Baking more than one thing at a time?
December 20, 2022 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Do you have guidelines or references for putting more than one thing in the oven at a time? Specifically, a quiche and blueberry muffins, but I'd like a general idea of when it's okay and whether I need to adjust anything.

I always thought it was fine to put two - or more! - things in the oven at once, and would save time and energy.

However, when I was reading about roasting vegetables, I saw advice not to bake one pan on top of the other, because the steam from the bottom pan would steam the vegetables on the top pan.

So - do you often bake more than one thing in the oven, and if so, what tips or guidelines can you share?

Do I need to adjust anything - temperature, timing, positioning - if I put more than one thing in the oven at once?

Will my blueberry muffins smell and taste like quiche if I bake them together? What if I bake brownies and enchiladas at the same time - will I end up with enchilada-flavored brownies?

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
posted by kristi to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Side by side you can do whatever and it will be fine. I wouldn’t worry about scents unless one of the items is super strongly scented and really -wet-

Stacking items in the oven - if the shelves are far apart you will see less of an effect than if the top of the lower item is very close to the pan above it. You might need more baking time, or to protect against too-early-browning. Rotating from time to time will help but will also drop the oven temperature and increase the time.
posted by janell at 12:47 PM on December 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: One thing to consider is that every time you open the oven the warm air all escapes, the temperature inside drops a lot and it can take some minutes to recover, just as with preheating. It doesn't matter as much if you're cooking at low temps (easy to recover) or 45+ minutes (time to recover) but if you're doing <=20 minutes or at high temps or both, try not to open the door too much or you'll be waiting for it to cook.
posted by panhopticon at 12:58 PM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Even in a non "convection" or thermal oven there is convection- any time you have differences in temperature in a volume, air will move along that gradient. So I don't think vegetables steaming other vegetables because they are higher up is really an issue- the steam will circulate all over because it is a vapor. If you're still really worried about steaming up the top rack with the stuff on the bottom rack, you can switch them 2/3rds of the way through cooking, though I doubt it matters. If the temperature differential in your oven is such that all water vapor remains in the top you have larger problems than steaming up things on a higher rack.

Things on the lower rack can block thermal radiation from directly affecting the bottom of the pan above, because thermal radiation is the direct transfer of heat via electromagnetic waves. However things on top still cook via convection, conduction, and thermal transfer from the walls and top of the oven. If you really need something to be cooked on the bottom, place them on the lower rack. If you want things to be evenly cooked when using a higher and lower rack, again you can move them around at some point past the halfway mark.

What may be actually problematic in certain ovens is cooking very wet, watery vegetables with a pan of things you want to be crisp- so in that case maybe don't put your roast potatoes in with a big open casserole of tomatoes, say. But I do this all the time at the holidays and have yet to notice a detrimental effect in my ancient gas oven, probably because it vents a lot of hot air, including water vapor, out through the roof.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Put the smelly stuff on top, the sweet baked goods, custards on bottom. Don't waste energy preheating, bake as much as you can at one time.
posted by Oyéah at 3:18 PM on December 20, 2022

Best answer: Some things are more delicate than others. A cake is more delicate than roast veggies. You would want to cook the cake without opening the oven to test the veggies.

If things usually cook a different temperatures, a little thought is required. A cake recipe may call for 350F. You would get a different product at 250F or 400F.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:02 PM on December 20, 2022

Best answer: In your specific example, muffins and quiche will both be fine at 350F.

Every oven is slightly different, but generally:

If you put 2 pans on different racks, you can rotate them top to bottom and it will be fine. The upper pan will brown on top more. The lower pan will get more heat from the bottom. Rotating will even this out.

If you put items side by side, the outside edges may get done/brown sooner, in which case, you'd want to rotate the dishes left to right/right to left.

Also, some ovens have a preheat setting &/or are designed to pump a bunch of heat into the oven to get it preheated quickly. If you put food in during this stage, it can go badly wrong.

If you have a convection setting, it means a fan will circulate the air in your oven, which makes it more efficient and has the result of increasing the oven temperature by 25 degrees. Some modern ovens will compensate for this, so if you set the oven to 350F Convection, it will actually set itself at 325F. Because the convection setting circulates the heat, it can be helpful to use it when you have multiple pans in the oven.
posted by jenquat at 5:36 PM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My oven has evil quantities of heat from the bottom and, whether with one tray of stuff or two, butting an extra pan beneath the lowest layer of food really improves results. With one pan it helps avoid brown bottoms, and with two it helps the bottom one brown at a similar rate to the top. (Non convection oven, for what it's worth; one of the seventies' finest.)

If your foods are different, then a non-convection mode helps make for differing oven temps. This can help with roasting veg (on the top rack) while cooking a joint of meat (beneath).
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 1:37 AM on December 21, 2022

Best answer: I'm not sure I believe the advice you read in the first place, at least for regular meal cooking (can't comment on fancy meals/foodies). I roast vegetables one pan over the other (on different but close racks) very often and have never noticed any difference from solo pans, which I also cook very often. Ditto for muffins, though I don't make quiche so I can't comment on that. For non-fussy things (like muffins and roasted veggies) it shouldn't make a huge difference, especially if you check them and cook based on doneness level instead of strictly relying on a timer.

For smell, I've never noticed an issue with co-baking apple crisp and meat or fish plus veggies, which I've done a few times. I would only be nervous about something with delicate flavours like creme brulee or something combined with a strong unwanted flavour like fish.
posted by randomnity at 5:19 AM on December 21, 2022

Best answer: Modern ovens come back to temp pretty quickly (and preheat much faster than most recipes say). I often roast 2 pans of veg., and have not noticed a difference. I would not worry about baking quiche and muffins at the same time.
posted by theora55 at 6:43 AM on December 21, 2022

Response by poster: These were all - each and every one! - helpful and useful answers.

I am much reassured, and I'm looking forward to my simultaneous quiche-and-muffin bake.

Thank you all so much!
posted by kristi at 12:25 PM on December 21, 2022

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