Faster, cooler and energy efficient baking

Barbecue weather is mostly gone and the holidays are on the horizon.  I am re-acquainting myself with my oven.  As with much of my technology, I only use a fraction of the tools at my disposal.  Even though recipes rarely call for the convection setting, I am determined to master the convection and convection-bake features on my oven.  Convection cooking is faster than baking and cooks at a lower temperature, so it is energy efficient. Lots of professional chefs rely on convection.

Here is what I’ve found out:,

Regular ovens cook with radiant/thermal heat which is gentle.  On the bake setting, heat comes from the bottom element and travels in a straight line to whatever is cooking.  If you put one cookie sheet on the top shelf and one on the bottom, the bottom sheet will block heat from the top sheet. The cookies will brown faster on the bottom.

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The convection oven has the same bottom oven heat source, a top broiler and a third heating element located next to a fan (with a special exhaust system) which circulates eat evenly around the food from all three heat sources.  Hot air blows around the food and it cooks more consistently and quickly than bake alone.  You use heat more efficiently so you have the option of using lower temperatures.

If you want to try to cook your favorite recipes on the convection setting, the rule of thumb is to lower the temperature by 25-30 degrees F and food will cook 25% faster than on bake.   Don’t open the oven door any more than necessary as all that circulating hot air will escape.

In general, convection cooking is great for…

Roasting

Convection cooking tends to be dryer than baking because the circulating air seals the moisture into the food.  In meats, fats render rapidly and seal in juices. Vegetables get brown outside while their interiors are moist because sugars caramelize.

Cookies

You can place trays on each oven shelf and the circulating air will cook them evenly and quickly.  No need to rotate pans.

Pies and croissants

Butter melts and steams quickly, making dough rise.  It creates lift in pie crusts and pastries.

Dehydrating and toasting

Convection cooking tends to take moisture out of food, so it is efficient for toasting nuts and dehydrating fruits and meat.

Covered casseroles

Convection cooking will require about 25% less time in the oven.

 

When NOT to cook with convection…

Cakes, Soufflés, Custards

Blowing air around food with batter which needs to ‘set’ can cause lop-sided results.  Use conventional baking settings.

Breads

Convection cooking tends to brown the bread and create a crust, but it may also dry out the inside of the loaf.  Experts disagree on whether to use convection for bread baking.  You may need to experiment with a favorite recipe.

There are more than simple bake and convection options on some oven.  Here are some possible settings.

Bake – Uses the lower heat element
Surround Bake – Uses the lower element and the broiler (top element)
Pure Convection – Uses the convection element and a fan. This is great for roasts and frozen convenience foods like pizza.  Put cookie trays on three shelves at a time.
Convection Bake – Uses both the convection heat source and the lower heat source (some ovens also use the top/broil heat source) with the fan.  Use for single rack convection baking like apple crisp, pies and popovers.

While most recipes can be adapted to convection cooking, here are links to a few recipes which the experts have already adapted to convection.

Passionfruit Pavlova

Icelandic Chocolate Soufflés

Cherry Chocolate Chunk Cookies, video

Perfect Convection Roast Chicken

How to Roast a Turkey in a Convection Oven