A tray of roasted vegetables and tray of baked lasagna on oven racks.

What oven rack position should I use?

Whether it’s the top, middle or bottom rack, knowing the best oven rack placement for your meals can ensure optimal baking, roasting and broiling. The placement of your oven rack can determine how well meats are cooked or breads are baked. By repositioning your oven racks, you can improve cooking times and enjoy consistent results for every meal. Check out this guide to learn more about best oven rack placements for specific cooking techniques like air frying, roasting poultry, and baking breads, cookies, cakes and pies.

Is oven rack placement important?

Yes. Depending on how many rack placements are in your oven, positioning racks closer or farther from the heating elements has a direct impact on how your food cooks. Most standard, or conventional, ovens have heating elements located at the top and bottom of the oven. Typically, the middle rack is the best location for most foods to cook evenly. But, placing your meals on the highest or lowest rack closest to the heating source can yield faster cooking times and crisping due to the hotter temperatures.

In a convection oven, the air is circulated throughout the oven cavity, which is ideal for multi-rack cooking. True convection ovens add a third heating element and a fan for increased air circulation. While convection ovens can help improve the distribution of heated air and speed up cooking, be mindful that you may need to adjust cooking times and temperature settings to follow recipes made for a standard oven. Some models feature an auto conversion setting that handles this for you, like this gas range with Auto Convect Convection from Maytag brand.

In select models with a basket tray, convection ovens can also be used for air frying, which uses similar techniques as convection cooking by rapidly circulating air. Due to the temperatures and hot air circulation, you have the freedom to simply place your tray and fry without the need to rotate, although shaking the contents can help optimize the results. This range with air fryer and basket from Maytag brand can help you air fry your favorite appetizers and vegetables.

Three salmon filets broiling in an oven. Three salmon filets broiling in an oven.

Top oven rack placement: best for broiling & crisping

Broiling utilizes the top heating element in your oven. Using the uppermost rack applies the highest temperature to the tops of your dishes for fast flavor and crisping. Some ovens also come equipped with a broiling drawer at the bottom of the appliance. Keep in mind that broiling is best used for tender meats or to add a savory crunch or sear to already-cooked food. Some of the best foods to broil are:

  • Salmon, steak and chicken

  • Asparagus, peppers and zucchini

  • Casseroles or dishes needing a browned, crunchy top layer

A pie baking in an oven. A pie baking in an oven.

When to use the middle or center oven rack position

Use the middle or center rack for all-over heating. This rack is the default, multi-purpose position in most ovens due to its placement between the upper and lower heating elements. When in doubt, consider the middle rack an actual happy medium for baking. The center oven rack is best for:

  • Desserts, such as cookies, pies and cakes

  • Pasta, such as lasagna, ziti and macaroni and cheese

  • Banana bread

A pepperoni pizza baking in an oven. A pepperoni pizza baking in an oven.

When should the bottom oven rack position be used?

The bottom oven rack is best used for roasting due to the direct exposure to high heat, as well as browning the underside of certain foods, such as pies or frozen pizzas, for crispy textures. Some of the best meals for the lowest oven rack are:

  • Roasting large items or tough meats, such as turkey or roast beef

  • Baking frozen pizza (if using a pizza stone, be mindful to preheat it on the bottom oven rack)

  • Baking pie

A woman placing a tray of chicken tenders into an oven to air fry. A woman placing a tray of chicken tenders into an oven to air fry.

Best Oven Rack Positions for Popular Cooking Techniques

There are specific oven rack placements that can ensure optimal results when using specific cooking techniques. The recommendations below will guide your oven rack placement, whether you’re looking to air fry, roast meat, or bake breads and desserts.

A basket of chicken tenders air frying in an oven. A basket of chicken tenders air frying in an oven.

Which rack position should you use to air fry in the oven?

Air frying in an oven works best on the upper-middle rack for an all-over heating with close placement to upper heating elements for extra crunch. Keep in mind that some ovens may come equipped with an air frying rack and basket designed for this purpose. Make sure your food is placed in a single layer and spaced out for even exposure to the heat.

A turkey and vegetables roasting in an oven. A turkey and vegetables roasting in an oven.

Where should oven racks be placed for roasting a chicken or turkey?

Chicken is best cooked on the middle rack. The bottom or lowest oven rack is best for roasting larger cuts of meat or whole turkeys. These thick cuts of meat can be cooked at higher temperatures at the bottom of the oven. The top of a turkey will end up positioned in the center of the oven, helping to add a savory brown and crisp outer layer.

Learn how to baste a turkey to retain moisture while cooking on the bottom rack.

Overhead view of berry muffins baking on an oven rack. Overhead view of berry muffins baking on an oven rack.

Which oven rack placement is best for baking bread?

As a general best practice, the middle oven rack is best for baking most types of bread due to the all-around temperatures. However, if you are baking scones or muffins that need a crispy or browned top layer, moving your dish to the upper-third of the oven, just above the center rack, would serve this purpose. Conversely, positioning your bread on the lower racks yields a crunchy underside, like that in focaccia or breads similar to pizza.

Cookie dough clusters on a baking sheet. Cookie dough clusters on a baking sheet.

Which oven rack position should you use when baking cookies?

Cookies should be baked on the center oven rack for even heating and air circulation. As a best practice, is it recommended to rotate the cookie sheet or sheets roughly halfway, or shortly thereafter, through the baking time, if needed. If you are using a convection oven, the rapid air circulation ensures an optimal cooking temperature and eliminates the need to rotate the baking sheets.

A close up of pie crust on an oven rack. A close up of pie crust on an oven rack.

Where to place oven racks when baking cakes or pies

The center oven rack is ideal for baking cakes and other desserts. However, to achieve the flaky and crispy underside of a pie, positioning the racks lower in your oven can help avoid an undercooked crust.

Roasted meat placed on the rack above a baking pan filled with vegetables. Roasted meat placed on the rack above a baking pan filled with vegetables.

Can you use both racks in the oven when baking?

While you can use both racks in a standard oven for baking, it is recommended to rotate the baking pans from rack to rack throughout the cooking cycle, as is custom in baking cookies. However, convection ovens are designed for multi-rack cooking and provide rapid air circulation throughout the oven—eliminating the need to rotate or adjust the cookware. Learn more about how to cook and bake in your oven and how to cook multiple dishes at once.

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