Kitchen Shrink: How do you decide which level of the oven to use?

I recently received a question from Wendell who asked, “ how do you decide which level of the oven to use for a given task.” In most cases selecting the rack in the middle of the oven is a good choice unless the recipe tells you to use the upper or lower part of the oven. The middle of the oven allows room for the hot air to circulate around the food and heat it evenly.

The heat reflects from the top, bottom, and sides of the oven. If you find that what you are baking is almost finished but not browning well, move it closer to the top of the oven. Or, if something does not seem to be cooking on the bottom as fast as you would like, move it closer to the bottom of the oven. Flatbreads and pizza should always be placed as close as possible to the bottom of the oven so the crust will be crisp.

Having two or more pans or trays in the oven at the same time blocks the usual flow of hot air. If you are baking foods on more than one rack, particularly something thin like cookies, switch them halfway through baking so one won’t be well done on the top and the other well done on the bottom.

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