How to Preheat Oven – Electric and Gas

How to preheat the oven? One step that comes up in every recipe that involves the oven is to preheat the oven. It may be a super simple step, but it is important to get it right to achieve success in your recipe. In this article, I’ll describe exactly how to preheat your oven, whether it is gas or electric.

How to preheat your oven:

  1. Remove any unused pans and trays from the oven
  2. Position the racks in the right level
  3. Set the correct oven temperature
  4. Wait for the oven to preheat

How to know when your oven is preheated:

  • The digital display indicates it has been preheated (in newer ovens)
  • The oven preheating light turns off or beeps (in older ovens)
  • Use a thermometer if no indication from your oven

Read on to know more about how to preheat the oven, how important this step really is, and the difference it makes to roasted or oven-baked foods.

How to Preheat Oven

Preheating your oven is an essential step to make all baked goods taste infinitely better, not to mention evenly cooked throughout. But the secret is not just in the act of preheating; it is how to preheat the oven.

It’s important to know the type of oven you have, the exact setting and temperature you need for your recipe, and how long it takes to cook your food in the oven, not to mention the altitude of your location.

The phrase “preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit” is standard for recipes requiring the use of an oven. For a professional chef, this probably is a no-brainer and is part of the routine, but for amateur cooks, this could really make or break even the simplest of dishes.

First off, you might be asking, why do most recipes recommend 350°F? In truth, there is no magic number when it comes to baking and cooking using ovens – 350 is just the average. The best chefs and food scientists over the years have learned that 350°F is the mid-point temperature to ensure that baked goods are not dried out on the inside or burnt on the outside.

How to Preheat Oven – Based on Type

It’s imperative to know and understand the type of oven you have at home. Do you have a gas or electric oven? Expert cooks and bakers prefer to use gas ovens as they are well versed in the science behind cooking timeframes and temperatures. They have the confidence to adjust oven flames to their liking without the risk of ruining the dish.

But for amateur cooks, it is advisable to get appliances that are easier to navigate. Electric ovens are more straightforward and easy to use, although it may also be tricky. Here are easy to follow steps on how to preheat an oven based on type:

1. Electric Oven

Most modern homes, especially those in urban areas, already have electric ovens primarily because of their compatibility with newer kitchen constructions. Convenient as it is, an electric oven does require about 10 to 15 minutes of preheating before it reaches the right temperature.

In simpler recipes, that is enough time to prepare your dish. But if your recipe is complex and requires a longer time of preparation, then consider preheating your electric oven about halfway through the prep. This is to ensure that the oven reaches the right temperature by the time your dish is ready to be cooked.

Some points to remember to help make your electric oven preheating a breeze:

  • Take out any items you have stored inside the oven, such as baking pans and trays, before turning it on.
  • Position the racks in the right level you need for baking so you won’t have to do it later once the oven has been preheated.
  • Set the correct temperature as per your recipe, and when in doubt, use an oven thermometer.

Electric ovens provide a more even temperature than gas ovens, but they create a drier atmosphere due to the absence of water vapor, which comes from gas ignitions.

2. Gas Oven

Unlike electric ovens, gas ovens emit more fumes, and thus, would need proper ventilation. The first step to preheating a gas oven is to have adequate ventilation. An open window is your best choice so that the fumes can exit your kitchen safely into the open air.

how do you preheat an oven

It is also best to determine how your gas oven ignites. Older gas ovens have a pilot-based ignition, while newer ones are equipped with electric-based ignition. Here’s a quick way to know if you have a pilot-based or electric-based gas oven:

Pilot-based Ignition

You will notice a burning flame that constantly increases or decreases in strength, depending on your oven’s temperature.

  • In a pilot-based ignition gas oven, with gas marks as indicators, you will need to convert these marks to Celsius or Fahrenheit to ensure that you are preheating your oven with the right temperature.
  • When the pilot light ever goes out or needs to be manually ignited at times, make sure that the temperature dials are off before lighting a match stick to jump-start the pilot light. 

Electric-based Ignition

You will only see flames once you turn on your gas oven and set the temperature.

  • For digital gas ovens, use the bake or broil button on the keypad and set the temperature. Then hit start.
  • The number reflected on the screen will change as the temperature rises. You just have to wait for it to reach your original set temperature, and the preheating process is done.

Similar to electric ovens, here are some tips to help make preheating your gas oven very easy to do:

  • Take out and set aside any bakeware stored inside the gas oven before even turning it on.
  • Rearrange the racks according to where your dish is supposed to go. It would be best to review your recipe to ensure that your dish cooks evenly.

How to Preheat Oven at High Altitude

It’s completely different when it comes to high altitude cooking and even more so in baking. Being at a high altitude can affect the temperature needed to cook food. It will also impact cooking time and the number of ingredients you need to prepare to complete the recipe.

Since most recipes are not designed for high-altitude cooking, you most likely need to make some adjustments to the recipe. Adjustments must be made to your recipe if you are baking at an altitude of 3,000 feet (914.4 meters) or higher.

