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Which Is the Best Oven Shelf to Use?

Asked by KAFARA. Answered on 17th November 2010

Full question

When following Nigella's recipes, the oven shelf selected for cooking i.e. middle, top or bottom is not stated. As a general rule which should be used? thanks

Our answer

As a general rule the top of the oven is going to be hotter than the lower part of the oven. Most of the time cooking is done on the middle shelf as this should be the area where the temperature of the oven is most consistent and should be most accurate. However you can use a slightly higher or lower shelf for certain times, a higher shelf for those that need faster cooking and a lower shelf for those that need gentler cooking. But we would recommend going up or down only one shelf from the centre, not cooking at the very top or on the base of the oven. If you have a convection or an driven oven the the temperature will be constant throughout the oven, so the shelf should not matter too much.

Higher shelf - fish, fast roasted meats, puff pasrty, souffles, Yorkshire puddings/popovers

Middle shelf - cakes, cookies, general roasting, sweet or savoury pastry (baked blind/unfilled) and small tarts, anything in a water batch/bain marie.

Lower shelf - meringues, quiches, custard tart, stews and braises.

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