A person removing a tray from the oven

How to use an oven: preheating and cooking tips

The oven is an essential part of any kitchen. As an appliance, it works hard to help you deliver a great meal for you and your family to enjoy. This guide can help you familiarize yourself with your oven, and give tips on how to consistently get great results when using this indispensable appliance.

Using An Oven Step-by-Step

The way you use an oven depends on the appliance's type and setup, including whether it's conventional, convection, gas or electric. The number of racks and different types of features also factor into how you can use your oven to make meals and heat leftovers.

1. Determine what type of oven you have

Do you know what kind of oven you have? There are different types of ovens—conventional, convection, gas and electric—and there are differences to how they all work. To ensure that you consistently get a great meal, you’ll want to learn how your oven functions.

A double conventional oven with both doors opened
Conventional ovens

These ovens have two separate heating elements, the first is located on the bottom or floor of the oven, with another one on the top part of the oven cavity. These two elements radiate heat toward the center of the oven to cook the food. Most recipes that call for an oven assume you’ll be using a conventional oven.

A double convection oven with both doors opened
Convection ovens

Convection ovens, on the other hand, have a fan in the back of the oven and a system that circulates hot air around the food that is baking or roasting. This allows for even browning and crisping across multiple racks. Keep in mind that convection ovens tend to have a faster preheating and cooking time for certain dishes, so you’ll want to make sure that you adjust cooking times to account for this. Learn more with this guide on the difference between convection and conventional ovens.

A gas oven with the door opened
Gas ovens

Gas ovens tend to preheat quicker than conventional electric ovens and can yield faster cooking times. You can also place a baking stone on the bottom of the oven to help distribute the heat.

An electric oven with the door opened
Electric ovens

Electric ovens have two heating elements, one on top and the other on the bottom, and many have a hidden bake element underneath the oven floor to make cleaning up drips and spills easier. They may take longer to preheat, so take that into account as you prepare your meal. The heat from this type of oven is also drier, so you may also need to add steam for certain recipes that need to rise, like homemade bread.

A closeup of oven racks A closeup of oven racks

2. Adjust your oven racks for broiling, baking or roasting

Depending on what kind of oven you’re using and what you’re cooking, you’ll want your oven rack placements to be useful for what you’re trying to make. For instance, when using a convection oven, you’ll want to use the lower rack for baking and roasting large cuts of meat, and the center of the oven for standard cuts, while the top rack should be used for broiling. If you’re using an electric oven, you’ll want your rack to be positioned in the center, unless otherwise stated in a recipe. For specifics on how to place your oven racks, consult your owner’s manual.

If you’re using a gas oven and want to broil, you may have a broiler drawer that’s located on the bottom of the oven. However if you want your food to get more brown or crisp within the oven cavity, you’ll want to position your rack higher up. With gas ovens, heat may fluctuate slightly, so rotate your dishes to ensure even heat distribution, and position dishes in a way that doesn’t block the heat from reaching items that may be on the upper rack.

A person selecting a setting on an oven control panel A person selecting a setting on an oven control panel

3. Preheat the oven to the right temperature

To preheat your oven, choose an oven setting such as “bake” or “broil” and use your oven’s control panel to adjust to the correct temperature. Allow time for proper preheating, and avoid opening the door so the heat doesn’t escape. For specific directions on preheating your oven, refer to the owner’s manual.

If you’re following a recipe with a specific temperature requirement, be mindful that convection ovens may need to be adjusted to account for heating differences. Generally, subtracting 25ºF from the recipe instructions will give you the temperature you should use, though this may vary based on your oven and the food you’re preparing. If you’re baking with convection, let Whirlpool brand do the math for you and automatically adjust the temperature with Convection Conversion, like on this model. For more specific information on your ovens’ temperature settings, check your owner’s manual. Learn how to calibrate your oven to get the temperature back to where it should be.

How long does it take to preheat an oven?

The time it takes to preheat an oven varies by model, and some models have quick-preheat features or options like Frozen Bake Technology that lets you skip preheating and cook your favorite meals in fewer steps, like on this Whirlpool® Range. However, it generally takes about 10-15 minutes to preheat an oven to 350ºF, with an additional increase of five or so minutes per every 100 degrees above 350ºF. For example, preheating an oven to 400-450ºF or above typically takes about 15-20 minutes.

A person cutting asparagus A person cutting asparagus

4. Monitor your food cooking in the oven

Remember to set a timer and keep an eye on your food when it’s in the oven to help make sure that your dish cooks evenly. If you notice that your dish is browning unevenly or that baked goods like muffins are different shades, it may be because of hotspots. If that’s the case, rotate your food to help ensure even cooking.

Your oven works best when you don’t overcrowd it with dishes. If you have to cook more than one dish, use both racks, and stagger the dishes so that heat can travel throughout the oven. Avoid opening the door when you check on your food, and instead rely on your oven window and an oven thermometer.

A person removing a tray of Brussels sprouts from an oven A person removing a tray of Brussels sprouts from an oven

5. Keep food warm in the oven until you’re ready to eat

Depending on the model of your oven, you may have an option to keep your food warm prior to serving. If you have an older oven or simply don’t have that feature, you can generally keep food warm by lowering the temperature to 200ºF, and covering your food with aluminum foil. For crispy or breaded food items, use a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet, and place items in a single layer. To help preserve the flavor and texture of your dish, avoid leaving it in the oven for more than an hour.

A person cleaning the inside of an oven A person cleaning the inside of an oven

6. Clean your oven regularly

Help keep your oven’s temperatures consistent by cleaning your oven on a regular basis. Clean up any food or liquid that falls to the oven floor, since leaving this in the oven could create smoke and overheat your oven while transfering unpleasant flavors to your food.

You can also use your oven’s self-cleaning feature (if available). Just remember to wipe the inside clean of any crumbs and debris after the oven is finished cleaning. If you don’t have an oven with a self-cleaning option, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply with a soft sponge. Use white vinegar to remove the paste.

A person removing a dish of baked ziti from an oven A person removing a dish of baked ziti from an oven

What are the settings on an oven?

Oven settings differ depending on their design, fuel source, and other factors. Typically, oven settings include options such as Broil, Bake, Roast, Self Clean, and Preheat. Ovens can also come equipped with more advanced controls, like a Keep Warm Setting and Air Fry Mode, available on select ranges from Whirlpool brand. Learn more about different oven settings, and refer to your owner’s manual for specific instructions on your oven.

What are the different symbols on an oven?

Oven symbols offer a convenient, shorthand way to understand which settings you've activated, appearing on the control panel to indicate various modes such as high heat, bottom heat, broiling, keep warm, and even whether the appliance is locked or unlocked during self-cleaning. Given the diversity in oven types and configurations, settings and symbols can vary significantly. Always refer to your owner’s manual for the specific settings and symbols for your model.

Shop Whirlpool® Wall Ovens

No matter your cooking needs, Whirlpool brand has a wide variety of wall ovens with gas vs. electric or convection vs. conventional configurations to fit your kitchen layout. Whirlpool® Wall Ovens are equipped with convenient features to help you handle mealtime, like Air Fry on this model, to crisp up your family’s favorite appetizers. Explore wall ovens from Whirlpool brand to find your next appliance.

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