct you to preheat the oven. But in most cases, this is completely unnecessary, and in the end, a large amount of energy is wasted just so that food is finished a few minutes earlier. But if that’s true, why does every single recipe on Earth instruct us to do this?

Recipes must include instructions for exactly how long food should remain in the oven, but since different ovens take different amounts of time to heat up, the only way a recipe writer can give a universal baking time is to be sure that the ovens all begin at the same temperature. Once an oven is preheated, cooking food will take the same amount of time, no matter what the make and model is. But once you get to know your own oven, you can reliably predict how long it will take to get warm, and preheating the oven becomes unnecessary. 

Preheating the Oven: Skipping This Step Saves Significant Energy

In many instances, preheating the oven is not necessary. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Free-Photos)

Most dishes can be made without preheating the oven. Things like casseroles, cakes, meat roasts, bread, and frozen foods don’t require the oven temperature to be especially hot from the very beginning. The worst that can happen is that it takes a few minutes longer for food to be finished in a non-preheated vs preheated oven.

The good news is, the energy savings average out to about 10 percent. At first, you may have to check the food a few times to decide when it’s finished, but after you skip preheating a few times, you will develop a feel for how much extra time your food needs.

Exceptions: Some Like It Hot

preheating oven sensitive dough
Some types of dough require a preheated oven. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – LaFontaine)

Certain types of dough are more sensitive than others, and in those cases, failing to preheat the oven will prevent the dough from baking properly. If the oven is not hot enough when the dough is put in, it will not be able to develop the right consistency. For the following types of dough, you’ll want to make sure that you preheat your oven properly:

  • Biscuit dough
  • Pastry dough
  • Soufflée

When it comes to baking bread, there are different opinions about whether or not preheating the oven is necessary. Traditionally, a hot oven is preferable because without it, it’s not possible for a proper crust to form. If you’re using a baking stone, the heat is also necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. But many amateur bakers have also had good experiences without preheating. Use a trial and error method to figure out what works best for your bread recipe, and for your oven. 

Tip: If you do preheat the oven, always make sure that it’s empty while heating up. If there’s a baking sheet in the oven, it will take even more energy for the oven to reach the desired temperature.  

This article has been translated from German to English by Christie Sacco. You can find the original here: Backofen vorheizen: sinnvoll oder nicht?

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