How The Great British Bake Off Makes Sure All The Ovens Work The Same

When it comes to baking and cooking competitions, even the slightest edge can mean a major difference in plated dishes and baked goods. Officials from the UK hit show "The Great British Bake Off" do their best to ensure a fair contest among contestants, fully testing each oven before participants lay their hands on any baking trays.

Well ahead of any of the competing bakers being welcomed into the space, the production crew performs tests to ensure each oven is working by baking Victoria sponge mixtures in a timed, orchestrated fashion. "We mark each one, then get a runner to stand at each station with their cake mix so we can be sure they've all gone into the oven at the same time and can be properly tested," team member Georgia May explained to The Guardian. "We just have to be certain we're fair."

Good-quality kit is part of that fairness. The Neff brand Slide & Hide Oven has been spotted on the show, with retractable doors that offer glimpses of what is baking inside. These ovens are known to save space in kitchens, and with multiple bakers and camera teams moving about the area, the compact, patented appliances keep heat trapped inside with quadruple-glazed doors. Plus, with features such as a special bread-baking function and dough-proofing settings, these single ovens help bakers and cooks perfect recipes and monitor temperatures with relative ease.

A heated environment for competition

However, a former contestant, Chef Theodore Chana told Tasting Table that he recalls the ovens with mixed emotions: During his efforts to cook over 250 perfectly measured choux pastries, he struggled to turn off the oven fan and remembers the workspace to be unusually warm. "I just had to run around everywhere, really." Participants such as Chana receive a pre-show briefing and are granted time before the competition to get used to the set-up, perform test bakes, and orient themselves to the equipment. While bakers can bring scales or molds onto the set, film crews check each piece beforehand. "I brought loads of my own equipment like chisels and a hammer to carve out chocolate," Chana explains. "And I was up until four in the morning making cardboard cutouts." 

As with any competition, timing matters, and "The Great British Bake Off" is no exception. When time is up, that's it. "If you haven't put it on the tray, that's your problem," says Chana. "On one of the shows, I remember having to move away. As much as I wanted to keep working on these key lime pies, I knew I would be disqualified if I didn't step back," he recalls. "But I got through until the next round."  

Would Chana put one of "The Great British Bake Off" ovens in his kitchen? "Oh, absolutely!" he exclaimed. "It was a great oven."