How to Cook With a Convection Oven
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How to get the best results with your convection oven—plus recipes and tips
Convection ovens—long a mainstay of professional kitchens—continue to gain popularity with home cooks, many of whom either opt for the compact countertop versions or purchase an oven with a convection setting. The allure of faster cooking times, evenly cooked food, and the oven's improved energy efficiency is hard to ignore. However, for anyone new to cooking with convection ovens, there is a learning curve that often requires adjustments to either time or temperature—and sometimes both. If you're trying to figure out how best to cook with your convection oven, we've got some helpful advice.
First, a few basic mechanics: A conventional oven uses radiant heat that emanates 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 hot air, creating an evenly heated environment for the food. The most obvious 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.
Experts and manufacturers recommend adjusting any recipe in two ways: either by lowering the oven's temperature by about 25 degrees or by shortening the cooking time by roughly a quarter. Follow the tips below and carefully monitor your first few attempts for browning, texture, and doneness. It may help to record the results—through trial and error, you will quickly get a sense of how your convection oven cooks and what further adjustments should be made.
If the air cannot circulate over and around the food, your convection oven will be ineffective. Trays and baking pans with lower sides allow hot air to flow freely. Use shallow roasting pans and rimless cookie sheets when possible. Try to keep a two-inch clearance on all sides. Shelves should never be covered with aluminum foil. Trays and pans should be placed so they don't hinder effective circulation.
ADJUST THE RECIPE
Variables such as initial oven temperature, quantity of the food, desired level of doneness, and oven model will all affect cooking time. Experiment with your favorite recipes by either dropping the temperature by about 25 to 30°F or shortening the time (10 to 15 percent for cookies and up to 30 percent less for large roasts), or both. Consult your user manuals for specific advice.
Proteins: Fat renders rapidly, sealing in precious juices and leaving a crispy, uniformly brown skin without constant shifting and basting. Fruits and vegetables: The natural sugars start to caramelize more quickly, leaving centers that are creamy and moist, concentrated flavors, and edges that are crisp and golden.
Butter releases steam almost immediately, making the dough rise higher. That means your baked goods will all be flakier, lighter, and loftier. For cookies, take advantage of all available shelf space by baking with several trays at once. Because the fan disperses heat throughout, you won't have to rotate them as often. For the recipe below, bake the cookies at 350°F and start checking for doneness after 8 minutes.
Nuts and grains: Achieve an even, golden hue with far less tossing and turning with a convection oven. Nuts should be toasted in a shallow baking pan so that air can circulate around them. Temperature should remain at 350°F, but check the nuts for browning after 3 to 7 minutes.
Fruits and meats: The convection oven's internal fan helps thinly sliced fruit and jerky dry out more quickly and uniformly than a dehydrator or a conventional oven does.
No matter which cooking method you are using, remember to adjust the temperature and/or cooking time.