We get a lot of questions about our baking equipment at Dough Tech, and one of the most common areas here is our oven racks. Various bakeries have wildly different formats and practices for their oven racks, from their use to their cleaning and much more.
Another common area here? Oven rack placement. This is something you and your bakery will fine-tune over time, but determining exactly where and when to place racks within the oven when you’ve just bought a new oven (or new racks) can be a bit of a trial-and-error process at first. Let’s go over some of the basic tips we offer on determining proper placement, plus some opportune times to use various placement formats.
Test for Hotspots
One of the first steps you should take with any new oven is testing it for hotspots. These are rare in modern industrial ovens, but they can still exist – hotspots are small areas of the oven that get more heat than others.
To test for this, run a basic load of bread, cookies or whatever your bakery produces normally. Bake until the product begins to brown, and then look at the browning pattern. If it’s uneven at any point, you’ve located oven hotspots and should take some steps to identify and mark them for the future (or you should contact the manufacturer about a replacement).
When to Use Each Rack Area
As bakers well know, heat rises. This means that the level on which you place your racks in the oven will play a big role in how various items bake. Here are some basics on when each general rack area is best used:
- Lower racks: Lower or low-center racks are generally best for bread, casseroles, vegetables or browning the bottoms of various items (think pizza crust, for instance). They’re good in general for long-term roasting, such as with a Thanksgiving turkey.
- Center racks: For things like cookies, muffins, pies, cakes and biscuits, the center racks are the way to go. This leaves optimal spacing so everything bakes evenly. If you have multiple layers on the same rack, leave at least a few inches of space around pans to maintain even baking.
- Upper racks: Upper racks are mostly for toasting or broiling, as food cooks faster on them.
Using Multiple Racks
You’ll often have multiple racks of baked goods you want to bake together, and doing this just means allowing for even airflow. Offset sheet positions and rotate pans partway through the process so things stay even. Make sure no pans are directly above another, so as to maintain air circulation.
- Always arrange racks when the oven is cool, for safety reasons.
- Don’t open the door to peek or alter placement during the baking cycle, as this will throw things off.
- Pre-heat the oven properly – many ovens need 20 minutes or longer to get to the proper temperature.