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11 oven tips to bake and cook like a pro

Want to make a perfect pie or the chewiest cookies? Pay as much attention to your oven as you do your recipe.

Alina Bradford
Alina Bradford has been writing how-tos, tech articles and more for almost two decades. She currently writes for CNET's Smart Home Section, MTVNews' tech section and for Live Science's reference section. Follow her on Twitter.
Alina Bradford
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1 of 15 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Get baking right

Ever have a cake fall or a casserole burn? It may not be that your cooking skills are bad. You may just need to brush up on how to use your oven properly. 

Here are some tips that will help make any food you put in the oven turn out perfectly.  

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1. Don’t open the door

It's tempting to open the oven door to peek at your cakes or cookies, but resist the urge. 

Opening your oven door can make the temperature of the oven drop dramatically. In fact, the the internal temperature can drop 25 degrees

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Why steady temperature is important

Temperature fluctuations can make cakes fall and make other foods take longer to cook.  

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2. Save your bird

Temperature fluctuations can also dry out chicken and turkeys. So, skip the basting and keep your poultry moist by coating it in oil or butter and leaving the door closed as much as possible.

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3. Use the window

Instead of opening the door, try peeking through the window. If you're window is too dirty to get a good view, use this tip to get it clean, fast.

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6 of 15 Alina Bradford/CNET

4. Don't overfill the oven

Your oven may be roomy, but don't stuff as many dishes as you can into it. You must leave space around pans so that air can circulate around each item to cook it properly. 

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Instead, give food space

Make sure that there are a couple inches between the pans for the best air circulation, and don't let them touch the sides of the oven.    

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5. Perfect pan placement

Want your cupcakes or pies to bake perfectly every time? Place them on the center of the rack so that it bakes evenly. 

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6. Use both racks

If you are cooking more than one thing, put them on different racks -- or even separate ovens if you have a double oven. If you're using one oven, position them so that the one on the bottom rack isn't blocking the heat for the item on the top rack.  

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7. Aluminum foil is a no-no

You may have seen a Pinterest tip that suggested lining your oven with foil is a great way to protect your oven from drips. Just don't do it. Not only can the reflected heat make your baked goods cook faster, it can damage your oven. 

There have even been reports of the foil melting, and the heat reflected off of the foil may burn out the oven's heating elements. Instead, use a silicone oven liner that is designed to be put inside an oven.  

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8. Keep your oven clean

If you leave drips and crumbs on the bottom of your oven, you could be sabotaging your baking. Those food bits can catch fire or smoke, which can overheat the oven, or at the very least may make your baked goods taste like soot.

Here's how to get your oven clean, fast using vinegar and baking soda.

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9. When self-cleaning goes wrong

The self-cleaning option on your stove is a great way to keep it clean, but beware: it only cleans up to a point. 

After the oven has cooled down, wipe the interior down with a damp cloth to remove any soot, and leave the door open for a few hours to let the oven air out. Skipping this step might make your next batch of cookies taste like a house fire.

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10. Find your hotspots...

Your oven has some areas where it gets hotter and others where it stays cooler. When you know your hotspots, you will know where to place your pans to avoid uneven cooking.     

How to find your oven's hotspots
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...with coconut

To find hotspots, cover a baking sheet with shredded coconut and place it in your oven at 350 degrees. The coconut that toasts the quickest is in your oven's hotspots.

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15 of 15 Alina Bradford/CNET

11. Cooling racks for more space

Need more space? Cooling racks can be used during baking to double your oven's capacity, without sacrificing even heating. Here's how.

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