As any chef will tell you, baking is as much a science as an art. So what oven temperature should you use to cook … fish? Or cupcakes? We run through the ideal cooking temperatures for your most common oven-baked foods.
Rules of thumb
A low oven of 120-150°C is good for long, slow roasting, especially for tenderising tough cuts of meat. This is useful for many meals with high protein ingredients like meat or eggs, which end up tough and chewy if you overcook them.
A “medium oven” means an oven heated to 180°C. This is a good baseline temperature for everything from cakes to pasta bakes to apple pies. If you’re not sure what temperature you need or how long to cook it for, set it to 180 and keep an eye on it.
A “high oven” means heating it to 200-230°C. This is great for quick-roasting lean cuts of meat and fish.
Roasting at 180°C for 30 minutes should do most vegetables. If you want a nice all-over crunchiness, you can turn them over after 30 minutes and cook them for another 15 minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 250°C and roast at this heat for 20-30 minutes. Drop temperature to 120°C and cook at this low heat for 2.5 – 4 hours, depending on the size of the joint and whether you want the result to be medium or well done. It is not recommended to cook pork to medium rare because of the bacteria that are particular to pork.
For a whole turkey, roast at 180°C for 35-40 minutes per kilogram of meat. So a 4kg turkey will take about 2.5 hours. For just a breast fillet, cook at 200°C for 30 minutes per kilogram of meat.
For a 1.5kg whole chicken, roast at 200°C for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 160°C and roast for 45 minutes to an hour. If you want to be fancy, every 20 minutes during cooking, baste the chicken using the juices in the bottom of the pan. Rest the chicken for 10-15 minutes. Reheat at 160°C if necessary before serving. You’ll know the chicken is done if the juices run clear when you pierce the thigh with a skewer. For a 2-2.5kg whole chicken, roasting can take as long as 2 hours.
Roast at 200°C for 30 minutes. Turn it over and roast it for a further 40 minutes or longer if you want it well done.
Wagyu beef is cooked slightly differently: Roast at the highest possible temperature (about 250°C) for 15 minutes per kilogram of beef, i.e. 30 minutes for a 2kg roast. Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting and roast for 1 hour. Cut a slice in the middle at the end of that time to see whether the colour is well done enough for you.
For fish fillets, bake at 200°C for 15 minutes or until fish is cooked the whole way through. Barramundi can take a slightly lower temperature of 180°C for 15 minutes. For a whole fish, scales and all, bake at 220°C for 20-25 minutes or until fish is cooked the whole way through.
Cupcakes, biscuits, cookies
Anything with a lot of sugar or starch will tend to brown or burn more easily, so stick to a low oven for about 45 minutes or medium oven for 10-20 minutes. You want to drive away the excess moisture, so you can’t have the temperature up too high or you’ll end up making unhelpful steam.
Pastries contain a lot of moisture and the steam they give off helps them to rise, so you need to use a high oven for a short timeframe.
It takes a long time for the heat to reach the centre of a fat, round loaf of bread. So you should use a medium to low temperature and give it a longer timeframe. If you’re dealing with banana bread – lots of sugar – then make the temperature even lower to avoid burning.
Cook quickly at medium heat to avoid burning the thin, flat dough.
Cook quickly at medium heat to avoid burning the long, skinny dough shape.
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