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Kitchen Queries

Welcome to Kitchen Queries, where the nigella.com team will answer your cooking or food related questions.  We’d love you to submit some of your recipe problems, dilemmas or queries for us to get our teeth into!

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Please note, we are only able to answer questions selected for publication and aren't able to enter into personal correspondence.

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  • Oven Techniques

    I am finally installing my new "Smeg Oven" and I can't wait to start baking. Could you recommend a book for learning about oven techniques? Yours truly, Monique Brandalise, Netherlands

    From the nigella team:

    When using a new oven the best place to start is the manufacturer's handbook. Assuming it is a "multi-function" oven, the handbook will help to explain how each function works and the best way to use them.

    We aren't aware of a book that specifically addresses "oven techniques" but most recipes assume that you will cook the dish on the middle shelf as this is where the temperature is the most consistent. However if your oven is a fan oven then it should have an even temperature throughout, as the fan drives heat around the oven cavity, so upper and lower shelves can usually be used as well. However be aware that Nigella's books, in common with most cookbooks, give oven temperatures for conventional ovens and as fan ovens tend to cook more quickly you may need to adjust your temperature down or shorten the cooking time. Again your handbook will give specific directions on this issue.

    In a conventional oven the top shelf of the oven are usually slightly hotter and the lower shelves usually slightly cooler. So there are some exceptions to the middle shelf position. Items that need a quick boost of hot air will benefit from being cooked on a higher shelf - such as souffles and puff pastry. The lower shelves are good for items that need gentler cooking, such as a quiche filling or meringues. However be careful not to put items too low in the oven as they can get too close to the heat source and could burn on the base.

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