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Have you checked your oven temperature?

If you’re not getting the results you want with your Glorious One-Pot Meals (or your cookies, or roasts, etc.), your oven temperature is probably off.

Over the last ten years of working with fans and readers to prepare quick, easy, and delicious one-pot meals, I’ve found that more than half of the ovens in this country have thermostats that are not set correctly. That’s why I always encourage home cooks to pick up a stand-alone oven thermometer and use it to verify their oven’s temp every time before putting food inside.

I love the large numbers on this oven thermometer! Very easy to read.
I love the large numbers on this oven thermometer! Very easy to read without opening the oven door.

I would have counseled Cookie B., a recent reviewer of my cookbook on Amazon, that her results tell me her oven temp is way, way off, had she bothered to write me before posting this scathing review:

Mediocre at Best

I’m an experienced and somewhat adventurous cook, but often short of time. I thought this would be a nice alternative for those nights when I don’t feel like spending an hour or more on dinner. What a disappointment — what a waste of good food. I tried three recipes, and tossed the book.

The cookbook states that vegetables retain their crispness, rice and grains come out fluffy, etc — not so. In all three recipes I tried, the vegetables were overcooked and unappetizing, rice fails to cook properly, squash has the texture of baby food. My husband’s comment was that “everything tastes the same”, and he’s right. The foods do not retain any flavor of their own and everything is rather bland. I certainly wouldn’t serve this to company. And the meal looks as dull as it tastes (meats come out gray). These meals have no character.

Do yourself a favor — skip this book. It’s possible (and really not difficult) to cook healthy meals that are flavorful and interesting. This isn’t the way.

Sigh. Cookie, Cookie, Cookie. Is it possible that it’s your oven, not the cookbook? Me thinks so.

I have found it quite simple to recalibrate most ovens in just seconds when verifying the temperature with a separate oven thermometer. Check your oven’s manual to learn how.

While I love that Amazon allows people to post reviews and share their thoughts about a book, I wish there was a way I could respond more directly to criticisms, particularly if I can fix the problems before they are shared with the world. I am always available for questions and troubleshooting via the Contact link on any of my websites, and I try to be as timely as I can manage with my responses.

Luckily, this blog gives me a place to address those unhappy customers I can’t reach directly so that I can stop fretting about them and move on!  🙂

11 Comments on “Have you checked your oven temperature?

  1. Raven- I get the best results when I use par-boiled “instant” brown rice. This is often sold as “Boil-in-a-bag” brown rice. It works perfectly with a 1-to-1 ratio of rice to liquid in GOPMs.
    Happy cooking!

  2. I too have had trouble with the kind of white rice I was using–so I’m planning to try a more basic kind of rice next. And soaking the grains sounds like a great idea!

    But I would MUCH prefer to use brown rice. I can just cook it separately–but I’d love to hear any tricks folks have found.

  3. Hi Cheryl,
    Yes, I’ve noticed some inconsistencies in GOPMs when using organic basmati rice, too. Sometimes it works perfectly, and sometimes it doesn’t. I know regular white rices (Arborio, sushi, etc.) work perfectly, so I’m not sure what’s different about the organic versions of basmati, but suspect the grains are not as polished, making it closer to brown rice than white. I have had better luck using conventional basmati rice, rather than organic, as much as I hate to do that.

    One work around might be to soak the rice in boiling water for at least 15 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Try it and see if it works for you.

    Thanks for reading!!

  4. Elizabeth, I am a big fan of both your book and your blog. However, I have to say that I do have an oven thermometer and I have also had times when my rice didn’t cook. I don’t know why, but it was very frustrating. The next time, I soaked the rice a bit while I was chopping veggies, then drained the rice and then it seemed to cook better. I am thinking that maybe it’s the kind of rice I was using or something? I was using an organic basmati rica and your recipe just called for white rice, so maybe that was it?

  5. My oven is definitely not at what it says it is. AND it’s convection. So I have no idea. While I am in the middle of home construction and have no time, I simply stopped cooking. It was simply easier to stop cooking than to try to recalibrate an oven for which I have no manual. Tonight we had lavash sandwiches for dinner with steamed veggies. My four-year-old made her own. Super fun.

    But I bought an oven thermometer. I simply have yet to use it. When I do use my oven I religiously watch the food. It’s exhausting.

    I also bought several copies of Elizabeth’s cookbooks as holiday gifts this year. Just because I am too lame in the kitchen right now doesn’t mean anyone else is! As soon as life calms down, I want my one-pot back!

  6. My toaster oven heats unevenly, too. It’s very annoying but beyond my oven expertise to fix. If anyone knows how to adjust ovens for more even heating, please enlighten us!

    And yes, Becky, manually adjusting the dial each time to get the internal temp correct by the thermometer totally works, too! Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  7. How disappointing to see something like that out there.

    My oven is 50 degrees too hot. I didn’t know there was a way to fix it beyond major surgery so I just set the dial 50 degrees cooler than I need. It also heats more strongly in the back left area so I try to keep cookie sheets/pans/etc. out of that area.

    Getting the oven replaced would be a good solution. But I’m a renter. 🙂

    I for one like your book. I feel sorry for that other person… Perhaps she should have considered the oven or her cooking skill before knocking the book!

  8. My husband used to be in the military and after living in dozens of different houses, I found out that oven temp was a huge issue for meals turning out right. I bought one of those oven thermometers and could not believe how off some of them were. It really does make a difference!

  9. Sometimes I get the feeling that my oven is heating things unevenly — that maybe one side gets hotter than the other. Is that something you have experienced in the past?

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