How to tell when banana bread is done: avoiding underbaked quick bread

Have you ever cut open a loaf of banana bread (or any quick bread, for that matter), and found, to your great chagrin, a sphere of gooey, uncooked batter in the center?

You sigh; you salvage both ends of the loaf. But there’s no choice except to cut the heart out of your bread (literally!), and throw it away.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

How sad is that?

What’s the best way to ensure that your banana bread, pumpkin bread, or zucchini bread is baked all the way through — the center perfect, the sides not tough and overbaked, the top crust a deep golden brown but not burned?

How to avoid undercooked banana bread: a quick bread challenge solved. Click To Tweet

Here are five things you can do to ensure that banana bread — or any quick bread — is perfectly baked every time.

Make sure your oven is calibrated correctly

If your recipe calls for baking bread at 350°F, and your oven’s actual temperature is 315°F (despite it being set to 350°F), your bread isn’t going to be done when you think it is.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Solution: at least one external (portable) oven thermometer, a thermometer you can hang from (or rest on) your oven’s center rack.

I use two thermometers, so I can double check them against one another; if they register the same temperature (or within a few degrees), then I know they’re accurately reading the oven’s temperature.

Preheat your oven thoroughly

My oven tells me (BEEP!) it’s fully preheated in 10 minutes. Liar liar, pants on fire! It actually takes my oven nearly 25 minutes of preheating to reach 350°F.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

How do you know when your oven is fully preheated?

Set your oven temperature to 350°F, and turn it on. Start a timer. Use an external (portable) oven thermometer (see above) to accurately gauge the oven’s temperature.

When your oven reaches the desired temperature, stop the timer and see how long it took. Going forward, assume this amount of time is necessary for preheating.

Obviously the time will vary depending on what temperature you’re preheating to, but the amount of time needed to preheat your oven to 350°F is a good benchmark.

Position the pan in the oven optimally

I used to have a lot of trouble with my quick breads having a thin uncooked layer right at the top. Solution? Moving the oven rack up a notch, so it’s closer to the heating element (6” from element to pan rim; yes, I measured). To prevent the top crust from burning, I tent the bread with aluminum foil for the final third of its baking time (typically 20 to 25 minutes).

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Now, that’s what works for me; if you have an oven with a bottom heating element, you may want to position the pan closer to the bottom — or not. Experiment until you find the best spot in your oven for optimal quick-bread baking.

Test for doneness using a thermometer

You know how you stick a toothpick or cake tester into the center of a baking cake to see if it’s done? This works with quick breads, as well — some of the time.

Other times, if the batter is “textured” with bits of banana or zucchini, or added chips or dried fruit, the test is unreliable.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Instead of using a cake tester or toothpick to test quick bread, try using a thin-bladed knife (like a paring knife). Push the blade into the center; draw it out. You may or may not see any wet batter or moist crumbs clinging to the blade.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Repeat the test; I’ve found that oftentimes the first insertion doesn’t yield any telltale wet batter, but the second one does. If after two or three attempts the knife doesn’t show any wet batter, you’re probably good to go.


The only truly reliable tool I’ve found for testing the doneness of quick bread is a digital thermometer.

When you think your bread is done, stick the thermometer straight down through the top-center of the loaf. Gradually draw it out, checking readings along the way. You’ll see the temperature drop as the probe moves from bottom to center, then rise again as you start to withdraw it.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

When the center of your bread is baked through a thermometer will register between 200°F and 205°F. No part of your loaf should be below 200°F — except perhaps the very top, which may produce an unreliable reading due to the thermometer’s tip being partially exposed to room-temperature air. Note: For those of you baking gluten-free quick breads, your finished temperature should be 205°F to 210°F.

Know your own oven, pan, and recipe — and take notes

Did you ever wonder why your mom’s brownies are always perfect and yours are always overbaked?

Because you’re using her recipe, and your mom’s oven might bake very differently than your own. Know your oven.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Your favorite old glass pan might bake more slowly than that new stainless steel pan you tried; which in turn will bake more slowly than your workhorse aluminum pan. Know your pan.

Your zucchini bread seems to bake more quickly than pumpkin bread. And that lemon bread? Done WAY before your banana bread. Know your recipe.

The takeaway here? Take notes as you bake: what pan you use, how long you preheat your oven, where you position your oven rack, whether or not you tent the loaf with aluminum foil towards the end.

Are you adding chocolate chips? Substituting honey for some of the brown sugar? Any change you make to your original recipe may change its baking time.

How to tell when banana bread is done via @kingarthurflour

Write those changes down. And next time you bake your favorite banana bread you won’t have to wonder, “Is it done?” You’ll know.

Can underbaked quick bread be saved?

If you’ve cut into a loaf of quick bread and discovered its center is raw, it’s no use putting it back into the oven. Its edges and crust will dry out before the interior cooks.

Better to cut that soggy interior into slices and cook them on a griddle. Fry up some bacon, plate your banana “French toast,” and no one will be the wiser!

Want to customize this banana bread to YOUR taste? Use our interactive recipe generator to tweak the ingredients and create your very own personalized banana bread recipe!

