The baking instructions on that box of super moist yellow cake mix states that the oven should be set to 350° F and the baking pan should be placed on a middle oven rack for 30 to 35 minutes. You return to the kitchen a half hour later, remove the baking pan, and discover that super moist cake you were planning to bring to the neighborhood summer block party is super dry and crumbly. Were the instructions on the cake mix box wrong or did the oven heat to a temperature higher than it was supposed to? To help you troubleshoot the issue, Repair Clinic has an easy way to confirm the oven’s actual cooking temperature matches the temperature you select.
What controls the oven temperature?
When dealing with an inaccurate oven temperature issue, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what actually controls the oven temperature.
Electronic control board with sensor or switch-based thermostat and sensing bulb
Regardless of whether you’re baking a cake in a gas oven or an electric oven, the appliance will use one of two different controls to set and monitor the oven temperature. Most modern models will use an electronic control board that works with an oven sensor to select and maintain the temperature inside the oven; older or less expensive models rely on a switch-based thermostat and sensing bulb assembly to do the same thing.
How the oven temperature is controlled
For ovens using an electronic control board and temperature sensor, the user presses a button on the control panel to select the appropriate oven temperature for the food being prepared. The appliance’s control utilizes the sensor to assist in regulating the oven temperature by monitoring the resistance to the electrical current as the temperature varies. If the oven uses a temperature control thermostat, the user will rotate a dial to select the appropriate oven temperature. The thermostat’s sensing bulb contains a liquid which expands when heated and contracts when cooling down. This signals a capillary system to cycle the control on and off to regulate the temperature in the oven. When the selected temperature is reached, the control will then shut off the voltage to the gas oven’s igniter or to the electric oven’s heating element. This cycle is repeated throughout the cooking process to maintain a suitable oven temperature.
Actual oven temperature fluctuates throughout the cooking process
Keep in mind, the designated temperature you select by rotating an oven control knob or entering it using a control panel touchpad is only an average; the actual temperature will fluctuate throughout the cooking process. Convection ovens will reduce this fluctuation by using a motorized fan, with or without its own heating element, to circulate the heated air evenly throughout the oven cavity.
An easy way to confirm the oven’s temperature is correct
If you suspect the oven’s temperature is not correct, you can simply place a dial thermometer inside the oven after the oven has been pre-heated to a designated temperature setting. This is an easy way to confirm that the oven temperature is actually 350° F when the display shows that reading.
Use a digital thermometer or multimeter for greater accuracy
For greater accuracy in measuring the oven’s actual temperature, you can use a digital oven thermometer or a multimeter with a temperature sensing function. When using a multimeter, place a skillet in the oven and set the cooking temperature to 350° Fahrenheit. Place the meter’s wire lead in the middle of the skillet and make sure it stays in contact with the surface of the skillet. You can use a metal weight such as a socket to hold the wire lead down.
The temperature of the skillet will fluctuate less than the oven air temperature
Why use a skillet? The temperature of the skillet will fluctuate less than the air temperature inside the oven, so you will be able to get a more accurate reading on the meter. Now close the oven door (the meter’s wire lead should extend through the small gap between the oven door seal and the oven frame to the meter being held outside the closed oven). Allow ten to fifteen minutes for the oven to pre-heat then observe the accuracy of the temperature displayed on the meter.
You may be able to recalibrate the oven
If the temperature shown on the meter display is within thirty degrees of the selected temperature (meaning no more than, say, 375° F or no less than 325° F when selecting 350° F as the designated temperature), you may be able to recalibrate the oven. You can do this by going into the oven settings to change the temperature off-set. If the actual oven temperature is twenty degrees higher than the designated setting, you can lower the off-set to -20° F; if the actual oven temperature is fifteen degrees lower than the designated setting, you can adjust the off-set to +15° F. More recent or higher-end oven models will allow you to recalibrate the oven by pressing a series of buttons on the appliance’s control panel to adjust the off-set in 5° F increments; older or lower-end models may require you to manually turn a thermostat adjustment screw in the selection dial stem to adjust the off-set. You will need to refer to the owner’s manual for specific recalibration instructions.
Significant temperature variation likely due to a faulty oven component
If the multimeter display shows that the actual oven temperature is more than thirty degrees higher or lower than the designated temperature setting, the inaccurate temperature problem will not be able to be solved by recalibrating the oven. This significant temperature variation is likely due to a faulty oven component such as the temperature sensor, temperature control thermostat, convection motor, an igniter on gas ovens, a heating element on electric ovens, or the oven control board.
Everything you ever wanted to know about oven repair
As your repair partner, Repair Clinic offers you free “how to” information. Visit the “Videos & Articles” section of the Repair Clinic website to learn everything you ever wanted to know about oven repair, general information such as how to determine if an oven temperature sensor is defective or how to test a temperature control thermostat, as well as specific instruction like the proper way to install a new convection fan motor in a Whirlpool Gas Range (Model WFG745H0FS1). You’ll find hundreds of model-specific procedural videos and diagrams available to guide your DIY repair.
Every oven part you need is at Repair Clinic
Finding that exact oven part you need for your repair is easy with Repair Clinic. Just enter the full model number of the range or oven in the Repair Clinic website search bar for a comprehensive list of replacement parts that match your model, genuine original manufacture equipment (OEM) parts from GE, Bosch, KitchenAid, Electrolux, LG, Kenmore, Samsung, Hotpoint, and many more top brands. You can then use the “Part Category” and “Part Title” navigation filters to narrow that comprehensive list down to locate the specific part you’re looking for. With a warehouse full of genuine OEM parts combined with free repair guidance, fixing your oven with Repair Clinic’s help is a piece of cake.