1. Use the right-size pan and prepare it as the recipe requires. Do not substitute another pan unless absolutely necessary. More »
2. Measure all of the ingredients, place them in appropriate containers, and have them all within easy reach when you begin to assemble the dough or batter.
3. Place the racks in the correct position and preheat the oven, allowing at least 15 minutes for it to reach the required temperature. If the recipe does not specify the rack position, it should be assumed that it should be in the center of the oven.
4. Follow the steps and the timings in the recipe. Be careful not to overbeat mixtures, a common problem. Overbeating will make baked goods tough and cause whipped egg whites to break down. If beating a batter, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl often. Check the bottom of the bowl, too. The paddle attachment of some stand mixers doesn’t scrape the area well.
5. Place the pan or pans in the oven quickly, keeping in mind that every time the oven door is opened, heat is released. Space pans on the rack with plenty of room around them so air can circulate freely. Just in case your oven has a hot spot (and most do) that can cause uneven browning, rotate the pans from front to back halfway through baking. If you are baking two baking sheets of cookies at the same time, switch the pans between the racks and rotate them front to back halfway through baking.
6. Use a timer, but don’t rely on it alone. To check for doneness, follow the visual cues in the recipe, too.
7. Set up sufficient space for cooling. Cookies, in particular, need plenty of room. If you are inverting a cake onto a rack, have an extra rack on hand to facilitate the procedure.
8. Allow baked goods to cool before removing from the pans. Too often, bakers try to remove cakes and other delicate baked goods from their pans before they have time to cool and set, which can cause them to crack.