Racks are important parts of the oven that can make or break whatever it is that is being baked. In this guide, we explore various rack positions and how you can optimize them to suit whatever recipe you're trying for the day.
Recipes are important when it comes to baking. Aid the instructions they contain, there are those steps that can be skipped without adverse effects but there are those that serve important purposes that can be compromised.
One of them is the art of moving the oven racks around. It may sound like a mundane task but it is not. This small detail can make or mar your recipe. For instance, if you try to bake a pizza on the top rack of your oven, you won't get that crispy bottom crust.
If you try to bake a tray of cookies on the bottom rack, you'll most likely end up with burnt bottoms. However, when the rack is in the right place, your food will be more likely to cook properly too.
Below are some general guidelines to stick to:
The top rack is most suited to cooking foods that are rich and require even browning. This is because when the oven is preheated, the heating element on the bottom of the oven goes off and on intermittently throughout the baking to maintain an even temperature within the oven.
Meanwhile, heat gathers at the top so it remains more consistently hotter than the bottom. All that heat is great for dishes you want to brown on top, like casseroles, gratins, and crisps. Note that you can get more color if you turn the broiler on during the last minute of cooking.
This is your best option whenever you're in doubt because in most baking and cooking situations, the middle rack can cook and bake food more uniformly. However, remember this rule only applies to when you're baking on one rack at a time.
When you're using two baking sheets at once, arrange the racks on the top and bottom thirds of the oven. When it is cooked halfway, rotate the trays and swap to ensure thorough cooking. This is important when you're baking several batches of cookies.
This area is best for browning the underside of your roasted vegetables, bread, or crusty pizza because it is closest to the heat source.