What is convection cooking? Is it right for me?

H&H Appliance Center really thrives on convection cooking technology. What do we mean by that? Well, we sell a lot of our products to people who either 1. do not use convection or 2. have not heard of convection cooking or do not know how to use convection technology on their products. Today, we would like to share some of our knowledge about convection cooking versus typical cooking/baking.

Let’s first talk about traditional baking.

Traditional baking in an electric oven

Baking in an electric oven versus a gas oven is different, because the appliances are designed differently, around their heat source. According to Nicole Harms, an Ehow contributor, in an electric oven, large coiled wires are located inside the appliance that heat up in order to cook the food. “There are two sets of these coils, one on the top and one on the bottom. These heating element heat up when electricity is sent to them. The bottom coil of wires is the one that cooks the food when you bake. The dial on the oven controls an internal thermostat. When you turn it to set the temperature, a copper wire that leads to the cooking area is alerted to the temperature that you want. This wire serves as the temperature gauge, and it sends signals to the thermostat to turn on and off based on the temperature inside the oven. The top heating coil is the broiler. This coil will heat to high temperatures very quickly. It does not have a temperature control like the coil on the bottom. It will heat to its highest possible temperature and stay there until you turn it off.” (ehow.com) 

Traditional baking using a gas oven

Isaiah David from eHow gives a great definition of how gas ovens run. Unlike electric ovens, traditional gas ovens A have several burners inside of the appliance which are controlled by a thermostat. “When you turn on your gas oven, an electric lighter ignites the burners. The burners continue to warm the air in the oven until it is above the temperature you selected on the thermostat. The oven then turns off until the temperature drops below the temperature you selected. At that point, it turns on again. Modern gas ovens are well-insulated, so they can stay at the selected temperature with very little additional heating.” (eHow.com)

Now let’s get to the real stuff – convection cooking

What is convection cooking?

It is important to understand how convection cooking is different than traditional cooking  – yes. But it is equally important to understand what convection cooking is, and if it is the best option for you.

Frigidaire gives a great definition of convection cooking that is simple and easy to understand.

“Convection cooking is cooking with the added advantage of airflow circulation, which allows for a more even distribution of heat.”

By using the forced flow of hot air, convection cooking produces the following benefits:

  • Cooking time is approximately 25-30% faster than conventional ovens, saving energy.
  • The more even distribution of heat results in food that is more evenly baked.
  • Generally, less heat is required than with a conventional oven—a convection oven usually cooks at 25°F below a conventional oven’s required temperature.

Let’s take a step back. Convection cooking is possible because ovens with convection capabilities have fans inside of the oven that turn on when the convection setting is turned on. These fans circulate the heated air around the food, causing cooking time to decrease and a more even distribution of heat to food.

So really, the only difference is that my oven has a fan in it?

…Pretty much. The heat distribution is a little different but overall it is not too much different in terms of the appliance. KitchenDaily has a great article that describes the differences in depth, and Finecooking.com gives a superb definition of why, “A short version of the scientific explanation for this is that moving air speeds up the rate of heat transference that naturally occurs when air of two different temperatures converges. To help understand this, consider wind chill: When cold air blows against you on a blustery winter day, you feel colder more quickly than you do on a windless day of the same temperature.”

Now, there are multiple opinions about convection cooking. Some prefer traditional baking because that is what they are used to, and aren’t sure how to use convection cooking.

Is convection cooking for me?

When customers enter our store and need a new oven, we typically recommend buying an oven with convection cooking capabilities. Here are some pro’s.

1. It’s faster.

The fan within the oven causes the air to circulate quickly. For this reason, the air is not simply mingling around, and is constantly coming in direct contact with the food. This also causes great browning for meats and pastries. When using convection, the time will be cut by around 25%. So, if you were originally baking for 60 minutes, your convection cooking time would be about 45 minutes.

2. It is more energy efficient. 

Because heat is being distributed more evenly, the cooking process takes less time. Less time = less heat being used, which makes convection cooking more energy efficient.

3. It is even.

One big claim that convection makes is, it provides for even cooking. This means that the heat is constantly circulated throughout the unit, whereas in traditional baking the air is lifted up and can stagnate at the top of the oven.

4. Better tasting food – sometimes!

If you are a terrible cook and are looking towards convection cooking as a save-all, forget it. It doesn’t save everything. But, what it does do, is often keeps moisture within foods, especially meats, to preserve flavor and make stuff just taste plain fabulous.

Things to remember:

The most important thing to consider when asking if convection is right for you, is asking yourself how familiar you are willing to become with your new oven. Some ovens automatically decrease temperatures to compensate for the convection, so if you are always putting the exact temperature on this type of model, your convection cooking might be off. This is something you can easily learn both through the buying process and through the user manual. And nowadays, oven user manuals are thick and could easily be a weekend beach read. But this is great, because they offer so many new features and quirks about the device that you could go years without using!

If you are used to traditional baking and are afraid to use convection, which many people are (we don’t know why, but they are) stick with baking traditionally. We recommend trying convection because really, it’s just simpler. It might take a bit getting used to, especially if you’ve been baking grandma’s sweet potato pie recipe for 20 years at 375 degrees you may forget to reduce the temperature the first time you use convection. But don’t fret, once you get used to the convection cooking process, it turns out to be faster, easier, and more efficient.

Wisegeek.com also has this to say about convection cooking:

“One advantage a convection oven has is a more evenly heated cooking space. In a true convection oven, there are three separate heating elements along the top, bottom and rear of the cooking space. When a fan forces the heated air to circulate, it doesn’t matter if the food is placed on a top, middle or lower rack. Three separate pans of cookies, for example, can be cooked perfectly in a convection oven, but the heat in a radiant oven cannot penetrate the bottom pan well enough to bake the other two pans evenly. ”  – Wisegeek.com

Thinking of buying?

Kristie Leong states the following when thinking of buying convection, which we think pretty much sums it up, “When shopping for a convection oven be sure to ask about features such as whether the model is self cleaning, has adjustable racks, the ease of cleaning, what type of alarms are available to let you know a cycle is complete, how much space the model will take up in your kitchen, what type of warranty is available.” – Voices.Yahoo.com

Also, the price point between a convection oven and traditional oven will differ. When thinking of buying a convection oven, think about how much you are using it, and what you are using it for. There is one drawback that I have come across, although we have not experienced this in-store. Some customers believe that when they are cooking very fragile things, such as angel food cake, or meringue, that the circulating air may blow the food around. Again, a minor drawback, but the good thing is pretty much all convection ovens have a traditional bake setting anyway, to solve this problem.

Have any questions about convection cooking? We’d love to hear ’em!

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