Mature female in apron regulating cooking mode on oven panel.

These days, it's so easy to pick up food or have food delivered that it's hard to see why anyone would want to spend time cooking a meal instead. However, many people choose to cook because they like doing it, they want to save money, they want to eat healthier or a combination of all three.

To speed up cooking, many people may simply think that you can just increase the oven's temperature to reduce the cooking time of your dish. However, there are many reasons you shouldn't do this.

Can Adjusting Cooking Temperature Decrease Cooking Time?

If your recipe tells you to bake the dish you've prepared at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, it may seem logical to increase the temperature to 475, thereby allowing you to reduce the cooking time by a couple of minutes. An increase in the cooking temperature of nearly 20 percent will not usually shorten cooking time by 20 percent, but it's a good way to think of it.

Even though you may find a mathematical formula that can give you the correct conversion for adjusting temperatures, it likely won't work. That's because the important thing to understand about cooking or baking dishes in the oven is that the temperature is just as vital as the timing of the dish. If you change any of these factors, it can easily ruin your meal.

What Happens if You Make Adjustments?

If you raise the temperature of the oven in the hopes of reducing cooking time, there are several things that will likely happen. Typically, only the outside of the food will cook quicker, not the inside. So, what you'll have is a very crispy and perhaps burnt exterior with the inside uncooked. Remember that eating food that's uncooked can cause serious illness. What's worse is if you serve this food to guests and they get sick.

What can also happen is that increasing the temperature and reducing the cooking time will likely compromise the taste of the food. If the taste is bad, then you may have to throw it out and start from scratch anyway. This leads to unnecessary food waste and, of course, a waste of money too. Ultimately, it's not worth it to ruin an entire dish just because you'd like it to cook quicker. Instead, start cooking earlier.

The "Test Early, Test Often" Rule

If you'd like to slightly increase the temperature to reduce cooking time, then there is one way to go about it that can help you cook the dish quicker without there necessarily being any risk.

The only way to do this safely and accurately is with a food thermometer. This is the "test early, test often" rule, which means you consistently check the internal temperature of the food every few minutes. Remember, however, that if you open the oven too many times, the dish will take longer to cook anyway.

The internal temperatures of various foods should be as follows:

  • Ground beef, pork, veal, lamb: 160 degrees F
  • Ground turkey or chicken: 165 degrees F
  • Fresh beef, veal, lamb in steaks, roasts or chops: 145 degrees F
  • All poultry: 165 degrees F
  • Fresh pork or ham: 145 degrees F
  • Egg dishes: 160 degrees F
  • Leftovers and casseroles: 165 degrees F
  • Fish with fins: 145 degrees F

Alternative Methods for Adjusting Cooking Times

In addition to the "test early, test often" rule, there are some alternative methods for adjusting cooking times that don't involve raising the temperature. One thing you can do is to cook your dish in a convection oven as opposed to a regular oven. Usually, convection ovens cook foods quicker, and there are usually instructions on how to do this in the recipe.

Another alternative is to cover the dish in foil if it's starting to brown too quickly after increasing the oven's temperature. This can help you increase the speed of cooking while shielding the dish from overheating. Lastly, if you'd like to lower the oven temperature to lengthen cooking times, you'd have better results than doing the opposite.

Also, you can keep the dish warm in the oven if you are not yet ready to serve it. This should only be done after the dish is fully cooked, and you've checked it with a thermometer. Never eat food that's undercooked, as it can lead to foodborne illnesses such as E. coli or salmonella.