: New Africa

Oven Racks

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Does the position of the rack in the oven really make a difference? —Still Standing Facing the Stove


Dear Standing: Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Depends.

In general, follow the recipe. If it says, for example, that the rack should be in the bottom third of the oven, the writer intends the cookies or quick bread to get a little toastier on the bottom than if they’d been in the center. So yes, it matters.

But now to complicate things, always remember the rule of the oven: It’s all about airflow. Never put the rack so low that it sits on the element—you might as well be braising on top of the stove. And don’t put the rack so high that the lofty elevation yields an inconsistent temperature, so far away from said element.

There are also times when the rack’s position doesn’t make that much difference. Baking is about precision. But when it comes to roasting and braising, there’s a range of acceptable: not at the very top and not at the very bottom but somewhere within the general confines of what’s considered the middle of your oven.

What’s more, all bets are off if you’re working with convection. A well-regulated convection fan will keep the hot air flowing evenly throughout the oven, no matter what rack you’re baking on—although, again, watch out for overbrowning on too-low racks.

Finally, if you’re using your oven for storage, be heedless. Your sweaters care not where the rack is positioned.

Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Ask us your question in a comment below!

Originally published January 10, 2013

About Bruce Weinstein | Mark Scarbrough

Bruce and Mark are award-winning, international best-selling cookbook authors with thirty-six published cookbooks and over 1,000,000 copies of their books in print. Bruce and Mark have published on topics as diverse as ice cream, ham, barbecue, goat, and vegetarian main courses. They are masters of the air fryer with The Essential Air Fryer Cookbook (2019), and The Instant Pot with The Instant Bible (2018) and The Instant Pot Bible: The Next Generation (2020).
Their You-Tube channel Cooking with Bruce and Mark offers hours of delicious fun and their podcast Cooking with Bruce and Mark reaches 10s of thousands with their culinary antics.
When they are not in the kitchen, Mark teaches lit classes and runs book groups throughout Litchfield County and online while Bruce teaches knitting and designs knitted patterns for both men and women. Find out more about what they’re up to at www.bruceandmark.com

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  1. I have always loved gas cook tops, and long ago we had great big stove with gas ovens. Now I have a little all gas stove with small oven, no fan and have either burned or undercooked or dried out everything I have tried… I did buy a thermometer for the oven which should have helped. But now I need your help.

    1. I feel your pain, Gary. My gas oven is on the smallish side too, and I find that things burn far too easily. So far, my solution has been to set the oven about 20°F (11°C) lower than called for, and I try to never put more than one thing in there at once, and never anywhere besides the upper rack.