Convection ovens are the norm in most commercial kitchens and they are becoming popular in home kitchens. But how does the home cook use this tool effectively?
What Is a Convection Oven?
Convection ovens may be gas or electric. The difference between a convection oven and a traditional oven (radial or thermal) is that the convection oven has the added bonus of a fan. The fan circulates the hot air, resulting in more even cooking, browning, and crisping.
- Even browning makes food look and taste better and it keeps meats juicier.
- Baked products remain moist and get the most out of convection heating. You will produce some of the best cakes, bread, pies, and muffins to come out of your kitchen.
- There's no need to rotate pans like cookie sheets halfway through the bake because of the even heat distribution. Unless you forget about them, it's hard to burn cookies or even get a crunchy bottom.
- Convection shortens cooking times by about 25 percent.
Overall, convection ovens offer a win-win situation for the best foods and the quickest cooking.
Convection Oven Operation
Many current stove models have an optional convection feature. This means that you can use the oven in the traditional manner or turn on the convection option at will. The majority of recipes, however, are written with traditional ovens in mind.
Tip: All ovens vary, so be sure to read the owner's manual for your particular convection oven.
For traditional recipes, cooking time is generally 25 percent less when cooking an uncovered recipe. Start checking for doneness about three-quarters of the way through the recommended cooking time. For example, for a recipe that calls for a 40-minute bake, you should check it at 30 minutes.
If you don't want the hassle of trying to figure out the reduced cooking time, simply reduce the oven temperature 25 F (about 15 C) and use the original cooking time.
Of course, this defeats the benefit of the faster cooking time but it takes less brain-work.
Some convection ovens automatically reduce the temperature by 25 degrees. For instance, if you choose 'Convection Bake" and set it to the "350" called for in the recipe, the oven will adjust and warm to 325 F. If you want a true 350 F, you will need to set it to "375" and this allows you to bake at the quicker time. Again, your owner's manual is key to understanding the particular model you own.
Your Recipes in a Convection Oven
If your recipe calls for covering the food (such as casseroles or Dutch oven dishes), you will most likely need the traditional amount of baking time, so no adjustment should be necessary. If convection is optional on your oven, it's probably best to not even bother using it. Just use the conventional method.
- Center your baking vessel on the oven rack so air can circulate freely and evenly around the food.
- Shallow roasting pans or cookie sheets are recommended.
- Meat roasts and poultry should be placed on a V-rack over a shallow pan.
When food is cooked uncovered in a convection oven, it browns faster. This does not necessarily mean it is done. Be sure to use a meat thermometer or the recommended testing method in the recipe instructions rather than going by outward appearances.
If you are using parchment paper in your pan, you will most likely need to weight down the corners with pie weights so the fan doesn't blow the paper over the food. Silpat or silicone liners are recommended in lieu of parchment paper.
Overall, you will find that you prefer some foods on traditional bake and some on convection bake. It will take some experimentation for your favorite dishes, but once you get it you will be very happy. This is the best part of having the option and why it's worth looking into when shopping for a new oven.