Finding the best ways to cook can take doing some additional research. Do you ever wonder which area of your oven gets the hottest and need to know for your next recipe? Is your oven's top, middle, or bottom rack the hottest one?
Luckily, we have done some digging and have the answer for you. Let's dive in!
In general, you can expect the top rack of an oven to get and stay the hottest. Although it may seem like the lower portion of a range becomes warmer, the top is your best bet for consistent heat distribution.
So, if you cook two things in the oven at once, we recommend placing the thicker dish/meal on the top rack so it can cook thoroughly along with the other at the bottom.
As we start this post, we will cover all things oven temperatures and discuss which rack in your appliance gets the hottest. We're here to assist if you are new to oven cooking, have a high-temperature recipe, or have extra questions. With that said, let's get right into this topic below!
Which Rack In The Oven Gets The Hottest?
You can usually expect the top rack of an oven to become hotter than the middle or bottom.
As we said, the heat inside your appliance tends to distribute better along the top versus the lower portions, so most chefs place thicker dishes on that first level.
On top of that, food on the first rack in an oven will cook faster than the items below. Therefore, this can be tricky for multi-level meal making, so try to set a timer for each dish.
According to Simon & Schuster, you want to focus not only on rotating your pans from front to back but also from top to bottom. Doing that will ensure your food cooks all the way through, regardless of what it is.
So, remember that the top rack/section of your range will keep its heat best, while the middle and bottom shelves won't distribute heat as evenly.
Is The Top Or Middle Shelf Hotter In An Oven?
Although this middle shelf in an oven will stay warmer than the bottom: it doesn't quite beat the top. As we covered above, the higher rack in an oven will keep its heat the best.
This is true for newer and older ranges, as their top shelving gets more air circulation by design. Of course, this shouldn't be dramatically different.
So, if you decide to cook two things at once, you should be able to place them on the top and middle shelves without problems. The key would be putting the thicker dish on the top rack to get the hottest temperature while cooking.
Furthermore, you might want to move the dishes from their rack to the other while they cook/bake. Doing this will allow both meals to experience the hottest top shelf, which can mean a faster timeframe.
In contrast, if you cook one meal in the oven, you can start on the top shelf and then move it to the middle or bottom towards the end of its cook time (if needed).
Why Is The Top Rack Of An Oven The Hottest?
One of the main reasons the top rack of an oven becomes the hottest is because heat rises. If you've ever been in a room without AC, you might notice the higher you are, the warmer it feels.
That's because heat will try and escape a space, which usually means through the upper section. So, in your oven, the coils at the bottom producing heat will send it to the top of your appliance.
An interesting thing to remember is that the lower racks of an oven are the closest to the heating coils. However, that area won't stay consistently warm after the pre-heating cycle.
On top of that, the lower shelf in your range can burn baked goods like cookies, so you want to keep anything fragile away from the bottom of the oven.
In general, the lower rack of the oven is better suited for meats or maybe an extra pizza if you cook multiple, so try and avoid prioritizing it while baking or cooking.
Which Part Of An Oven Is The Coldest?
Although no part of a working oven should be "cold," there are places to avoid if you have a thicker recipe. As we covered, your appliance's top section/shelf will be the warmest.
In addition, the lower shelf will also start very hot, slowly losing its heat as it rises to the higher racks. According to experts, an oven is hottest around its periphery: sides, bottom, and top.
So, in that case, the middle section of an oven will be the coolest compared to everywhere else. That's because the heat will radiate from the bottom, sides, and top of your range: sometimes missing the middle shelf.
Of course, that doesn't mean food won't cook on the middle level, but it might take a bit longer. Moreover, the closer you have food to the walls of an oven, the more heat it will encounter.
What Shelf In My Oven Is Best For Baking?
For those who like to bake in the oven, you want to keep most things on the middle shelf. As we said above, this section of your range will stay a bit cooler than the rest.
Although that can be an issue for meats and casseroles if you make bread, cookies, or other soft recipes: the middle rack is the perfect spot!
However, according to Maytag, if you want to prepare scones or muffins that need a crispy or browned top layer, they should go on the higher shelf.
Another thing to remember is that baking pizza should happen on the lower shelf. This also applies to any recipe with "crust" bread, so everyone will be different.
Moving to pies, you want to set them on the top shelf of your oven, as they'll need more consistent heat to bake correctly. And, of course, you can always rotate your baked goods and move them up or down depending on how well they are cooking.
What Rack Do You Bake A Cake On?
For anyone making a cake, we recommend baking it on the middle rack inside your oven. Many experts claim that the middle section of a range is the "happy place" where the air is circulating, the heat sources are evenly distributed, and tops and bottoms aren't in danger of burning.
Even though this area of your appliance won't stay the hottest, it does maintain a fairly even climate during the baking process, which can become a lifeline for cakes and other desserts.
On top of that, you might want to also keep brownies and cookies on that same level, so don't be afraid to double up if you have the space!
Even if your cake takes longer to bake thoroughly, it's better to have it on the middle shelf rather than risk burning or browning towards the bottom/top levels.
Which Shelf In The Oven Cooks Food The Fastest?
You can typically expect an oven's top and bottom shelves to prepare food the fastest. The bottom rack generally works well for frozen food, as it gets hot first.
However, the top rack is good for about anything thick in texture, as it becomes the hottest after the pre-heating cycle finishes. Of course, you might also prefer to start something in the bottom level of your appliance and move it to the top for the last 5-10 minutes of its cook time.
So, between the two sections: the top offers better heat distribution and consistency, while the bottom rack is better for immediate "bursts" of heat throughout the cooking cycle.
You also want to consider how much heat your meal needs. Not every recipe requires high heat for the entire cooking/baking time, so the middle shelf is a good compromise between the upper and lower levels.
And, of course, don't be afraid to rotate and relocate your food if it starts browning or burning!
How Many Racks Should An Oven Have?
You can usually count on a new oven offering 2-3 shelves. Most times, a range will have two or so racks where you can place your food while it cooks.
With that said, not every appliance limits you to two racks, and some may offer more that you can adjust to your liking. Luckily, most oven racks can be removed and placed onto a different tier, depending on the size and heat requirements of the meal you prepare.
For example, if you need to prepare multiple pans of cookies, brownies, or cakes, you might want to move the oven racks closer to the center.
In contrast, if you prepare the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, you may need to remove the upper shelving from your oven to fit the giant bird and pan.
Again, this shouldn't be difficult with newer systems, as they offer removable/adjustable shelving.
To Finish It All Up
Whether you recently purchased a new oven or want to start cooking/baking, it's essential to understand how heat moves throughout this appliance. We found that the top rack of a range will become the hottest and consistently heat food the best.
With that said, you don't always need such high, consistent heat for every recipe. Especially for baked goods, the middle rack in an oven can be a happy medium.
Remember, an oven's top, bottom, and sides will be the warmest, so keep that in mind for your next meal. Too much heat isn't always good!
Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related kitchen articles:
Should Ovens Get Hot On The Outside?
Should I Remove Cake From Oven Immediately?
Can I Use The Oven And Stove At The Same Time? [How Hot Do Each Get?]