What Exactly is Convection Cooking?
Convection cooking is not as scary as most think it is. Simply, the air inside your oven is being blown around your food; a reverse rotisserie. Rather than the food rotating to get an even heat on all sides, the air is being spun around the food to accomplish the same goal. Cookies will taste better and meats will remain crisp on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.
There are many different brands that offer convection and most offer convection as an option that you can use but are not forced to use. I definitely recommend using it but I’ll explain the different options and you can choose which one will be suit you. Brands that offer convection can offer up to three different methods of convection. One is the third element convection, in which there is an element in the rear of the oven cell that is being blown around the oven cell by a fan. Two is the fan only convection, in which the heat element on the bottom of the oven is on and the fan is moving the air around the oven cell. This will result in the bottom of the oven remaining hotter than the rest of the oven cell, however it will even out more of the oven cell than just using the bake element. Third is another fan only option, in which both the broil element and the fan are on. This is great for meat, but will result in a higher heat in the top of the oven, similar to what the bake and fan convection produces. Pure convection refers to the first option, the third element convection.
Microwave Convection? There is another option, called a convection microwave or microwave convection, in which a microwave element is added to the mix to further speed up the cooking. A convection microwave is NOT the same as a microwave convection. A convection microwave must have a thermal heat element as well as a microwave element. They should be able to be used independently, as well as combined. They are typically the same size as a microwave and Sharp makes them all, regardless of the name brand on the outside. This is an industry secret, that some salespeople will not tell you. Sharp has the technology and the manufacturing all set up, it is much cheaper for them to manufacture them for various brands and just put the brand name on it. I do have a convection microwave and I LOVE it. I live in an apartment and have no option to change my oven. My microwave is made by Sharp and carries the Dacor brand on it. I have made turkey’s, thousands of cookies and have also made my entire family purchase one. They are a great option when you do not have the space for an entire convection oven or just want a back up second oven. It does do all the things you rely on your microwave for, but also is a handy little second oven. Next, I’ll explain how to use them.
Convection recipes are not that easy to find. Most recipes will give you the regular bake option. In most cases, NOT all, simply reduce the cooking time by 10 percent and reduce the temperature 25 degrees. This is the recommended starting point. You will need to monitor your food and make sure that it doesn’t burn, at least until you get the hang of it. If you have a gas convection oven, the oven will almost always be hotter on the bottom of the oven. Secondly, you should use the flattest pan possible. Cookies, breads and pizzas should be done on the thinnest cookies sheets and on ones WITHOUT rims. Rims will allow the air to hide and you will end up with burnt bottom bottoms and raw tops. There is no need to use “air bake” sheets, as these are best for ovens that don’t have convection. Meats should be cooked on raised racks, such as “V-racks” or roasting racks. You want the air to be able hit all sides of the food to properly cook the food. Makes sense right? The smaller the pan, the more air that can hit the food.
When not to use convection? Any large items which require a deep pan (think lasagna or casseroles) are not suited for convection. These items should be cooked using convection bake or just regular bake. Convection bake is when the bottom element and the fan are on… so the heat being pushed up from the bottom of the oven cell is able to penetrate the deeper dish pan, while the fan helps cook the top and make sure there are no hot spots in the oven.
What went wrong? If you are using convection and experiencing hot spots, try a self clean cycle on your oven. Simple as it sounds, sometimes when the oven is used, pockets of grease or dust can gather in the oven and block the air from flowing as it needs to. Self cleaning will get the oven up to 700 to 900 degrees and incinerate everything inside it. Once you have self cleaned the oven, it should work better. If it doesn’t, and you have tried lowering the temperature, you should have an authorized servicer verify the temperature and the elements. Most ovens will not allow you to use convection without preheating them. In a convection microwave you must manually preheat it, unless using a preset cooking mode. Preheating is key to getting the most out of your oven. As boring as it sounds, the use and care manual that came with your oven does have a trouble shooting section that will also have tips on what could have gone wrong if your food did not come out as expected.
Please see my other articles regarding the comparison of some top brands and other little known facts.