Oven Temperature Guide

Grandma's oven temperature guides will help to determine proper oven temperatures and baking times, and help to answer other questions you might have.

What's a slow oven? How does the temperature of a moderate oven compare to a fast oven? And how on earth do you test for doneness?

These are some of the questions most often asked when readers begin baking with Grandma's dessert recipes. But, don't worry, everything's covered below.

Oven Temperature Guide

Vintage Illustration of a Lady Checking the Oven's TemperatureChecking the Oven Temperature While Baking
(PD Source: Adapted by Don Bell)

You'll find oven temperature conversions are often needed when baking, because Grandma's old fashioned dessert recipes originated in the 1800s and early 1900s when wood stoves were common in household kitchens.

Maintaining an even oven temperature when cooking with wood required know-how, constant vigilance, and a ready supply of firewood.

Likely you'll have noticed that most vintage recipes do not specify exact oven temperatures and baking times, but simply suggested using a slow, moderate, or fast oven. That's because very few kitchen stove ovens had temperature gauges.

On Mom's old cook stove, there was simply an ornamental metal trim piece on the oven door that you briefly touched with your fingertips to judge whether the oven was hot enough and ready for baking.

Experience and the occasional burnt finger taught you when the oven was hot enough. But, the temperature of the oven also varied with the strength of the fire, so Mom ALWAYS needed to test for doneness while baking.

Instructions on how to convert oven temperatures, and the approximate wood stove oven temperatures for baking are provided below to help you obtain good baking results with a modern-day oven.

Use the oven temperature guides and Grandma's dessert recipes should turn out fine.

Kitchen Stove Oven Temperature Guide

Wood Stove Oven
  • Very Slow Oven = 275°F (135°C)
  • Slow Oven = 325°F (163°C)
  • Moderate Oven = 375°F (191°C)
  • Hot or Quick Oven = 425 °F (218°C)
  • Bread or Pastry Oven = 360°F (182°C)

Pastry Oven: A piece of writing paper will curl up brown when it's at the proper heat for baking pastry.

Note: Oven baking temperatures can vary 25°F (4°C), plus or minus.

Oven Temperature Conversions

Antique Oven Heat Gauge

°F To °C

To convert degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius in recipes, subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit temperature, multiply the difference by 5, and then divide the product by 9.

°C To °F

To convert degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit, simply multiply the Celsius temperature by 1.8 and add 32.

Temperature Conversion Calculator

Simply insert a temperature value into one of the input fields below to instantly convert oven temperatures.

Celsius (°C)

Fahrenheit (°F)

Mary's Oven Temperature Guide

Mary At The Farm and Book Of Recipes (1915)

Checking a Cake in an Antique OvenThe Glass Door Made Checking for Doneness Easier
(PD Source: Vintage Kitchen Oven c.1918)

Carefully testing for doneness every few minutes is always recommended for best baking results. —Grandma

  • Biscuit, small — 300°F for 30 minutes
  • Biscuit, large — 300°F for 30 minutes
  • Cake, Fruit — 260°F for 2 hours
  • Cake, Sponge — 300°F for 30 minutes
  • Cake, Loaf — 300°F for 40 minutes
  • Cake, Layer — 300°F for 15 minutes
  • Cookies — 300°F for 5 minutes
  • Custards — 260°F to 300°F for 20 minutes
  • Gingerbread — 260°F to 300°F for 20 minutes
  • Pie Crust — 300°F for 30 minutes, or less
  • Pudding, Bread — 260°F to 300°F for 1 hour
  • Pudding, Plum — 260°F to 300°F for 1 hour
  • Pudding, Rice — 260°F to 300°F for 30 minutes
  • Pudding, Tapioca — 260°F to 300°F for 30 minutes

Oven Temperature Guide for Baking

One reason why I try to place several recipes on a page is that — hopefully — one of those recipes will contain clear instructions for oven baking temperatures and baking times.

For instance, if one of Grandma's cake recipes suggests 30 minutes in a "moderate" oven, those baking instructions should work with other recipes for the same kind of cake. Most oven temperature guides suggest 375°F for a "moderate" oven.

Always use the recipe's suggested oven temperature and baking time, if given. However, before your baked goods are expected to be done, start checking visually for doneness.

For instance, you should see cookies starting to turn brown in color, and for cakes, you can insert a wire cake tester or fork to test for doneness. If your cake tester comes out clean without batter or crumbs attached, the cake is done.

But don't worry! Grandma's old fashioned dessert recipes tend to be quite forgiving. By comparing similar recipes and by using the oven temperature guides, you should do okay. And know this...

Whenever Grandma had tried a recipe that was new to her, her first attempt was pretty much an experiment. Most times it would turn out near perfect, but there were occasions when something went wrong, and it was a flop. That's simply the way of baking, even with modern-day recipes, no matter how great a cook you are.

Mastering the old fashioned dessert recipes is a big part of the fun; that and getting to taste the desserts and treats that our ancestors once enjoyed.

Remember the Waiting

Kids Watching Cookies BakingWaiting for Homemade Cookies to Bake Is Never Easy
(Source: ©designpics/123RF)

Do you remember when you were a child, and how cookies and cakes seemed to take an eternity to bake? Kids today get to watch through an oven window as cakes and cookies bake, but the old stoves didn't have that luxury.

We had to wait patiently in front of our old kitchen stove with its windowless oven, smelling the wonderful aroma, and dreaming of the delicious treats to come.

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