Baked ziti and vegetables inside an oven

Oven rack placement: getting more from your oven

Understanding oven rack placement can help make you a better cook while streamlining mealtime routines. Your oven features three unique cooking environments in the top, middle and bottom of the cavity. Learning what these environments are will help you pair your dish with its ideal rack placement and get those just-right results. Read on for more information about what oven rack to use for an array of dishes and cooking methods.

Why is oven rack position important?

The proper placement of oven racks helps you get the best results for the meals you put so much care into. Because heat and air movement differ throughout the oven, some cooking methods are better suited to the top, middle or bottom. Proximity to a heating element, orientation of heat and airflow patterns all factor into achieving the ideal result for the dish and your family.

Putting salmon into the oven Putting salmon into the oven

What is the proper placement of oven racks for most cooking needs?

The middle zone is a go-to for many of your baking needs, and is typically a safe bet for casseroles and baked goods. The bottom zone of the oven is often good for roasting and baking crusty bread or pizza, while the top is ideal for broiling and toasting. Consult your oven’s owner's manual to learn about ideal oven rack placement for your specific model, and read on to get more information on what oven rack to use, when and why. 

Top rack icon

Top zone cooking

The top third of the oven is ideal when you need to get dinner on the table fast. 

Because heat rises, it tends to be hot and delivers strong top-down heat from the upper heating element when broiling. Use it when you’re cooking or crisping thin, light, quick-cooking foods or in conjunction with the lower rack when making multi-dish meals. 

Cooking methods: broiling, toasting, crisping leftovers, browning, multi-rack cooking

Food types: fish, thin-cut beef or pork, garlic bread, peppers, zucchini, the cheesy top of dishes

Middle rack icon

Middle zone cooking

The middle zone of the oven is a solid default for cooking a wide range of dishes. It’s the place to go if your dish needs all-over heat because there’s room for hot air to flow consistently around the dish. Your food will also be an equal distance from both the top and bottom heating elements. Use the middle rack when you’re baking casserole-type dishes for the family, reheating pizzasteak or other similar cuts of meat, or sweet treats for the bake drive or birthday parties. 

Cooking methods: baking, convection baking, braising, air frying

Foods: casseroles, pasta bakes, baked potatoes, bacon, chicken pieces, sheet pan dinners, roasted vegetables, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, banana bread 

Bottom rack icon

Bottom zone cooking

Typically, the bottom heating element is the primary heat source, which means it gets your cookware, and the bottom of food, piping hot. Use the bottom third of the oven when you’re roasting large cuts of meat, creating a crust on bread, or setting a pie crust. When cooking on multiple racks, use the bottom along with the top to space out dishes. Learn more about the parts that make up your oven

Cooking methods: roasting, baking, multi-rack cooking

Foods: roast beef, roast pork, roast whole chicken, pot roast, pizza, crusty bread, pies, brussel sprouts, squash, potatoes

Cooking tip: stagger dishes when multi-rack cooking

If you're using multiple racks to cook multiple dishes, try to stagger them so no dish is above or below another. This will allow more consistent airflow and ensure each dish is surrounded by heat at every level. If you often cook multiple dishes at once or have a large family, consider a double oven to take care of all your baking needs.

Microwave wall oven combo full of food Microwave wall oven combo full of food

Which rack position is hotter: top or bottom?

Since heat rises, the top of the oven is often hotter than the bottom. It’s a great place for quick cooking methods like broiling or browning the outside of food. That said, the best rack position for your dish depends on if you want heat on the top of food, the bottom or evenly distributed, such as in a convection oven vs a conventional one. See your oven’s owner’s manual to learn more about the settings it offers and how you can use them to get the best results for your dish.

Which way do oven racks go in?

It’s a good idea to keep one rack in the center of the oven, or just off center, since so many cooking tasks will happen there. If you often bake multiple dishes at once, try to evenly space out the racks in the 2nd and 4th or 5th slots. No matter your cooking routines, racks are easy to adjust in the moment according to what your recipe requires. Just make sure the part of the rack that slopes up is in the back of the oven and not the front. 

Pizza cooking in the oven Pizza cooking in the oven

Where can I find replacement oven racks?

Replacement oven racks can usually be bought from your oven’s manufacturer. Consult your oven’s use and care guide, which can be found online if you no longer have it, to find your model number or the oven rack part numbers. If you know your model number, you should be able to find the right rack on the manufacturer’s website. If you’re looking for extra parts, finding Whirlpool® replacement parts is easy online.

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