Recently updated on August 21st, 2020

In this post, learn everything you want to know regarding preheating oven for baking. Why is it a must to preheat the oven, how to preheat it and much more…

Preheating the Oven is the first and foremost requisite for baking. If you are wondering whether you can bake a cake without preheating the oven then the simple and straight answer is NO.

Preheating the oven is as important as is stretching before a run, or warming up the car, or letting the water get hot before you shower.

Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking

But What is Meant By Preheating? Why is it so important?

Before we proceed, I would like to mention that unlike my earlier posts, this write up is a very simple one but important. Take out some time, go through it once and you will be glad you did.

Preheat Oven at …… for …. minutes….. But Why?

Whenever you bake anything be it cake or bread or cookies or anything else, the first and foremost line in the ‘method’ is Preheat the oven at ….. for …. minutes.

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Ok, tell me one thing. Is Preheating required only in baking?

What about while making chapatis on a griddle or while frying?
Do you just put the griddle on the gas stove and put the chapati on it?
Do you keep the wok on the gas stove, add oil and start frying?
No. We first put the griddle on flame, let it get heated for a few minutes and then put the chapati on it. Isn’t it?
Same with frying. Only when the oil is considerably hot, we start frying.

To understand the principle of preheating just do one simple experiment.

Put a griddle on the gas stove and put the chapati on it.
Now, increase the flame to the highest. What will happen?
First of all, chapati will stick to the griddle and no matter how much you increase the flame, it will not be cooked properly. It will be very hard only almost inedible.
The same with frying in cold oil will result most of the oil absorbed by the food only again rendering it inedible.

Like this, even oven needs to be preheated, however for different reasons that soon we will look into and understand.

 What is Preheating?

  •  Preheating simply means preparing your oven to bake goodies. Preheating means turn on your oven so that it reaches the proper and required temperature.
  • This preparation is done by heating the oven empty, without anything, at least for 10 minutes at the specified temperature, before you put the cake tin or other things to bake.
  • Empty oven means no tin/utensils. Of course, the racks will remain there only. You don’t have to remove them.

Why Is It Important To Preheat The Oven When Baking?

  • Firstly and most importantly preheating is important to give an initial push of heat. Many batters and dough which are made using leavening agents either Baking Soda or Baking Powder or Yeast, require a push- a good hit of heat at the beginning -for the optimal rise, texture, and browning.
  • If they do not get that push, the result is heavy, undercooked, hard, rubbery breads/ cakes. This can well be understood with the example of yeast.
  • Those of you use yeast know very well that yeast needs to proofed in warm water. Try proofing yeast in cold water. If the yeast is added to cold water then no matter how much warm water you add, it will not activate. This is because it needs that initial push, that too only in warm water. Hot or cold water just kills it.  
  • Secondly, a preheated oven will cook the food all the way to its center before outside of the food is burnt and inedible. If the food is put in the oven without preheating it, then the outside will be done leaving the centre cold and uncooked. 
  • Thirdly, Preheating heats up not just the air in the oven — but it also heats up the walls (and your baking stone, if you use one).
  • When you open the oven, whether to keep the batter/bread in it or to check the doneness of the baked goods or any other reason then all the hot air leaves the oven.  At that time, the heated walls and baking stone only makes the oven quickly return to temperature.
  • Lastly, when the baked goods are given a cold start, that is, kept in a cold oven,  then cookies will turn out hard and dry, pastries will be pale and crunchy (not flaky), pizza crust won’t be crispy and chewy, and cakes will have a weird, tough layer at the bottom.
  • Always follow the recipe while preheating and just don’t take it lightly for good bakes. But at how much temperature and for how much time depends on the recipe.
    Like loaves of bread required to be baked at high temperatures ( 190 or 200 degrees centigrade) whereas, cakes are baked at low temperature ( 180 or 170 or 160 degrees centigrade) and cookies require even lesser temperature.

How to Preheat Oven?

Preheating should be the first step of your preparations. Normally convention ovens  (commonly called as OTG) takes 15 minutes to preheat and that much time is sufficient to make your batter/dough.

In Case, it is a lengthy process then start preheating somewhere before 15 minutes.

For preheating,

  • first of all, open the oven to make sure everything, except the racks, has been removed.
  • Rearrange the rack levels, if necessary.
  • Turn the oven on and set the temperature.
  • Wait until the oven reaches the desired temperature.

