Not too long ago, convection ovens were all the rage for passionate cookers and bakers. They weren’t often seen outside of professional kitchens, but were thought to cook far better than regular ovens. Today, just about every modern kitchen has one, or at least the option to select convection baking, but very few actually know how to use this setting.
Before you get years down the road, only to realize you’ve never utilized this convenient option on your oven, check out our “how to use convection oven” explanation below along with some helpful tips.
How Does a Convection Oven Work?
To start to understand how to use convection ovens, you should know that “convection” is actually a setting on your oven, not the oven itself. You can turn this setting on by pushing the “convection” button or turning the switch on, depending on your model. Once this setting is selected, your oven will begin baking using convection heat. With this off, it will bake as a regular oven.
But what does convection heat mean exactly? Convection ovens will heat just like regular ovens, but a fan and exhaust system will also engage by blowing and pulling hot air throughout the oven around the food. This means that the air around your food will maintain a steady temperature, rather than rising and falling. This allows your food to cook more quickly and more evenly. Plus, with the exhaust system, moisture will be pulled out of the oven making your food crisper and browner.
To understand the difference with how to use convection ovens versus regular ovens — or your oven with the convection button switched off — you should note that regular ovens cook by your oven heating the air around your food. This heat is then conducted throughout the rest of the food. Basically, the outer parts of the food are heated by the hot air of the oven, and the inner parts are heated by the already-heated outer parts of the food. In other words, the food cooks itself. However, since the outer parts are exposed to higher temperatures roasts turn brown on the outside, pie crusts get crispy while the filling stays soft, and so forth.
How to Convert Recipes for a Convection Oven
Every baking or cooking recipe that uses an oven will specify the time for baking along with the temperature. However, because convection ovens cook differently than traditional ovens, you will need to convert the cook time or the temperature from what it says in the recipe.
Thankfully, converting is extremely easy and is a simple matter of either shortening the cooking time or lowering the temperature (sometimes you may need to do both). The simplest approach is to set your convection oven 25 to 50 degrees lower than your recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe says 400 F, you will want to drop it to 350 or 375 F.
Take note though: Some convection ovens are smart enough that they will adjust the heat for you. This means that if you set it to 350 F according to the recipe, your convection oven may reset itself to 325 F to compensate. To know whether or not your oven will do this, check the owner’s manual.
Your adjustments may also depend on what you’re baking. If you’re wondering how to use convection oven for baking cookies and pies, you will want to lower the temperature by 25 degrees. For roasting meats, you’ll want to lower by 50 degrees. If you want to take the guess work out this, most owner’s manuals will also specify the correct adjustments you need to make for that specific model.
As a different approach, you can adjust your cooking time rather than the temperature. To do this, simply shorten the recipe cooking time by 25 percent.
Extra Tips for Using a Convection Oven
Here are a few more helpful tips for how to use convection oven.
- Because convection ovens push hot air around, the surface of your food will cook faster. This means the convection setting is great for roasting large cuts of meat like prime rib or beef roasts. Note, however, that the outside of your roasts can dry out quickly, so take this into account while adjust temperature and cook time. Your manual should offer guidelines with respect to the positioning of your shelves.
- Roasts and beef can be consumed with semi-uncooked centers, but meats like turkey and chicken must be cooked thoroughly. You can either lower the temperature or shorten the cooking time to compensate for different meats.
- Additionally, since convection ovens will use a fan to blow the air forward, you will want to use pans with low sides to maximize this effect. Also, don’t cover your food, unless the recipe specifically calls for it.
- Not all foods will fare well in convection ovens. These are generally foods that start off as liquid batters such as quick breads and cakes.
- Since convection ovens produce even heat, it will eliminate hot spots; you won’t need to rotate your pans when baking cookies.
How to use Convection Oven Microwave
Similar to convection ovens, there are many wonderful convection oven microwaves on the market today. Although they tend to be more expensive than other microwaves, they are more affordable than ovens and take up less space and power. This means that if you are renting or have a small kitchenette for an AirBnB or trailer, a convection oven microwave may be the better option over a bulky oven.
Knowing how to use convection oven microwave is very similar to a standard convection oven, they use the same technology to evenly heat and cook whatever you place in there. However, some will give you the option to cook with microwave radiation only, convection only, or both at the same time.
Note that when you are microwaving something you would use a traditional microwave — such as when popping popcorn or reheating leftovers — you simply need to use the traditional microwave setting and follow all other microwave rules: no metal pans, utensils or racks, and cover the food.
You would then select the convection setting for baked goods, or other things you want to have a crispy exterior like vegetables or roast meat. Be sure to elevate the food with a rack so the hot air can also circulate under the pan.
Knowing how to use convection oven microwave is really as simple as following the above steps. It can also pay off to study the manual once you first get your microwave oven to ensure that aren’t any other helpful tips or tricks for your specific model.