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Cindy Stutz

    My son’s neighbor gave me a tip on banana bread
    baking instead of using 1 large bread pan she split them up to smaller pans. The baking time was cut to 45 min and I agree 200 is overdone. so I use 190 -195 range I add extra banana. I take the larger 1 loaf pan recipe double it, add 2 extra bananas, we love nuts so I take 1 cup coarsely chopped Walnuts and roast them in the oven for 10 min 1st fold them into the batter last. I also freeze my bananas 1st before using them, thaw them, they fall right out of the skins and easily mash. I make 5 smaller loaves and freeze a couple for later use or use them as gifts. They freeze perfectly and thaw quickly and are just as moist and delicious as the day I made them.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ash, we’ve not found that to be the case in our test kitchen, but if 195° has been working well in your kitchen, keep doing what works! Kat@KAF

  2. Vera

    Thank you for this helpful article. I happen to be a veteran baker. I love my banana bread recipe, which I measure the banana by volume (2 cups), but I’m having difficulty striking the right balance. If I bake for the full hour in the center of my perfectly calibrated gas oven at 350º, the outer 40% of the bread loses the soft pillowy texture that I love. It gets dry and the top gets way too crusty brown, while the center is almost overly moist.

    If I cut the time by 10-15 minutes (I’ve tried every increment), the center is undercooked but the outer 40% is perfect. I don’t hate the undercooked center. It almost has a wet bread-pudding texture. I have never thrown an undercooked version away, and I’ve never encountered any problems eating it. But I would like to find a way to improve on this result.

    I use a very old glass Pyrex loaf dish. I love the size and shape of its slices. I oil and flour the sides, and my batter is mixed to French standards. My batter is never over-mixed.

    I thought about cutting back on banana. I thought about possible tenting. I even considered baking it bain marie style. I can easily use my ThermoWorks to check the temperature. I prefer doing that, because the knife never shows the actual truth on this recipe. But, again, if I go for the correct internal temperature, the outer 40% will be a fail for me.

    Any thoughtful suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Vera! The easiest solution is to step away from the Pyrex and use a light colored metal pan instead. Glass tends to fry the outside edge of your baked goods long before the center has a chance to set and it winds up leaving you with the dry-edged loaf with a pudding-y middle you’re describing.

      The other solution, if you want to use the Pyrex, will take some trial and error. In general, we always recommend lowering the oven temperature by 25°F if you’re using a glass pan, and extending the bake time a bit until the center has fully baked. You still may get dry edges, but it should be less than 40%.

      Lastly, and this is definitely in the realm of experimentation, you can rig up some homemade “cake strips” (or use real ones if you have them and they’ll fit around the pan) to wrap about your Pyrex to insulate it. To make a homemade one, dampen some rag strips in water, squeeze out the excess, and fully wrap the rags in tin foil, form a snake that you can wrap around the pan. You’ll still want to lower the oven temperature y 25°F and the bake time will likely be longer. It will also decrease the likelihood of a dome forming. Best of luck in your banana bread quest! Annabelle@KAF

    2. Vera

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I don’t have cake strips, but I can certainly wrap the sides and bottom of my Pyrex in wet, baby-diaper cotton. And then I can encase that in a smooth layer of heavy-duty tinfoil. That sounds like it would be a worthy experiment. Would this method be dramatically different from simply surrounding the Pyrex with water?

    3. The Baker's Hotline

      Maybe not dramatically different but different. The foil will cover the full sides of the pan, and the foil is also reflective and it helps deflect some of the heat away from the pan, preventing it from getting too hot. Let us know if it helps! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Ellen James

    A friend gave me a loaf of banana bread as a hostess gift. She apologized as she handed it to me because the “sunken” top. Of course, it tasted delicious, but I told her I’d try to find out why the top “sunk.” I’ve had loaves “crack” along the top, but I have never had one “sink.” Any suggestions?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Ellen, that’s an excellent question! A banana bread that sinks in the middle after it’s been removed from the oven is probably just a bit underbaked. On the other hand, if it sinks while it’s still baking, there’s a good chance that the ingredients were over-mixed. You only want to stir the batter the minimum amount to get the ingredients all combined, and having some lumps in it is totally fine. Happy baking! Kat@KAF

    2. Ellen

      Thanks for the info. I’ll pass it along to my friend. By the way, I’m only now seeing your response. A few minutes ago, I posted the same question in one of the other “quick bread” blogs.

  4. Lindy

    Hello PJ,
    The temperature for quick bread is illuminating. I have been suffering from undercooked quick breads and am baking zucchini loaves right now. I used a streusel topping so am even more concerned about testing for doneness. My question – what about my oven probe thermometer? Would that be as good as using the instant read type? And -maybe even better as the oven will sound the alarm when it reaches that temperature?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi there, Lindy. We’re glad that this bit of information has provided some reassurance when baking your quick breads! You could certainly try using the oven probe thermometer with an alarm set to alert you when the center reaches the desired temp, but we wouldn’t suggest relying solely on that alone. We’ve all been fooled by oven thermometers, so we would suggest also setting a timer for your standard baking time and checking it as you normally would— just using the internal temperature as another indicator for doneness. Happy baking! Morgan@KAF

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