Do You Need To Preheat A Microwave Convection Oven Or Fan oven?

YES! Microwave convection oven, also known as Fan oven, also needs to preheated before baking. 

How to Preheat Microwave Convection Oven

Preheating the microwave oven is different from preheating the oven with reference to time only. I do all my baking in microwave convection only.

Microwave convection gets preheated in just about 5 minutes even for 200 degrees C. Whereas for the same temperature an OTG would take at least  15 to 20 minutes.

So, if you are planning to do your baking in microwave convection then preheat it just when you are 5 to 10 minutes away from getting your batter/dough ready.

Secondly, there are no racks in the microwave so no question of adjusting them. But remember to keep the metal rack (which comes along with microwave) inside the microwave on the turntable. Yes, metal in the microwave convection oven.

Can We Keep Metal In Microwave Convection Oven?

Here, I would like to share very important thing with you and that is when in the convection mode, microwave behaves just like an OTG. Therefore in convection mode, you can keep aluminium/steel/iron vessels in it. Remember, in the microwave but only on convection mode.

Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking

For example, the recipe says, preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Your microwave takes about 5 minutes or less to pre-heat as compared to the 10-15 minutes in an OTG. So you can pre-heat the microwave even when you are just 5 minutes away from getting your cookie dough/ cake batter ready.

Now start preheating it by first pressing the ‘convection’ tab.  The display unit will show 180 degrees by default. Set the desired temperature and the time. Press ‘start’ and wait for the beep to indicate that it is ready for baking.

Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking
Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking
Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking

Do I Need To Preheat Pressure Cooker/Wok/ AirFryer, If Baking In It?

YES!  The pressure cooker needs to be preheated for at least 10 minutes. An air fryer is also to be preheated, just that it is preheated for just 5 to 7 minutes. You can read  more about the preheating the pressure cooker before baking here

Can you put food in the oven while it’s preheating?

NO.  As mentioned above, the oven is preheated without food in it. Only when it is preheated, the food is kept inside for baking.

How Do You Know When The Oven Is Preheated?

Nowadays, oven thermometers are easily available through which you can know the exact temperature of the oven. But if you don’t have an oven thermometer then? Then, read below…

Different ovens signify differently that it is ready to bake or say that it is preheated. Once the required temperature is reached, the oven lets you know, either through a beep or by turning off its thermostat light. Once it is preheated, don’t be in a hurry. You can still wait for 8 to 10 minutes. This is because the oven ‘settle’ into this temperature for 10 minutes or so.

The reason for this is that the oven takes a little while to settle into a temperature and they run through cycles of slightly higher and slightly lower temperatures, with the indicated temperature as the average.

But in some ovens (very old ones), they just have an on and off switch. Temperatures are not even mentioned so no question of setting temperature.

Obviously, there is neither a beep nor light system. In such ovens, simply turn on the oven and wait for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, it is assumed that it is ready for baking. The same principle applies when you do your baking on the gas stove in a cooker or wok.

 Is Preheating A Waste Of Energy?

Some might think that energy is being wasted by letting the oven run empty. Actually, preheating is not a waste of energy. First of all, the thermostat in the oven takes care of this. As soon as the oven reaches the desired temperature, the thermostat starts its work.

So if you set the temperature for 200-degrees and the oven reaches 200-degrees, it will stop heating and stop using power or fuel until the heat drops below 200-degrees and the heating elements start back up and cycle on again.

Secondly, if kept in a cold oven then baked goods might stick in the oven. As a result,  the cooking time gets extended and that too with horrible results. So you’re not actually saving time or energy anyway. Some recipes do, however, call for cold starts, but they will be very explicit about that in the instructions. 

So, please never underestimate the importance of preheating.

Rather get in the habit of preheating your oven and get perfect baked goods.

I hope you have found this post on the importance of preheating oven useful.

Thank you for reading this post. If you have liked this recipe then do let me know by leaving a comment below. Your feedback fuels my enthusiasm. You may share this post with your dear ones by clicking on the little buttons below. You may follow me on  Facebook   Pinterest    Twitter   Instagram(#samirasrecipediary) too. for latest recipe updates. Thank you!

Happy Baking,

My acknowledgments to the following sites for providing me the relevant and valuable information regarding preheating the oven.

Preheating Oven, Importance of Preheating Oven for Baking