The Best Spot In Your Oven To Avoid Burning Scalloped Potatoes

Let's be honest, perfectly-made scalloped potatoes require a significant amount of dedication and attention to detail. With dozens of things that could go wrong from the ingredients used to quantities added, how the casserole is layered to correct cook times, and everything in between, mastering the recipe is no easy feat. Yet, one of the most fundamental aspects of baking scalloped potatoes is understanding where exactly in the oven the dish should be placed. To avoid burning before potatoes have even cooked, there's one spot that ranks superior.

A huge reason why scalloped potatoes are particularly susceptible to premature burning is mainly due to their dairy-based toppings, which cook at a much faster rate than potatoes. Likewise, if potatoes aren't all uniformly and thinly sliced, this can also cause certain parts of the dish to be done quicker. While there are tips and tricks you could employ like covering the casserole in foil and adjusting baking times, where you place your dish in the oven is just as important. That's why many can agree for a proper bake, scalloped potatoes should always be kept precisely in the center section of the middle rack. The only question is, why?

The science behind keeping scalloped potatoes center stage

Since many ovens have their heating element located at the top of the unit, this makes it one of the hottest areas. Not to mention that since hot air always rises, this concentration of heat towards an oven's upper rack is also part of the reason why this spot is typically avoided when baking scalloped potatoes. But, that doesn't mean that the bottom or sides of the oven can't get just as hot given their proximity to sources of heat. Naturally, this only leaves the middle of the oven as a viable option.

Despite the risk of oven hot spots, when food is placed in an oven's most central location — think the middle area of the middle rack — it's not only equally spaced from all heating elements, but hot air is also able to better circulate around the food as it cooks. When it comes to scalloped potatoes, this means that all layers can more thoroughly bake as the risk of burning is greatly minimized. 

That said, although using the middle oven rack may provide you with insurance against charring, it might also have the power to limit browning. Should you notice that halfway through baking only one side is becoming golden, rotate the dish so that all parts of it can crisp up. After all, placement is everything when it comes to baking a batch of scalloped potatoes.