Real Simpleanswers your questions.

By Real Simple
Updated February 20, 2009
Kitchen stove
Credit: Sang An

Q. How do I know when I should use the upper, middle, or lower rack in my oven?

A. When in doubt, keep the oven rack adjusted to the middle position; this works fine for most cooking and baking situations. Certain situations benefit from varying the position; below are some tips for when to mix it up.

  • Top: This position is ideal for using a broiler that is situated at the top of the oven. It's also handy when you're baking two sheets of cookies simultaneously; keep one sheet in the middle of the oven and the other at the top, then switch the sheets midway through cooking. (You may need to add a couple extra minutes to the baking time to offset the crowded oven.)
  • Middle: The default position. It's ideal for most foods since it situates the item in the middle of the oven, allowing the hot air to circulate evenly around the food, resulting in even cooking.
  • Bottom: This position affords close proximity to the heat source, making it perfect for pizza or other flatbreads that require a short exposure to intense temperatures. (It may lack the intensity of a wood-burning oven, but it comes closer than the middle rack.)