I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the gadgets I love or use most frequently in a series of posts over the next several months. I'll post about them once or twice a month under the header "Gadget Guide."
The first one that came to mind is my oven thermometer. I never had much use for one until I moved into our rental we lived in during our last year in WA. I was having the worst time baking my go-to recipe, chocolate chip cookies! I used to always bake them on a baking stone and they always came out great. Suddenly, in the new oven they were browning on the top, but not at all baking on the bottom and the chips barely even melted! I was in a panic. First I thought something was wrong with the stone, so I tried a new pan. No luck. Then I checked my baking soda. It wasn't that either. I methodically checked my steps and nothing I was doing changed. Finally I decided to check the oven temps.
I went to the store and bought one of those oven thermometers. I recalled my MIL having used one in her oven because it wasn't always heating reliably. They are easy to find in your local grocery store or big box store and can be purchased for as little as $5. I decided to place it in the center of the oven since that is where my trays and pans usually sit. Next, I turned the oven on to 375 and checked the temp when the "pre-heat" ding went off about 10 minutes later. Wait, what?! 250 degrees?! No wonder my cookies were turning out so miserably! I quickly learned that letting it pre-heat for about 20 minutes finally got it set to the correct temperature.
Fast forward two years to our new home in IL. After baking a couple recipes from our baking project, I'd noticed things weren't coming out quite right; like the meringues coming out a little burned among other things. I once again turned to my trusty oven thermometer and discovered my (ancient) oven was running 50-75 degrees hot! Ah ha! So now I have to remember to set my temps to about 300-325 when making my cookies that technically need to be set to 375.
So you can probably see why I am such a fan of the oven thermometer. It has recused my baking endeavors more than once! If you have an old oven or find things just aren't turning out quite right, maybe give the old thermometer a whirl. You might learn something new about your oven!