A lot of people are often puzzled as to why their dinner or dessert didn't turn out quite right, even though they followed a recipe exactly. One of the reasons could be because they are using a convection oven rather than the conventional oven that most households have in North America. Convection ovens are typically found in commercial kitchens, but are now becoming popular in many home kitchens, too.
What Is a Convection Oven?
First of all, convection ovens can run on either gas or electric energy, but most are electric. What makes a convection oven different from a conventional oven is that a convection oven has a built-in fan and exhaust system. The fan helps circulate hot air for better cooking, browning, and crisping.
The Benefits of Convection Ovens
Since there's a fan inside that helps circulate the hot air in a convection oven, it heats up more quickly and evenly than in a conventional oven. That means food will cook or bake a lot faster. Meats are juicier and baked goods are a lot more moist when cooked with a convection oven. Your desserts will also bake a lot more evenly—you won't even have to rotate your baking trays. And, they're great for cooking savory roasts, casseroles, and anything else that is covered like a braise. However, they are not so good for making custards, cakes, souffles, or quickbreads.
Convection ovens also help shorten cooking times by roughly 25%. Since convection ovens can cook your food fast, they're much more energy efficient and better for the environment as a result.
How to Operate a Convection Oven
The operation will depend on what kind of oven you have, since all ovens greatly vary. You'll want to read your owner's manual for your specific convection oven to make sure you get the best results.
Some ovens will have an optional convection feature, which means you can use it as a convection or conventional oven. This is definitely helpful depending on what you're cooking.
Since more recipes are designed for conventional ovens, you will need to adjust the temperature when using your convention oven. Ideally, you should drop the temperature down by 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, because cooking time with a convection oven is typically 25% faster than otherwise, make sure you check on your food sooner than you normally would using a conventional oven. As a general rule, it's good to check for doneness about 2/3 and 3/4 of the way through the recommended cooking time.
Cooking With a Convection Oven
If you are making a casserole or some other recipe that requires you to cover your food, you should follow the traditional amount of baking time instead of adjusting the time or turning down the temperature. In fact, if you need to have the food covered in order to cook it properly, it might be easier to use a conventional oven.
However, when you cook food with a convection oven, it browns a lot faster. This is great for when you want to crisp up your food. It's important to remember that browning doesn't mean it is fully cooked. You should always use a meat thermometer or another form of testing method to make sure your food is actually done.
When using a convection oven, always place your dish or baking tray in the center of the oven rack so the air can circulate freely and evenly all around your food. If you are making a meat roast or poultry, you should place it on a v-rack over a shallow pan. Shallow roasting pans and shallow baking sheets are recommended when using a convection oven.
Silpat brand non-stick baking products or silicone liners are typically recommended over parchment paper, because the fan will blow the paper over your food. If you prefer to use parchment paper, just make sure to weigh down the corners.