How to Preheat an Oven: Step-by-Step

Since you love to eat baked goods or cook, you might know that getting an oven preheated is essential. The preheated oven can make all the difference in an appealing meal or dessert, even making it taste better!

These are the steps to a successful oven preheat.

  1. Remove any pans, cookie sheets, or anything else from the oven
  2. Turn the oven on and set the temperature with the instructions
  3. Wait for the preheat signal (or about 10-15 mins.)
  4. Open the oven door
  5. Place the baking dish inside the middle of the oven rack
  6. Quickly close the oven door to prevent heat leaving

How Long Does It Take to Preheat an Oven?

In order for food to be cooked properly per the instructions and recipe specifications, the cooking time and how long it takes will change depending on factors like room temperature, altitude, and the oven model.

Generally, as mentioned, you can expect about a minimum of 10 minutes.

Quick tip: keep in mind to keep the oven door closed while preheating your oven! Don’t open the door even if you get the urge, it just makes you have to wait longer.

There are two considerations to take into account: the size and oven type. It also helps if the oven is electric or gas-powered.

Ultimately, how long it takes to heat up fully will depend on the size and type considerations, as well as the factors mentioned above like room temp, altitude, and what model being used.

After many years of use, an oven will need longer to preheat. Don’t worry though, if you follow different guidelines laid out in this article, cooking with heat in any oven won’t be intimidating!

Let’s cover the ins-and-outs of the preheating phase.

Why Is It Important to Preheat the Oven?

A preheat makes the biggest difference when it comes to uniform cooking. If you want to get consistent in cooking your meals, having a controlled environment will inevitably make this happen.

Pre-heating is also backed by science. When it comes to preparing breads, cookies, or other recipes that call for ingredients like baking powder, there are processes that take place. Read more about leavening agents further down in the article.

Set Your Oven to the Right Temperature

Using the right temperature is crucial. For example, I put my oven at home set 25 degrees lower with pretty much every meal, especially when it comes to thin crust pizza!

Quick tip: if you aren’t sure what your going to be cooking or baking, a good rule of thumb is to set the oven to 350 or 400 ahead of time.

Check your food throughout the baking process to make sure cooking is not uneven or moving faster than the recipe suggested. If you have already turned the oven on too high of a temperature, open the door for about 10-20 seconds to remove some heat (you might need to wait for the preheat noise again).

How do I preheat my oven to bake at 350?

For casseroles, reheating pizza, and other foods, 350 degrees is a common temperature setting. Set the temperature knob to the 350 mark and wait about 15 minutes until the oven reaches temp.

Next time you order pizza, look at what the side of the pizza box says since it probably has reheating instructions. Much better than taking time to heat up in the microwave!

How do I know when the oven is done preheating?

While most ovens heat, once finished, they have a loud beep that goes off when the temperature is ready. This helps if you are in the middle of something and need a reminder to pop your lunch pizza on the rack.

Quick tip: if you don’t have a preheat setting that beeps but your timer works, set the timer to go off at 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the temperature.

Buy an Oven Thermometer to Bake Right

This is a small gadget definitely worth the price since it helps aid in roasting food and better baking. Setting the right temperature while cooking each time is a must and in some ovens, the thermometer included with the oven isn’t sufficient or worsens over the years.

Using an oven thermometer is easy; just place it inside. Put it near what you’re cooking – airflow might affect the heat being distributed. If you want consistency, the thermometer will ensure an accurate recipe every time.

Want to find your next oven thermometer? Check out this best oven thermometers list.

How do you preheat an electric oven?

To preheat an electric oven, it is pretty straight-forward. Depending on whether your oven contains a knob or an LCD display, here’s what you need to do.

  • Push in and turn the oven knob to select your temperature, push in and rotate the opposite direction when finished cooking or baking
  • Find the arrows on a digital display to select the temperature, usually in increments of 5 or 10. A long-hold on the button sometimes makes it go faster.

Good-to-know: Electric ovens feature convection fans that heat up the enclosure faster. Gas ovens take longer due to slower air circulation, adding another 5-10 minutes for a pre-heat.

If you do not preheat the oven, you can still cook food starting at a low temperature. Since it is common for any standard oven to heat up within 10 to 15 minutes, some recipes don’t need the extra preheating step, which can make a difference of how long it takes to preheat your oven.

How do you preheat a gas oven?

A key difference betweens electric and gas ovens is proper ventilation. These ovens are usually fueled by natural gas and emit more dangerous fumes than electric ones. Provide proper airflow, such as keeping a window open.

Lighting a gas oven requires a pilot light. From here the oven continues to use fire and heat up. Typically an oven thermometer stays inside to monitor the temperature.

Heat in a gas oven comes from underneath the bottom, so you won’t have to make sure food isn’t sticking on an element like an electric oven.

Preheating an Oven at a High-Altitude

If your house is located in an area higher up in the mountains or hills, trying to bake food in the oven can be a bit more time consuming. Here are guidelines to follow when it comes to high-altitudes and the effect it has on heat.

Interesting fact: cooking times have to be adjusted at higher elevations because the boiling point of water decreases. This requires an increased cooking time to compensate.

