Unfortunately, that never happens because my oven bakes very unevenly. My old oven that is. I didn’t quite realize how bad it was until I got new ones at Dancing Bee and they bake pretty well. And then a reader asked about how to bake evenly and I thought that would be a mighty fine topic here right before the holidays. Because who wants the sugar cookies to be varied shades before you even frost them?
With the help of the internet (isn’t it great?) as well as my own experiences, I’ve pulled together some ideas used to get more evenly baked cookies and I hope they’ll be useful to you as well.
In this article I’m focusing on baking cookies, because that’s where oven hot and cold spots show up so danged well (and I love cookies, as you know). A lot of this will apply to any type of baking though, so cull the ideas for what will be most helpful for you.
Of course, things aren’t always straight forward or black and white. It’s the same with baking evenness- there are several factors that impact how evenly your cookies will bake and brown. Some are in our control and some aren’t but there are some things that will help in any situation. We’re usually stuck with the oven in our house as well as the climate and conditions that affect baking. But we can control the size and shape of our cookies (at least I like to think so!).
I’m going to talk about the oven first, because I have some fun pictures and we all know that pictures make the blog. I wanted to see if my ovens do have hot spots or if it’s just my imagination so I stole this idea from someplace on the internet. (If I could remember where, I’d give you a link!)
To find out how my ovens really bake and brown, I placed a layer of white bread on baking sheets and stuck them in each of the ovens. I baked them all at 350F and then pulled them out to see what happened. Here’s what my old oven looked like:
This bread is from the new oven at Dancing Bee Baking- a much better quality oven than the old one. You can see that it baked the bread pretty evenly all the way across the baking sheet. Same brand of bread by the way.
Just a note that my “old oven” is actually less than a year old and it taught me that you can’t just buy a new oven and expect the issue to go away! For the New-New ovens at Dancing Bee in Nevada, I did a lot more research and found ovens that seemed a lot better and they are. If you're interested in what I installed there, just let me know with a comment below.
If your oven has specific and small spots that don’t brown well or that over brown, you could just leave those spots on the baking sheets empty. Or place the baking sheet in the oven in a position that avoids those spots.
However, it may just be easier to rotate sheets of cookies about half way through the baking time. You’ll even see cookie recipes that actually say to do that. By rotating you're actually moving the cookies that were baking in the hot spots to the cooler spots and vice versa, so they’re more likely to all be done at the same time. If your oven does brown unevenly this is a good adjustment. And it’s free.
Note: When you’re making a cake, don’t rotate it until it’s been in the oven at least 20 minutes. I’d hate to see it fall just because you followed my suggestion of rotating your baking pans! Give the structure of the cake a chance to set before you even open the oven door.
Now’s the time to discuss the other factors we can control. Because in some cases it isn’t just the oven that causes the problem. In my research and my own experience, I’ve found a key factor that can make a huge difference- the size of the cookies. If you have large and small cookies on the same baking sheet, the small one will burn before the large one is ready. Likewise, if you have drop cookies and you accidentally smash some they’ll be thinner and bake faster as well. (Ask me how I know that!) So keep your cookies even in size and thickness. They’ll come out much better.
One way to keep then even is to use a cookie scoop when you’re making drop cookies. I love my cookie scoops and have several sizes. I know that some people can drop 36 cookies all exactly the same size just by eye-balling them and using a teaspoon from Grandma’s old set, but not me. No way! I can’t do it that evenly no matter how hard I try. So now I use scoops.
There’s another factor that I haven’t read about online, but it has affected my baking. When making a cookie with add-ins, like nuts or chocolate chips, I find that any cookies that don’t have as many of those added ingredients (usually because I failed to mix evenly!) cook very differently. So not only even size and shape, but even mixing will count! Having a big, big spatula can help you do a bit of a hand mix just to make sure everything is really mixed in. You can find my favorite here.
Now that you know all about even baking, go make some cookies. And, hey, share your recipes with me! I love hearing about and trying your recipes.
Diana and those sweet dancing bees!