How to preheat an oven properly – for the best results

It can be an easy step to miss or do incorrectly, but knowing how to preheat an oven properly will save your meals from ruin! This is how to do it

how long to preheat your oven for
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Preheating the oven is one of those things that we would all love to skip, purely to get our dinner, bakes, cakes and more ready even quicker! But that is just not how it works, and knowing how to preheat an oven properly is actually one of the most vital first steps of oven cooking or baking – anything! So if you've been slack with preheating your oven properly, the chances are you’ve not been enjoying the best results when cooking. 

From how to preheat a gas or electric oven, to how long it should take, keep scrolling for all you need to know. 

Want to know more about smart or the best integrated ovens? Complete with fast preheat features and much more, take a look at our guide.

Do I really need to preheat the oven? 

In short, yes. The reason being that if you don’t bring your oven to the right temperature, whatever you’re cooking will not be actually ‘cooking’ in that first and pretty vital 5–15 minutes. The results will be shoddy, especially for things like pastry, (don’t even get us started on soufflé) as it will be a little as if you were opening and closing the oven door, the whole time – not cool. 

Some things you can probably get away with, like casserole, where you may not need a high and consistent heat for a short amount of time. But as you’re likely to be cooking that in your slow cooker anyway, we simply recommend that you take the time you need to preheat your oven completely and to the desired temperature. 

How to preheat an oven

1. Start by removing any lingering items in there like baking trays.

2. Then, ensure the racks are secure and rearrange them to suit what you'll be cooking – this may not be necessary with a smart oven – so that when it comes to putting your items in, you won't be losing heat to an open oven door as you faff around. Lasagnas and anything you want with a crispy top will usually go on the top shelf, while cakes tend to go central and pizzas or anything you want to have a crispy base will do best on the bottom rack.

3. Next, set your desired temperature.

4. Wait until that temperature is reached and then put your items in to cook.

How long does it take to preheat an oven?

This, of course, depends on your oven and on the desired temperature. We mentioned that there are many impressive ovens around at the moment which are complete with fast preheat features and even self-cleaning functionalities, so it’s worth checking out what you can afford. Generally speaking however:

  • Gas and electric ovens: 15–20 minutes
  • Electric ovens with fast preheat features: can take as little as 7–10 minutes
  • Smart ovens: this depends on the model but you can start it up before you get home. More than ideal.

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Camille Dubuis-Welch
Former Deputy Editor

I'm Cam, the former deputy editor of Real Homes who worked on the site from 2020 to 2023. As a renter myself, sharing a home with two friends (and my cat) in London, I know all too well the challenges that this can pose when it comes to creating your perfect setup. As someone who has always loved everything interior design-related, I cannot rest until a home feels right and I am really passionate about helping others get there too, no matter what their living situation, style, or budget may be. It’s not always the easiest to figure out, but the journey is fun and the results are so worth it.

After interior design, travel, art, and photography are my next big passions. When I’m not writing or editing homes content, I’m usually tapping into other creative outlets, exploring galleries in London or further afield, taking photos, scribbling, or drawing!