Whether you’re a seasoned chef, self-proclaimed pro baker, or amateur cookbook collector, you know that one of the first steps to baking a foodie masterpiece is preheating your oven. But have you ever wondered why your recipes constantly recommend baking at 350 degrees Fahrenheit? We sure have, which is why we asked the Head Chef and Recipe Developer at HelloFresh, Claudia Sidoti, for exactly why.
The reason you should bake at 350 degrees
“Cooking at 350 degrees has become the sweet spot for many recipes, but it really comes down to chemistry,” Sidoti says. In fact, the chemical process involved is actually called the Maillard Reaction. That’s the scientific term for the chemical reaction that occurs between an amino acid and a reducing sugar via the addition of heat, according to the Science of Cooking. This is what leads to the browning of foods. “The temperature is what gives so many foods a complex flavor profile and that perfect golden brown color,” Sidoti says. “It works for so many types of foods because the temperature is hot enough to cook things quickly, but not too hot that your dish will burn.” This browning reaction produces hundreds of flavor compounds, and it generally only occurs when the food is exposed to heat above 285°F.
Do certain foods require different temperature settings to cook properly?Shutterstock
While 350 degrees seems like the go-to temperature, certain foods require a higher or lower setting. “A 350-degree setting will always get the job done, but it’s not necessarily the best temperature for all foods,” Sidoti says. “A higher temperature is very important for bread, as it’ll lead to a more efficient, faster rise before the loaf has a chance to set. Also, baking muffins at a higher temperature will give you a higher muffin top. It’s important to think about your baking goal before choosing the right temperature! A 350-degree residential oven is designed to stay between around 330 and 370 degrees. I like 350 degrees best because within the time something is cooking in the oven—whether it’s being baked, roasted, or braised—the temperature average is neither too warm nor too hot. [This prevents a] dish from browning too fast and burning, or, conversely, not being [thoroughly] cooked or having enough heat to come together cohesively to achieve the crisp and color intended.”
So, now you know the secret to why your favorite baked goods all call for the same temperature. We think we’ll put it to the test with a fresh batch of homemade cookies!