Where to place rack in oven for baking?

Joined Nov 16, 2003
If I'm baking things like cake, cookies, bread, etc..., where do I place the rack in my oven? I have 5 choices -- one slot that's dead center, 2 above and 2 below.

I just baked an apple coffee cake where the top got way too brown before the inside was done. I'm thinking the problem might be my rack placement.

Joined Nov 21, 2001
could be your oven temp or even the type of pan you were using also. buy an oven temp thermometer, the kind that hangs on the oven rack and make sure the temp. is correct. and i'd probably go with the center of the oven for placement.
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I agree with Kat, center or the one below it is best for most purposes. I only use the higher rack settings for broiling.

Unless you have a convection oven where a fan circulates the hot air and promotes even cooking, the top of the oven is the hottest part. Also, when you get your oven thermometer, check the center, left, right, front and back with the rack in the same position. You will probably find "hot spots" where the temperature is higher than at other points. Once you know where they are, you can rotate whatever you are baking or roasting to get even color.

Joined Aug 14, 2000
5 racks! An embarassment of riches :) If your rack is too high you are likely to brown/burn the top before the rest is fully baked. THe opposite is true of the lowest position, the bottom will finsh too soon. I split the difference. Many recipes suggest you place racks in the upper and lower 1/3 of the oven. As Jock suggested, circulation is very important. If your racks are too close together, for example, there is not enough space for the heated air to circulate over the lower tray. The result is that the lower tray will not brown at the same rate as the upper tray. If your oven is a convection oven your circulation problems are probably taken care of. With convection, try reducing the oven temp 25º or the cooking time by about 25%. If you do not have convection pan rotation is a good thing; back to front and upper to lower.
Joined Dec 30, 1999

I'm going to have to disagree with you on that statement for general baking. This is typically only true if broiling.

Every oven is different and heating elements can be in different locations in different ovens.

Chef J,

As mentioned above, it is most likely oven temperature which is creating your problem more than rack placement.

If you plan on baking regularly, consider purchasing a digital oven thermometer with a probe and timer. This has been mentioned in this forum in previous threads.

There is also a thread on oven calibration you might want to check out.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
Mudbug - I agree that all ovens are different. My comment was based on the principal that hot air rises :) I'm about to find out about how different ovens behave as mine has just crapped out!
Joined Dec 30, 1999
Yes, hot air does rise but the oven is a small, condensed space that the temperature difference would doubtfully be enough to make that much of a change. There are ways to ensure even heat distribution: oven calibration, using a pizza stone or something similar to maintain and distribute heat evenly, be sure the oven is on for at least 15 minutes after the preheat light comes on so that the sides of the oven have risen in temperature to maintain even heating.
Joined Aug 14, 2000
My new ove will have two ovens to preheat:bounce: I just bought a Maytag Gemeni. It's really got 1 1/2 ovens. It's a standard 30" range with a real oven in place of the broiler/storage drawer. I can't wait!
Joined Dec 23, 2003
The bottom being underdone causes me to think of yet another possibilty - container. If the recipe for the coffee cake was meant to be baked in aluminum or a dark non-stick pan and you baked it in glass or stainless steel, the bottom might cook slower.

Also, is your oven gas or electric? Electric ovens have much more radiant heat impact than gas because of the exposed element. I've been experimenting lately with putting a cookie sheet between my element and my baked goods. For certain items the indirect heat gives me much better results.

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