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Kitchen ovens

Kitchen ovens
You certainly have one in your kitchen, an oven, the essential tool for all kinds of cooking, whether in the kitchen of course, but also in pastry, bakery, pizza, and many others.

Here is some information on its structure and operation.
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Last modified on: May 16th 2020

Keywords for this post:OvenCookingTemperatureUseTips
Kitchen ovens

What is an oven?

It is a cooking method, as old as cooking, which consists in cooking food without direct contact with the heat source (as on a stove for example), but in a closed and heated enclosure.

How does it work?

We are talking here about an electric oven, they are made of a square steel enclosure, thermally insulated, which closes with a tight door, often glazed.

four voute et sole

The top of the oven is called "the vault" ("voute" in french), the bottom "the sole".

There is an electric resistance under the roof (often visible) and another one under the bottom (invisible), these two resistances when they receive electric current transform it into heat, it is what makes your oven heat up.

Normally one use the 2 resistors, to heat on the top and the bottom, but sometimes we need to heat only on the top, to make gratin, it is called the "grill" position, and in this case only the top resistor is heated and often at maximum power.

Here is the general principle: a closed and insulated enclosure, and 2 heating elements to heat the inside.


four ventilateur chaleur tournante

Associated with all that has just been said, there is also a notion of "rotating heat", that is to say a fan inside the oven that mixes the air inside. The advantage of this option is that the heat is better distributed in the oven, and the preheating time (or temperature rise) is reduced.

More recently, there is also "pulsed heat", in this system the internal fan, which is always present, has its own heating resistor which delivers heated air, instead of stirring the air in the oven. Preheating and baking time is further reduced.


ovens are lit, more or less well, and in the basic version, it's a simple small incandescent bulb (like a fridge lamp) that lights up the interior rather poorly. We have to admit that the lighting is rather average.

The first improvement is that the lighting moves towards the vault, and is transformed with a halogen bulb. It's much more efficient.

The next improvement will see ovens equipped with leds, giving a powerful and regular light. This is already available at the time of writing (May 2020), but for the moment only in the higher end ovens.

The position in the oven

four niveaux de hauteur

All ovens allow you to put several racks to put dishes to be cooked, or to be able to place a rack where you want in height in the oven, from "bottom" (close to the bottom, "bas" in french) to "top" (close to the roof, "haut" in french) passing "half-height" (in the middle, "mi-hauteur" in french).

This position allows you to adjust a little where you want the heat to have the most effect:
- To put at the bottom, means that we want to insist on the bottom of the dish to cook it more (example a pie)
- Putting it on the top means that you want to put more heat on the top of the dish to cook it more (example a gratin)
- Putting it in the middle means that you want the dish to be cooked in a classic way, without any particularities.

What to choose?

There are many possibilities: rotating heat or not, position in the oven, temperature...

Don't worry, with it's simple: if a special oven configuration is needed for a recipe it will be expressly indicated. And if not, always opt for "rotating heat" (if you have it) and position of the rack "halfway up".

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