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Why 350°F is the magic number for baking

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Ever notice the first step in baking is almost always to preheat the oven to 350 degrees? What’s so magical about this number and why is it that so many recipes call for it? Vox serves up the science behind baking.

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The magic of cooking at 350 degrees isn’t magic at all, but chemistry. It is, for example, the level associated with the Maillard Reaction, the chemical process that gives so many foods a complex flavor profile—and an appealing golden-brown hue—when sugar and protein are heated together just so.

For most of human history, bakers had very little control over the heat of their ovens and hearths. The earliest ovens were giant pits filled with hot coals or burning wood, and though technology improved over the millennia, the basic concept remained the same through the beginning of the 20th century. As a result, estimating oven temperature was more art than science.

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