For those that follow the package directions of brownies, cakes, or other boxed items, you may have noticed that a higher altitude calls for different baking instructions. A typical meal could need five or more minutes of heat depending on how high of an elevation it is.

Science Behind Preheating the Oven

Leavening agents are part of the science behind making bread and other baked goods. The substance causes expansion of doughs and batters by the release of different gases.

When proteins and air are put together, they form air bubbles. Mixing both and increasing the air temperature (heat) results in rising bread and can also change the smell or taste.

Preheat Your Oven for Bread

Other than the delicious flavor of nearly any type of hot bread, recipes for baked dough can turn out great with an already hot oven.

Once dough is finished proofing and ready to bake, follow the recipes instructions to preheat your oven. The recipe should tell you how long the bread will need to bake.

Preheating Your Oven for Cookies

If you preheat your oven for baking cookies, expansion can also occur. This is why cookies will get bigger in the oven while you make them.

Cookies also need a preheated oven because of gluten (the stretchy, elastic protein in flour) and how it interacts with other ingredients. If the temperature changes throughout the baking process, parts of a cookie will be get more done than others.

Good-to-know: whipped egg whites can also be used in recipes like sponge cake or angel food cake because it keeps its leavened properties after dried.

Preparing the Oven for Casseroles

Casseroles may be started even in a cool oven if they contain liquid. In fact, most vegetables, meats and casseroles don’t actually need a preheated oven. They can go straight into a cold oven.

Caution: be careful to put a glass casserole dish directly from the fridge or freezer to the oven. Cold glass with a hot oven is not a good combination and can result in cracked bakeware.

Planning in advance and preparing a recipe in a casserole dish ahead of time is a good idea. However, be careful not to get the dish hot quickly by baking it in the oven straight from the freezer.

Tips and Tricks About Preheating the Oven

  • For a quicker preheat, use the broil setting! It will get the oven up to temperature in a matter of minutes.
  • Most modern ovens give a signal or beep when the temperature setting is reached, but you can also use the front window and oven light to check a gas oven thermometer for accuracy.
  • Try not to cook multiple pizzas in the oven, since this can cause overdone crusts on the right and left sides of the oven.
  • Don’t use aluminum foil no matter what others say! It will make your food cook faster and possibly damage your oven.

What Is the Importance of the Preheat?

Why do we need to know how long it takes to preheat an oven? Why is it important for heat to be distributed evenly?

If your food remains uncooked after the initial time, it may mean the oven is running cool and points to a possible issue inside your oven. When a dish decides to burn while baking, it may be an indication that your oven is running hot.

The importance here is to understand what problem to fix if the meal didn’t not turn out. If on the first day the actual temperature is higher because the proper cook time wasn’t taken to heat, finding the problem can get to be very difficult.

It also eliminates cold spots. Baking sheets that are off to the side or not centered might cook two cookies perfectly and have another set not quite hot enough to be fully baked.

Remember that timing is the key to any perfectly-baked food dish. The way to figure out the right cook or baking time is to be consistent. Make the extra effort to bake an outstanding meal.

Know Your Oven’s Flaws

Getting to know your oven might sound personal, but it will really help to make sure you can adjust cooking/baking time if needed. I wouldn’t necessarily turn to the manufacturing instructions each oven use because your home, the type of meals you make, and the oven itself all matter.

That being said, the manual does offer insight on regular usage and sets expectations. Here are some things you might learn after reading your manual.

  • Electric ovens beep or indicate on an LCD display when the right temperature is reached.
  • If you have an older oven that shows temperature, invest in an oven thermometer for accuracy
  • Use the thermometer to check that the inside of the oven is the desired temperature

Considerations for preheating

Preheating isn’t a complex process and the best way is to consider how long the recipe will take when adding in the additional time. For instance, frozen pizza doesn’t mandate a pre-heat, but will certainly turn on better with it. But, you can definitely place it in the oven, set the temperature and it will bake fine.

Back to the pizza example, when cooked directly from the freezer, bake time could be affected by how much moisture is on the top. If you enjoy and want a moist crust, cook it a bit shorter to prevent any heat from drying it out.

How to Preheat Conventional or Toaster Ovens

For someone that might want a smaller meal, you can use a toaster oven, and this may be helpful if you live alone or are taking a single-serve approach. Toaster ovens take about 3 minutes to heat up, but waiting for 5 minutes is best.

My philosophy is minimalistic when it comes to owning a regular, full-size oven and a toaster oven. Having a toaster oven also takes up space on a counter, so keep that in mind.

More Questions

How do I know when my oven reaches the right temperature?

The most accurate way of making sure you have the right temp is to use an oven thermometer. Using one over and over will help gauge the accuracy of the oven’s readings.

Does it matter if I open the door while the oven is cooking?

Absolutely. Especially when it comes to preparing a dish like cheesecake, maintaining consistency all the way through matters. This is the difference between a smooth or cracked cheesecake. Bottom line, don’t open the door if it’s not required!

What is the Preheat Signal?

Generally, the preheating signal is given by the oven and appears as a sound or as a light. The preheat signal is helpful but doesn’t always reflect the actual oven temperature. Again, this depends on the oven type and size.

Expect your oven to be hot after a solid 20 minutes.