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What Does It Mean to Rotate Pans While Baking? (And Other Burning Questions)

Bon Appétit
Written by publishing team

I started the new year with enthusiasm. I bought all the ingredients to make the Salted Apple Caramel Cookies as a sweet treat for your (too busy) future. You carefully beat the butter and sugar. I gently peeled the apple. But when I took the tray out of the oven, half of the batch was completely golden and the other was dry and burnt. Your heart sank like a souffle sinned. And this is where I learned a valuable lesson the hard way: When baking cakes, pastries, and cookies, rotating the pans is usually a good idea.

If you cook with recipes a lot, you’ve likely stumbled upon the instructions to turn the pans 180 degrees about halfway through baking time. You’ve also likely wondered, “But am I? Owns l?” Rotating pans might seem like a more difficult proposition than a hard and fast rule. After all, shouldn’t our modern ovens be able to withstand temperatures? (It’s kind of their only job…) And grandmothers all over the world didn’t warn us Than opening the oven would let all the heat out and collapse our precious cakes? Not to mention, where’s the darn oven mitt, anyway?

Only when you’ve suffered the loss of a half-burnt tray of cookies can you finally accept the truth: Your oven isn’t perfect, and neither are you, my friend. Here’s what you need to know about rotating the pans while baking.

How do I manage the pans?

This part is easy. If you have one pot in the oven, all you have to do is rotate it 180 degrees. If you have two pots in the oven, you’ll need to rotate the pans 180 degrees and switch both locations—whether that means they’re side by side, or on two separate racks. Keep this little converter very fast, because the longer you open the oven door, the more heat you let out, and the longer it takes for the oven to return to temperature. Our suggestion: Keep your kitchen timer and oven mitts in one place handy on your counter so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute to silence the whistle and search for a makeshift cubicle.

Why do I need to rotate it anyway?

Even in the best of all possible worlds, where your oven is perfectly calibrated, it’s very likely that it has a few places that are hotter than others. In an electric or gas oven, the heat source is usually at the bottom, which means your bottom rack will get warmer faster. (Inverse if your oven’s heat source is on top.) Plus, irregularities in the heat source may make one corner hotter than the other. To avoid a section of the bread from drying out or browning too much, you’ll need to rotate the pan to make sure each side gets the same amount of love.

Convection ovens can help a bit with this problem because they use fans to circulate hot air evenly around baked goods. But even that won’t save your cake if the large plate tray is blocking airflow.

Does what I bake make a difference?

If you have an oven with minimal hot spots and good air flow, you are less likely to end up with uneven baking. The exception, according to Dorie Greenspan, are cookies and any other dessert you can bake on a large, flat tray. I wrote in Bread with Dory.

Bread with Dory: Sweet, Salty and Simple

Good rule: The more space the skillet takes up in the oven, the less airflow you allow and the more likely you will need to rotate it midway through the cooking period. If you have a small oven, a standard sized tray can suffice to prevent airflow around the oven shelves.

So, should I rotate the pans when roasting Any thing?

Rotating pans isn’t just a technique for baked goods and desserts—anything you want to brown evenly can benefit from a quick switch. A recipe for a whole head of cauliflower, for example, where you want it to be golden brown all over, may require that you rotate your pans.


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