You’re rushing around the kitchen, getting dinner ready and just when it’s time to slide the roast into the oven – dang it, you realize you forgot to preheat it. Do you really need another 15 minutes for it to come to the correct temp or can you just put food in the cold oven while it heats and save some time?
Twitter users seem to think it's a waste of time and you should live your life instead of preheating.
Despite what people are saying on Twitter, the answer is not completely straightforward – it depends actually. Most recipes will advise you to preheat. When that preheating cycle is built into the recipe, you really should get that oven temp up before putting the food in the oven. Disregarding the instructions, and your cooking results may vary – a lot. You’ll probably need to tack on extra cooking time at the end, so you’re really not saving any time.
Plus, some cooking methods really need that immediate heat of a hot oven for proper browning or for chemical reactions to occur, such as yeast causing bread to rise. Not preheating the oven can result in flat bread and pale meats.
But, then there are recipes that actually benefit from slowly raising the temp from cold to hot with the food inside. “Cold Oven” chicken, pound cake and even roasted salmon recipes flourish in this environment.
Cold Oven Pound Cake, for example, has a way better result with no preheating. Epicurious did a side-by-side comparison with the same pound cake recipe - one cake made with a preheated oven and one cake made with a cold oven and the cold oven cake was over an inch fluffier.
This is due to the baking powder really getting a chance to activate with the slow, low temperature at which it bakes before the heat kills the process. Creaming the butter and heating the oven slowly also allows the air bubbles in the recipe more time to rise. The crispy crust on the cake is due to more time at a low temperature. Not all recipes are built this way, however. This recipe just happens to benefit from the cold oven.
When you want to skip the preheat, look for cold oven-specific recipes. Here are recipes for chicken, pound cake and salmon, perhaps the most famous cold oven recipes.
We hate to burst your bubble, but for the most part, don’t be a rebel and skip that preheat if the recipe calls for it. But, also explore the world of cold oven recipes for new methods of cooking. That way, you can have your pound cake and slow bake it too!