The Lower Oven Rack Is King When Baking Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken enchiladas are usually a fairly effort-free dinner option, since all you need to do is roll up some shredded cooked chicken inside of a few flour tortillas, arrange them in a pan, then smother them in enchilada sauce and cheese. Mashed developer Ksenia Prints' chicken enchilada recipe follows the same basic pattern, though she ups the ante by including directions for homemade enchilada sauce. You can always opt for canned enchilada sauce if you're in a hurry, though, and Prints herself takes the shortcut of starting with store-bought rotisserie chicken (which always tastes better than homemade, anyway).

Once the enchiladas are assembled, the only thing left to do is bake them. Prints insists that you do so on the bottom rack of the oven, explaining that "the heat is stronger and more even there." There's no need to fear underbaking the dish, though, since the chicken and sauce are already cooked, as are the tortillas. What you're basically doing here is melting the cheese and making sure that the insides of the enchiladas are warmed up.

How oven rack position affects cooking

So, how much difference does it make which oven rack you use to bake your food? While Ksenia Prints feels that her enchiladas taste best when baked on the bottom rack, many food experts – Ina Garten included — feel that positioning your food on the middle rack is the way to go. That's because the middle rack allows for the best air circulation, so your food will get even heat on all sides. The bottom of the oven, however, does tend to get hotter, since it's closer to the heating element, so the lowest rack is the best choice if you're cooking something like a pizza.

Whether you bake your enchiladas on the bottom or middle racks, though, you may want to move them to the top rack for the last minute or so and switch the oven to broil. This, Prints says, will "give the cheese a bit of a blistering from the top," although she cautions us not to broil for too long, lest it go beyond crispy to burnt.