Oven temperature conversions: Master vintage recipes with these 3 useful tools

Recipe help Oven temperature conversion chart for baking and cooking

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Taking on some old fashioned recipes? Optimize your success with the correct oven temperature conversions!

Cooking with vintage recipes can be a fun and interesting way to explore the history of cooking and try new dishes, but it can also present a number of challenges.

Many of the vintage recipes featured on this site have very old-fashioned — and often vague — cooking directions. The older the recipe, the more cryptic it may seem.

One of the main challenges is the lack of precise cooking temperature instructions. Many vintage recipes will simply state “bake in a moderate oven” or “boil until done,” without providing a specific temperature. This can make it difficult to know exactly how hot the oven or stove should be, leading to frustratingly under- or overcooked dishes.

Another challenge is that cooking temperatures and techniques have changed over time, so a recipe that was written decades (or even a century) ago may not reflect the best way to cook a dish today.

For example, many vintage recipes were written for gas stoves (and before that, for wood burning stoves!), which can be difficult to accurately regulate, while modern electric stoves are more precise. This can make it difficult to know how to adjust the temperature for a recipe written for a gas stove on an electric stove.

ALSO SEE: Vintage recipes: Glossary of 44 helpful cooking terms & definitions

Solutions for oven temperature conversions

One way to deal with these challenges is to use a cooking thermometer (like one of these) to ensure that the oven or stove is at the right temperature — which is a good habit to get into when baking, anyway, since precise temperature control can be critical to the dish turning out right.

You can also try to find modern versions of vintage recipes that have been adapted for use with modern cooking equipment and techniques.

Overall, cooking with old-fashioned recipes can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of the challenges and take steps to address them in order to achieve the best results. Here we have a few charts to help you determine the best cooking temperature vintage oven-baked recipes.

Found a vintage oven-baked recipe that just says “cook in moderate oven” — or one with degrees listed in celsius?  Here’s a chart to help you convert that temperature in Fahrenheit.

Then read on after the chart for some more helpful insight into the best baking temperatures for different kinds of foods — even when the original vintage instructions are extremely vague by our modern standards!

Oven temperature conversions

Old-fashioned oven heat terms, or convert degrees in Celsius to Fahrenheit

Cooking heat
° F
° C
Very slow
Moderately slow
Moderately hot
Very hot

MORE: Old-fashioned cooking measurements & equivalents

Oven temperature conversions for cooking & baking (1935)

From The Weekly Kansas City Star (Missouri) March 13, 1935

A question of real importance to the young housewife who, armed with a cookbook, sets out to bake her first pan of biscuits, is “how hot is hot?”

The old-fashioned terms, “slow oven,” “moderate oven” and “hot oven,” are little help even to an experienced housewife, for the line of demarcation is small, and it is difficult to know when a slow oven becomes a moderate one.

Oven temperature conversions: Old-fashioned tips for choosing the right oven temperature so your turkey turns out perfect, not burned to a crisp
The right oven temperature conversions will help retro recipes turn out perfectly in your modern appliance!

Mrs Ida A Fenton, an Arkansas extension economist in household management, suggests an oven thermometer to take the guesswork out of oven temperatures, and a chart to draw a plain line of differentiation.

A very slow oven is from 250 to 300 degrees; a slow oven, 300 to 325 degrees; a moderate oven, 325 to 400 degrees; a hot oven, 400 to 450 degrees, and a very hot oven, 450 to 550 degrees, says Mrs. Fenton.

In baking, it must be remembered that the hotter the oven, the crisper the pastry will be.

Biscuits require ten to fifteen minutes at about 450 degrees; corn muffins require twenty to thirty minutes at about 400 degrees; gingerbread, about fifty minutes at about 350 degrees, and apple pie with uncooked filling, 425 degrees for thirty-five to forty minutes, followed by ten to fifteen minutes at 375 degrees.

Pumpkin or custard pie is placed in a 425-degree oven for twenty minutes, when the heat should be reduced to 325 degrees for twenty-five minutes.

A meringue, lemon or cream pie requires a 300-degree oven for fifteen minutes. A baked custard is placed in a pan of water and the oven held at 325 degrees.

Meats are seared at 450 to 500 degrees, and then the temperature is reduced. Beef is well roasted at twenty to thirty minutes to the pound at 400 degrees.

Pork and mutton require thirty minutes per pound in a 350-degree oven after searing. Fowl is cooked covered at 350 degrees.

A hot oven of 450 degrees is required for fluffy baked Irish potatoes. If they are unusually large, the temperature should be reduced at about thirty minutes to around 400 degrees. Sweet potatoes bake best at about 325 to 350 degrees.

Correct oven temperature conversions influence baking success (1957)

Adapted from an article by Kay M Murphy – Transcript-Telegram (Holyoke, Massachusetts) September 11, 1957

And should you be in doubt as to just where that little oven thermometer indicator should be, here are some timely suggestions taken from that dependable publication, “What’s New in Home Economics.”

1970s family having chicken with biscuits for dinner


Moderate temperature for a sponge or butter cake, slow oven for honey fruit cake, keep crumb properly moist, make crust tender, golden brown. Too hot an oven produces a dry texture, heavy dark crust, and burned taste.


Quick baking in a hot oven is needed to retain the shape of the shell, give delicate brown color, and develop flavor. Too hot an oven causes overbrowning, burned taste. Too slow an oven can cause pastry to slump, dry, and be unattractively pale.


Moderate temperature allows proper rising, and makes a tender crust. Too slow an oven leads to a heavy texture, a moist and pale crust. Too hot an oven can cause excess peaking of top, compact interior texture, and heavy, over-browned crust.


Moderate oven for most kinds, slow oven for some, make for a tender golden crust, properly baked crumb, fully-developed flavor. Too hot an oven can make crust too brown, and leave crumb underbaked. Too slow-oven makes crust pale, crumb dry.


A slow oven allows for rising to full height, making for a delicate crust and properly moist interior texture. Too high a temperature makes the crust heavy, may cause the interior to be too moist, and have an undercooked flavor.


Slow baking in a slow oven keeps the texture creamy smooth, free from separated liquid, and blends flavor thoroughly. Too high or changing temperature may cause liquid to separate, dark, rubbery crust to form, interior to be undercooked.

ALSO SEE: How to bake a cake: Tips & checklists from the cake-baking masters of the 50s

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. I have some recipies of my grandmothers that call for a “5 minute over” or a “6 minute oven”. Does anyone know what temperatures these would correspond to?

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