I bought myself a conventional oven a few months back, well, it’s probably been closer to a year. It has been a learning experience and I thought I would share a few things I have found/learned along the way.
What is the difference between conventional cooking and convection cooking?
A conventional oven uses radiant heat that is heating from the top and/or bottom surfaces. The result is usually an oven with hot and cold spots. What makes a convection oven stand apart is the internal fan that circulates the hot air, creating an evenly heated environment for the food. The biggest advantage to having a steady supply of heat surrounding and penetrating the food is that all your meat, produce, and baked goods will cook faster and brown more evenly. The other is the energy-efficient factor.
What are some of the best tips?
1. Lower the temperature by 25°F.
Because heating and cooking is so efficient in a convection oven, you usually don’t need quite as high a temperature to get the same results. A good rule of thumb is to set the oven to about 25°F below the recommended temperature of your recipe.
2. Check food frequently toward the end of cooking.
Also thanks to all this efficiency, your foods will usually cook a little more quickly than usual. Check on your food halfway through the recommended cooking time to gauge how quickly cooking seems to be coming along, and then check more frequently near the end of cooking. Go by how your food looks and smells to tell when it’s done, rather than by the timer. As you get used to baking with the convection setting, you’ll get a better feel for how quickly certain things cook and can feel more confident predicting the timing.
3. Don’t crowd the oven.
Because convection relies on air being able to circulate, be careful of overcrowding the oven and blocking the flow of air. The food will still cook, but the cooking will be less efficient and you’ll lose the advantage of the convection setting. It’s fine to bake on multiple racks, but try not to fill the racks wall-to-wall.
4. Use low-sided baking sheets and roasting pans.
The convection setting also works best if you use low-sided pans or rimless baking sheets, especially when baking cookies or roasting vegetables. This allows for better air circulation around the food and helps crispy foods become even crisper. (Although note that this is less important for things like casseroles and cakes, which rely on the high sides of their pans to hold their shape and where crisping isn’t as important.)
5. Don’t use convection for cooking cakes, quick breads, custards, or soufflés.
While these dishes would benefit from the steady heat, the movement of the air from the fan and exhaust system can cause them to cook unevenly or to rise less impressively. Custards can also form an unpleasant crust on the surface as they dry out in the wicking action of the oven.