I once set my oven on fire. It wasn’t really as dramatic as it sounds, and it could have been much worse than it was. I was living in a little studio apartment as a student that had a tiny kitchen with an old electric oven. I’d bought the oven of another student and had cleaned it the best I could. It worked reasonably well if you kept in mind that the temperature difference between the back and the front of the oven was about 40°C (you had to turn a pizza half way to prevent it burning on one side). The oven wasn’t very large because it had to fit on my counter and parchment paper, which is a standard size for larger baking trays, was too big for my little oven. I used to fold the parchment paper into the right size and just use to volume of whatever I was baking to press it down.
Anyway, I used my oven a lot for cookies, pizza and cakes. I was experimenting using it for bread, which was a bit of challenge because of the heat distribution inside the oven. So I put the bread dough on the parchment paper on the baking tray on the side that wasn’t scorching hot and turned on the alarm to turn the bread half way through. As the alarm went off, I walked back into my little kitchen and there were flames inside the oven. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I dropped everything I was holding (which was a pile of clean laundry) and turned off the electricity to my oven. I opened the oven and used my oven mittens to take the baking tray out and noticed that it wasn’t my oven that was on fire, but it was the parchment paper. It had curled up because of the weight of the bread on the other side and had been touching the ceiling heat element for 15 minutes. No surprise that it caught fire… but a big scare for me.
Afterwards I became careful to cut my parchment paper the right size for what I was baking. After I got a new oven, a microwave oven this time, I needed to cut my parchment paper into circles. This is much harder than it looks, and I used to trace the baking tray out in pencil and cut along the lines. A lot of work and not very rewarding. Until I learned this trick from a cooking show. I’m not really sure which show it was…but I think it may have been Good Eats by Alton Brown.
Just fold the paper in the following way and cut of the bit that’s too big:
As you can see.. A nifty trick! Perhaps not an eye-opener to most people, but I use this trick a lot. For a round baking tray, but also round pie trays etc. And really great because it really reduces the chances of me setting things on fire again…
If you have any tricks that were an eye-opener for you, please leave them in the comments! I love these life-hacks that make working in the kitchen extra fun.