It’s a question I’ve asked myself every time I’ve baked – and regretted not thinking the answer through before consequently ruining my bake!
It’s easy to assume that no matter where you place your bake, the oven’s heat circulates just the same. But much like how fruits ripen at different points depending on the other fruits in the bowl, it’s much more variable than that and there’s no one-size-fits-all for oven racks.
Ideal for baking: crisps, potatoes, casseroles, pasta bakes
The top rack is where the majority of the heat settle as the heat rises to the top of the oven whilst it’s turned on. However, some foods shouldn’t be heated TOO quickly, so only foods which need to be browned and cooked quickly, rather than an overall bake, need to go on the top rack.
Ideal for baking: lasagnes, cakes, cookies, sweet pies
The middle rack is the most loved amongst bakers making sweet stuff which requires the whole product to be baked evenly. Also good for stodgy foods which need to be cooked all the way through and not just on top.
If you have two sheets on the middle rack, however, it’s usually best to spread them out on the top and bottom thirds as they both won’t be baked evenly if they have to share the rack.
Ideal for baking: bread, pizza, savoury pies
The bottom rack cooks the bottom of the dish moreso than anywhere else, so things which don’t strictly need the topside baking or browning are the ones which need the bottom rack. Here is the closest position to the source of the heat.