06 Nov Oven Baking Unevenly?
Does your oven bake unevenly? That’s one of the biggest complaints I hear from readers. And I get it, as my oven has a flame strip at the very back of the oven that burns one side of my food while leaving the other side underdone.
The causes vary slightly from brand to brand, but one solution helps almost everyone: a baking stone. Even with my one-sided flame, anything I use the oven for turns out well.
A baking stone — they’re also called pizza stones when they are round in shape — holds heat in and distributes it more evenly through the oven.
- To a large extent, a baking stone will “insulate” your pan from hot spots over or adjacent to the flame
- At the same time, a baking stone will spread the heat out to the cooler areas.
Another important function is to keep heat in the oven when the door is opened. A small oven loses almost all of its hot air when the door is opened. With a pre-heated baking stone in there, it will come back up to temperature much faster. This is particularly helpful in baking things that rise, such as cakes, cookies, biscuits and bread as well as foods that have short baking times.
A few things to keep in mind when buying a baking stone:
- Thickness — it needs to be thick enough to actually even out the hot and cool spots and also to protect against breakage but thin enough that it does not take forever to heat up. A half inch is ideal, but anywhere from 3/8″ to 5/8″ will work.
- Size — there needs to be at least 1″ of airspace between the baking stone and the sides, back and door of the oven for the hot air to circulate. So measure your oven and look for a stone that is at least 2″ smaller in both directions.
- No Handles — handles take up a lot of space in a small oven. It’s best to get a stone without.
It can be almost impossible to find a baking stone with perfect dimensions. However, a tile shop — or anyone with a tile saw — can cut one easily.
A good baking stone for your boat oven is likely to cost $50 to $60, including cutting it to size. Here are several that meet my criteria for “a good one.”
- Pizzacraft 15″ Square Thermabond Baking/Pizza Stone (Amazon)
- California Pizza Stones — custom cut to your exact size
For smaller sizes, but only 1/4″ thick and therefore more prone to cracking and breaking, you can try the following (I tend to think that getting a thicker one and cutting it down is better):
Another option is to get an unglazed tile (UNglazed is important — glazed tiles won’t work the same way) at a tile or home improvement store and cut it to your desired size. In general, however, it’s hard to find thick unglazed tile.
Not quite as good but often easier to find in remote locations is a thick sheet of stainless steel, steel (it’ll rust, though) or aluminum. You can often find one at a welding shop and have it cut to size.
How to store your baking stone? Right in the oven is easiest — I put a couple of small all-metal binder clips on the rack to hold the stone in place (use a little aluminum foil around the wire of the rack if the clip slips). Otherwise, it can shift with the motion of the boat and crack or break.
Leaving it in the oven all the time is great as you should heat the stone right as you are preheating the oven. Never put a cold (or room temperature) stone into a hot oven as it is likely to crack. Also, you want to stone to be hot when you put the food in! I use my stone with everything I bake and simply never take it out.
You can place your pan directly onto the stone or — if your oven has two racks — on the rack above the stone. Pizzas and bread may be baked directly on the stone for a crispier crust, but you’ll need a “peel” (those large wooden spatula-like things) to remove the hot item. I find it difficult to use a peel in a galley and bake my pizza and bread in pans which I set on the stone.
Baking stones require absolutely no special care. They do best not washed (if not totally dry when heated they can break) — if food gets on one, just scrape off what you can and let the rest bake off. It’ll get stained as in the photo above, but that is fine.
Enjoy better baking results!