Before diving into when you should be using your convection oven, let’s first answer the common question: What is a convection oven? Also referred to as a fan-assisted oven, convection ovens use fans and an exhaust system to move hot air around food while ventilating it back out. Traditionally convection ovens produce more dry air as opposed to the humid air of a conventional oven.
Now regarding when to use a convection oven, or under which circumstances it is best not to use a conventional oven, a good rule of thumb is based on the cooking dish being used. For example, dishes with low-sides or no sides are best suited for cooking in a convection oven — particularly any dish with a lid or foil covering. This includes a roasting pan, casserole dish, pie plate, or cookie sheets.
As you have probably noticed, the best recipes for convection ovens are ones meant to or capable of withstanding high and dry heat. This means any food that’s delicate and cooked in a high-sided dish won’t cook well or evenly in a convection oven. These recipes include cake and bread pans, or any food described as airy or flimsy.
Benefits of a Convection Oven
The immediate benefits experienced when using a convection oven are that it cooks your food faster and more evenly. Another perk is the luxury of cooking multiple dishes at once without risking one overcooking or the other undercooking. The best part is the food will cook the same regardless of where it’s located inside the oven. That means no more searching for the hottest spot inside the oven.
Before ever cooking with a convection oven, most people have already heard about how much faster it cooks food. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s been estimated that a convection oven can cook around 25-30% faster than a conventional oven. With that being said, either make a point of checking on the dish more than usual in order to prevent overcooking or simply cook it the same length of time you’re used to, only 25-degrees Fahrenheit lower than the recipe calls for. Ovens can be finicky, so do your best to track your first few recipes using convection in order to get a feel for the major differences.
Foods to Cook in Your Convection Oven
The best-suited foods for your convection oven tend to be dishes meant for roasting, or meals cooked in a sheet-pan, casserole dish, or baking tray. Some specific recipes include any roasted meats, roasted vegetables, a sheet of cookies or toasted granola, foods requiring crispy skin or caramelization, homemade pies, and anything cooked with a cover.
Foods to Avoid Cooking in Your Convection Oven
The dishes you should avoid cooking within your convection oven is shorter but more specific. Essentially any recipe involving a batter that needs to rise must be cooked in a conventional oven as opposed to a convection oven. Some popular foods that fall under this category include any breads, cakes, souffles, meringues, biscuits, custards and flans.
When it comes to getting used to a new kitchen appliance, we understand the more suggestions the better. So to get started, like with anything in life, practice makes perfect. Don’t just expect to toss a pot roast or batch of chocolate chip cookies into the oven and in half the amount of time than normal it’ll be ready to go. Use your senses. Turn the oven light on and watch from afar. Listen to the sounds emitting from the oven. Hopefully, it smells good. If you don’t think the dish is cooking fully, turn up the temperature. Even though the beauty of a convection oven involves never having to move the dish, maybe try rotating halfway just to compare sides.
Finally, convection fans are prone to displacing lighter items inside the oven. If you’re worried this may happen in the middle of the cooking process, weigh down the tray with something heavy enough to withstand the fan such as a metal fork or spoon. I hope these tips make your convection cooking experience all the more fruitful. Bon appetit, chefs!