Hands up if you’ve ever burnt a pie in the oven? You’re not alone. More than half of us (58%) admit to burning a bake, according to research from British Gas.
And even though half of us claim to be good bakers, 30% do not follow recipes or measure ingredients before baking and 94% overestimate cooking time for popular bakes.
This could all explain why a third of people are regularly disappointed with how their bakes turn out.
Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite has teamed up with British Gas to inspire the nation to renew their home economics know-how this British Pie Week.
Here’s where he thinks we might be going wrong…
“It’s often a case of people not thinking about what they’re doing,” says John. “I’m guilty of it too sometimes, for example, I made vegetable curry the other night and was roasting vegetables. I just chucked them in the oven and then I thought, ‘Hang on, I’ve actually got to make sure I’ve cut these vegetables to the right size according to how quickly they’ll cook’.
“It’s about thinking about a particular product, how it needs to be treated, what sort of energy is required to cook it, and that you can balance all the ingredients, not just in terms of taste, but in terms of cooking times. It’s about making sure you’ve got your peas on when your pie’s almost ready and you’ve cut your vegetables to the right size for how each vegetable will cook, so it’s about thinking before you start.
“Have a plan, it takes two minutes to plan what you’re doing and you can save money and time.”
Prep, prep, prep
“Food is all about preparation. If you have what we call ‘mise en place’ in the restaurant industry – your ingredients cut ready, in bowls – then you’re saving a lot of time and you don’t want to risk burning anything from having to nip off to the shop to get something. Turning your back on the pot for a minute to open a cupboard door is going to burn your chicken.
“I’ve got a friend who comes home from work, she puts the hob on, puts the pan on and puts oil in the pan on the heat before she’s even decided what she’s going to cook. It’s the most ridiculous thing. And I said to her, ‘What are you doing with that? You don’t even know what you’re having for dinner yet and you’ve put a pan of oil on the hob. You’re going to burn the pan, set the house on fire and you’re wasting energy!’”
Preheat the oven
“It depends on the oven. Usually, there’s a thermostat light on the oven, which will go off when it comes up to temperature. People often think I’ll just bung it in and turn the oven on, but if you do that, you’re actually going to waste more energy because you’re putting a cold product into a cold oven and it’s going to take longer to come up to temperature. Get your oven preheated and it cooks much more quickly. That’s essential for baking – you need to make sure your product’s going into a hot oven.”
Measure ingredients properly
“Get a good set of digital scales, which are capable of weighing a single gram and weigh everything, including liquid. You get these [measuring] jugs from the pound shop and they’ve got markings on them, but they are very often out of sync, they’re not particularly well calibrated, so weigh liquids. One millilitre equals one gram essentially. Especially with baking, it’s really important that you get things exact.”
Avoid soggy bottoms
“That’s a case of making sure you’ve got a really hot tray in the oven, or even blind baking a pastry case. So that’s lining pastry with baking paper, filling it with beans, or I just use dry, uncooked rice. I have a separate tub of uncooked rice that I always use for baking, because it’s a lot cheaper than those beans you can buy. And the important thing is you fill the pastry case with the rice, so you line it with baking paper and you don’t want just three or four grains of rice rattling around the bottom, you completely fill the dish with rice, so it supports the walls of the pastry as it bakes.”
Greaseproof vs baking paper
“Make sure you’re using baking paper [for bakes], not greaseproof paper, because baking paper has a silicon addition to it so it’s actually non-stick, whereas greaseproof is made for wrapping greasy foods in. They’re very different things. If I was to make a batch of brownies, or cake with greaseproof paper, you’d find it would stick.”
Check your oven temperature
“Observing the oven temperature is important. If you have a fan oven, make sure you use the fan oven temperature rather than the non-fan oven temperature, otherwise it’s going to waste a load of energy. And you’re going to burn your product as well, so make sure you use the right temperature.”
Clean your oven
“A clean oven is more efficient. If I’m making something like pastry, I wipe it out when it’s cool to make sure there’s no bits in there, and I give it a deep clean once every two months or so, it depends on how mucky it gets. I try and keep on top of it – and that means you can use less abrasive chemicals. So small little bursts of hot soapy water after more or less every use works wonders.”
To celebrate British Pie Week, John has teamed up with British Gas to inspire households to renew their knowledge of Smart Home Economics. To find out more about energy efficiency in the kitchen, take a look at British Gas’ tips here. Read more about British Gas smart meters here.
What are you tips for ensuring your bakes are perfect? Tell us in the comments box below