I have been having a lot of trouble recently with cooking, and it was starting to make me doubt my own skills as a chef.
Most notably, I made a cheesecake a few weeks ago. It was supposed to be done in 25 minutes of cooking and well over 2 hours later, it was still raw in the middle. I was starting to wonder what was different about what I was doing, and why was my food taking longer to cook.
As I think about this, it has been happening to me for about the last year at least, and let me tell you, it is terribly frustrating.
Last Sunday was Iron Chef. I had a ham that I really wanted to cook. I preheated the oven, and I started to realize something was TERRIBLY wrong when the oven spent 3 hours preheating. I put the ham in it and let it start cooking. I had gotten an oven thermometer earlier in the day. When I put it in with the ham set to 400 degrees, I found the oven was only 200 degrees. Ouch, that's really not good. I did eventually get the ham cooked through after some persistence.
However, it was clear the oven was a goner. Jared did some research and found that we just needed to replace the element. A quick search and 24 dollars had the element on its way to us, and Jared got it installed this week.
I decided to bake some chicken for dinner tonight. I put it in, thought it would take about 25 minutes to cook and went away. Not only did the oven perform, but the food was ready in the exact amount of time that I had guessed. This is great news.
Bottom line, buy an oven thermometer, you need one, trust me! I can't tell you how many times dinner has not been ready when it was supposed to be lately simply because I never bothered to check the temperature I was baking at.