How to preheat your oven at high altitude depends on how high you are located. Here is a simple table to help you next time when you are at a similar location:

AltitudeAdjustments to Be Made
3,000 feet (914.4 meters) or higherIncrease by 15°F to 25°F (9°C to 14°C)
Between 7,000 and 9,000 feet
(2,133.6 meters to 2,743.2 meters)
Increase overall baking time
9,000 feet (2,743.2 meters) and higherPreheat the oven at a temperature increased by 25°F (14°C) then lower it back down to the temperature stated in the recipe once food is placed inside the oven

An increase in temperature means your food will finish cooking sooner than expected. So maintaining the same cooking time will dry out or even burn your food. Consider decreasing the baking or cooking time when you are at a high altitude location. The general rule to this is reducing the baking time by 1 minute for every 6 minutes stated in the recipe.

As the last tip on how to preheat a stove or oven at high altitudes, it is best to place the food closer to the source of heat to ensure it is cooked through. You can place your food at the bottom rack, so it is closer to where the oven is at its hottest.

Pro Tips on How to Preheat Oven

If you have followed the recipe and the preheating instruction to a T, but your food still comes out not quite right, then some of these pro tips on how to preheat your oven might help you achieve better results:

1. Invest in a Good Oven Thermometer

There’s nothing more frustrating than overcooked or underdone baked goods even after you have followed the recipe steps correctly. Don’t be discouraged, as the problem might just be an inaccurate internal thermometer in your oven.

The remedy is to get yourself an extra detachable oven thermometer. This thermometer will provide the most accurate estimate of your oven’s internal temperature. Remember that the temperature you set on the dials will be the average between the minimum and maximum temperature of your oven at any given time. So, it is still best to determine if the dials on your oven no longer work or if your oven already needs repair.

how to preheat oven before use

2. Never Ever Store Items Inside Your Oven When Not in Use

Some people use their ovens as an extra storage space, especially when there is a lot of clutter in the kitchen. After all, it provides quite enough space with partitions, thanks to the oven racks. But leaving unnecessary items, such as pans, plates, kitchen towels, and even clothes inside the oven can cause bigger problems for you later on.

Most oven doors are tinted, so it may be difficult to see the inside by just peering through. If someone in your home who is inexperienced in the kitchen turns on the oven without checking the inside, you can expect a fire to start. Therefore, it is best to keep your kitchen clutter-free and your oven empty and ready for the next baking session.

3. Avoid Opening the Oven Door

Opening your oven door while baking can have a massive effect on the food you are cooking, as heat can easily escape. The oven temperature can drastically drop in the process, too.

Cookies, cakes, and bread are just some of the recipes more sensitive to temperature changes. Best be mindful of this tip or find something else to do if you feel impatient about finishing the baking process.

4. Consider Adding a Thermal Mass

This method helps achieve even heat all around while also preventing heat loss. A thermal mass like a baking stone placed at the bottom rack of your oven will retain the temperature. It also helps to rapidly recover any lost heat from opening and closing the oven door. Also, the addition of a thermal mass better disperses heat, which is crucial to food that requires consistent heat.

Conclusion – How to Preheat Stove or Oven

So, in conclusion, how to preheat an oven or stove may not be as easy as it seems in recipes. It is the first step for a reason. And realizing the importance of preheating might just be the turning point to making the best out of your next baking adventure.

How to preheat your oven:

  1. Remove any unused pans and trays from the oven
  2. Position the racks in the right level
  3. Set the correct oven temperature
  4. Wait for the oven to preheat

How to know when the oven is preheated:

  • The digital display indicates it has been preheated (in newer ovens)
  • The oven preheating light turns off or beeps (in older ovens)
  • Use a thermometer if no indication from your oven

Other tips for preheating an oven are as follows:

  1. Electric ovens are more straightforward as they can feature a digital display. They also promote less guessing when it comes to targeting the right temperature. It often takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to preheat an electric oven, giving you enough time to prepare the whole dish that goes inside it.
  1. Gas ovens, on the other hand, is the choice of experts for a reason. It really takes skill to master the art of tempering heat inside the oven. Moreover, it depends on what type of ignition your oven has (pilot-based or electric-based) since a lot can go wrong in between. But a gas oven also provides better and more even cook if you already know how to navigate its functions.
  1. Using ovens in high altitudes may be confusing at first, but it’s a useful skill to develop. Since most recipes are not configured based on high altitudes, you need to learn to adjust the temperature. Adjustments also include the cooking time and the ingredients you need in your recipe. 

Altitudes of 3,000 feet or higher, for example, require adjustments in temperatures of 15°F to 25°F (9°C to 14°C). On the other hand, places with altitudes between 7,000 to 9,000 feet require an increase in overall baking time.

Here are some of the best extra tips to help you ace the next time you preheat your oven at home:

  • Use an extra oven thermometer to better gauge the average temperature in your oven.
  • Do not store any unnecessary items, especially easily combustible items inside the oven when not in use.
  • Be patient and avoid opening the oven door to keep the heat and right temperature throughout the baking process.
  • Add a thermal mass such as a baking stone to the bottom rack. This addition will help your oven maintain the correct temperature.

With all these tips on how to preheat oven, you can better enjoy cooking and baking no matter which type of oven you have at home.