What Is a Convection Oven, and How Is It Different from a Conventional One?
You used to find convection ovens only in professional kitchens, but now they're gaining popularity as a home appliance. So... what exactly is a convection oven?
If you’ve ever peeked inside an oven, and noticed a fan whirring in the back, you’re looking at a convection oven. That fan is its secret to success. The fan circulates heat throughout the oven, evenly cooking whatever’s inside. (You might know that similar technology is used in an air fryer.)
We love convection ovens because they cook a tender pot roast to perfection and bake cookies baked with a golden brown finish. Plus, convection cooking is known for reduced cooking time and improved energy efficiency.
Convection Ovens vs. Conventional Ovens
Your conventional oven uses a single heating element, usually located on the top or the bottom of the oven. It can result in hot and cold spots within the oven. As Whirlpool’s Institute of Home Science explains, “In a traditional oven, the rack closest to the heat source would have the highest temperature, with the rack furthest away having the lowest.” You can see why it’s all about the fan when it comes to convection ovens!
The fan blowing hot air around each rack ensures a consistent temperature throughout the whole oven.
When to Use the Convection Setting
The circulation of warm air in convection baking results in evenly browned surfaces—think poultry skin, pork roast and double-crust fruit pies. It’s great for roasted vegetables, roasted meats and of course, cookies. It also means that two pans of cookies baking at the same time on the upper and lower oven racks will bake evenly without having to rotate the pans. But don’t overcrowd! The air needs room to circulate.
Pie Crust and Puff Pastry
The hot, dry air produced in a convection bake setting is ideal for pie crust and puff pastry because the water in the fat evaporates quickly creating the beautiful, crisp flaky layers. This cranberry apple pie is a great candidate for convection baking. Check on the pie about 10 minutes before the end of the anticipated bake time to ensure that it doesn’t get overly browned.
While soft, chewy cookies will benefit from traditional baking at a precise time and temp, a crisp cookie will benefit from the drier, hotter climate in convection baking. Try these crisp sugar cookies on convection bake—but run a sample first to test the temp and bake time.
Crusty, artisan-style breads also benefit from convection as long as there is some steam during “oven spring.” This steam can be created by placing a pan of hot water on your oven floor or spraying water on the hot oven floor at the beginning of the bake. Some recipes call for the dough to be covered for the beginning of the bake to create that steam like this crusty homemade bread. Again, the total baking time may need some adjustment for convection.
When Not to Use the Convection Setting
You’ll want to skip the convection setting with certain recipes, though. Let your chewy cookies, cheesecakes and custards traditional bake. These dishes will have unwelcome browning and dryness if baked in a convection oven.
Tips for Successful Convection Cooking
So now that you know the benefits of cooking with a convection oven—are there any other tricks to the method? Of course! We have a few tips for convection success:
- The Taste of Home Test Kitchen bakes off one or two cookies before tackling the whole batch. You want to be able to adjust the baking time and temperature for the best results.
- Reduce your oven temperature by 25° F. Your oven may automatically reduce the temp by 25° F when convection bake is selected. To find out if your oven does this, consult the manual. You don’t want to find out the hard way that you reduced the temp unnecessarily and now your cookies are underbaked and overspread!
- Check your food 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the recipe suggests.
- The most important element is air circulation. So allow a couple of inches above and below each item you’re cooking.
- Use dishes with low sides (like cookie sheets) for optimal airflow.