While it is true that you can do almost anything in your oven, there are still some things that are best left to other cooking methods. In some cases, because it is dangerous, but in others simply because the end results are going to be inferior. Here are four types of foods to keep away from the oven.
1. Some frozen foods
Great cooking comes down to confidence
Some frozen foods are completely safe to take directly from freezer to oven: Frozen appetizers, packaged tray meals or pizzas, balls of cookie dough or bread rolls can all go straight from your chiller to your oven without a problem. But foods like chicken parts, homemade casseroles and the like should always be thawed fully before you cook in your oven. Otherwise you risk the food not getting hot enough fast enough and sitting too long in the 40-to-140-degree danger zone for food-borne illness. Unless you know from the packaging or recipe that something is designed specifically to be cooked from frozen, always thaw overnight in the fridge before putting it in your oven, then let sit at room temp for at least an hour before putting in the oven to avoid thermal shock—AKA your glass bakeware potentially exploding.
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2. Whole eggs
Hacks abound for cooking up large batches of hard cooked eggs, including using an oven to do so. But while you can technically achieve a fully cooked egg in your oven, it will not be the peak of dining perfection. Little spots can appear on the whites, the eggs can get very rubbery on the outer layers, and it can take upwards of 45 minutes depending on how long your oven takes to heat. You are always better off either boiling or steaming your eggs, or even sous vide if you have the equipment. Want eggs in your oven? Go frittata and quiche!
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3. Foods meant to be fried in a recipe
We are all trying to be somewhat health conscious these days, so it is a natural impulse to want to oven-bake recipes that are traditionally fried. But unless your recipe gives you a specific set of directions for converting to oven baking, stick with frying. The chemical reactions created by oil frying are different than those of oven baking, and ultimately you will not get the results you want. For one, coatings will not adhere properly, and exteriors can get a really tough texture that isn’t so much crispy as it is unpleasantly hard. And since fat carries flavor on the tongue, without it the foods in question will land as bland, even if everything else has been kept the same.
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4. Foods meant to be steamed in a recipe
It would be so much easier to be able to take steaming recipes, which require stovetop management and sometimes cumbersome steaming equipment, and just pop them in an oven. I know some people who have even attempted to create an “oven steamer” with pans of water. But at the end of the day, the warm, gentle, moist environment that steaming creates cannot really be effectively replicated in your oven. Stick to the stovetop here: No one likes a leathery dumpling.
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