If you’ve taken a walk through the appliances at a store lately, you may have noticed the word Convection popping up on more and more ovens or ranges. Convection cooking capabilities have become much more common over the last decade. But what exactly makes a Convection Oven different from a Conventional Oven?
Conventional or Traditional Ovens
To better understand the difference, let’s first talk about how most Convention or Traditional Ovens work. This is the type of ovens many of us are familiar with. The main heat source can usually be found at the bottom of the oven in the form of a Burner or Bake Element, but there may also be a Broil Element or Burner at the top as well.
After the Element heats up or the Burner has ignited, they stay on until the oven reaches the selected temperature. Once it has, the heat source usually cycles on and off, cooling and heating it in order to maintain that temperature. The heat surrounds the food to cook it, although not necessarily evenly.
Conventional Ovens are notorious for heat pockets. Much of the time the bottoms of foods will cook quicker than the tops or the lower rack will get hotter than top rack. But this is something we’ve kind of gotten used to. We’ve gotten into the habit of rotating the pans or switching racks halfway through.
Convection Ovens are designed to avoid these issues by more evenly distributing heat, using a fan and exhaust system. Much like a conventional oven there will either be an Element or Burner as a heat source, but instead of being at the bottom it’s usually in the back behind the fan. The fan gently blows the heat directly on the food rather than unevenly surrounding it.
This helps the food to cook more evenly and can even speed up the cooking process. Convection cooking can be great for meats or vegetables, breaded foods, and even some cookies. But it can also potentially dry things like pasta bakes out or make more delicate baked goods lopsided because it blows the batter.
The problem with Convection cooking is that it can take a bit of trial and error. Most recipes have been written to combat the inefficiencies of conventional ovens, assuming that the bottom will get hotter. Your food may look done on top but won’t be in the middle or the crust of something may not brown the way you expect it to.
Many models will now automatically adjust down the temperature for you, typically between 10 an 25 degrees lower. You might also find that you need to check on your food at the 3/4 point of the cook time since many convection ovens will cook around 20% faster than a conventional oven.
So which is better?
When it comes right down to it, it’s all about personal preference. Once you’ve nailed down the adjustments, you may be extremely happy using a Convection Oven. But you also may be happier with the results using a Conventional Oven. Some models even give you the option to switch the convection feature on and off, so you can enjoy the pros of both. In the end it’s all about what you feel comfortable using and what you think will work the best for you!
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Written by: Sarah Walker