There are so many more ways to prepare your food now than there ever have been. With varying technology, there's no limit to how you may cook your food. One such method is with the aid of a convection oven. However, before you invest in new home appliances, you need to know "what is a convection oven?"
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What is a convection oven? A convection oven is a cooking appliance that cooks food through the circulation of air. It looks just like a traditional oven, but there are a handful of extra features, including an exhaust system and fan to improve airflow over and around food. This way, the heat does not radiate only from one direction.
Many home ovens are traditional conduction ovens. A conduction oven is when heat is applied directly to a cooking material. For example, when a pot is placed onto a burner, this is known as conduction. In short, it transfers the heat from one object to the next. A convection oven takes this heat and improves its movement. While both convection and conduction ovens look similar and take up nearly similar amounts of space, you will need to make a decision on which home appliance is best for your cooking needs.
What Is a Convection Oven?
A convection oven is essentially an oven with a fan and exhaust system built into it, where a traditional conduction oven does not have the added exhaust or fan. To understand what is a convection oven, you need to understand how this exhaust and system and fan are used.
When the convection feature is turned on, the fan will blow hot air created by the heating element around the food. This way, the heat does not remain in one location, but instead, it moves the heat around and eventually out the exhaust system.
With the aid of the fan, the hot air moves around all the food. This helps the food cook evenly. Now, there might be times where you want to cook food one side at a time, or a recipe may call for the set cooking time in a conduction oven. You will need to adjust the cooking time for a convection oven as the other sides of the food will cook faster (attempting to use the same timing and oven temperature will result in burned food).
What Are the Benefits of a Convection Oven?
Some ovens are regular conduction ovens. Other ovens have a convection feature built in, so you can turn it on with the flip of a switch. However, the convection oven is installed, now that you have the answers to what is a convection oven, you need to know what the potential benefits are and whether it is the right appliance upgrade for you.
First, it does cook faster. About 25 percent faster, to be exact. For some foods, such as a pizza, you don't need the added convection as you're already baking the food at a high temperature, and it will be ready in just a few minutes. However, for other foods, such as slow cooking roasts, you may want to use the convection as it can speed up the food preparation process, which can take six or eight hours. In many ways, it does allow the oven to work like a slow cooker which uses conduction, but the conduction is pushed through the entire cooker and not just the bottom.
Another benefit of using the convection oven is it helps cook the food evenly. All ovens have a hot spot. This hot spot is based on where the heat is coming from. While some ovens do have both top and bottom burners, the food is always placed closer to one burner, and there almost never are burners found along the side of the oven. A convection oven helps correct this issue by moving the heat around within the oven. Thanks to the air flow, it won't take as long to cook your food, and you'll avoid the problem of overcooking one side and undercooking another.
Do you like to brown some of your food? Perhaps you like to add a bit of caramelization to vegetables in your oven. Whether you're doing this for show or to heighten some of the flavors, a convection oven is superior when it comes to browning. Why? With a traditional oven, moisture may remain in the oven. Putting food (especially vegetables and anything else containing moisture) into the oven will result in some internal moisture giving off into the oven).
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Without a way to escape, the moisture will remain in the oven, making it humid. This prevents the browning of your food as you need a lack of moisture present to do this. By using the convection setting, you will remove moisture from the oven which allows you to add the browning to your foods without drying out the food.
You now know what is a convection oven, and while there are a number of benefits, you may also like to know it will help you save money during the cooking process. Because you're able to cut cooking time by nearly 25 percent, you can shut down the oven which is one of the highest energy using appliances in the house. This is an excellent money saver, especially during the vacations or if you regularly use your oven to cook the food.
What Are the Negatives?
There are some negatives associated with using a convection oven. While reducing the cook time and providing a more complete bake on all sides of the food is important, the fan and air movement may not work with everything you prepare. There will be times where blowing air can damage the food, such as with a souffle. Basically, if you rely on air within the item you're cooking to make it rise, like a cake, you don't want to use the convection setting. It might take longer to bake, but you won't push it over or deflate it when using the standard conduction setting.
When You Should Use a Convection Oven
You might now have the answer to what is a convection oven, but you'll also need to know when to use the convection setting over the traditional setting. There is a time and a place for both.
First, you'll want to use the convection setting whenever you're roasting food. This is especially true if the food is thicker, such as a fat piece of pork or beef. Slow roasting is a great way to improve the flavor, and yet you can still reduce cooking time without reducing the quality of the road. The convection feature helps you accomplish this.
If you enjoy baking pies or a large number of cookies at once, you'll be able to create delicious treats that cook evenly. While you don't need the convection setting turned on if you're only making a sheet of cookies, these will cook in just a few minutes, if you're cooking racks of cookies all at once, you already know those at the top will not cook as quickly as those at the bottom. By turning on the convection setting, you'll take much of the guess work out.
When You Shouldn't Use the Convection Setting
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With your knowledge on what is a convection oven, you may assume it is best for everything you might oven bake. While it does help for most foods, it isn't the best setting for everything. If you're making anything delicate, such as custards, flans, cakes, or souffles, you need greater control over the temperature. Additionally, the fan can deflate your souffle.
You may want to consider not using convection for baking bread. There are some out there who will say using the convection setting helps provide an excellent tasting crust, while there are others who say it dries out the bread. It may just depend on the thickness of your dough and the kind of yeast you're using. Whatever kind of bread you're baking, you might want to experiment to see how it works.
How do I adjust my conduction recipe for cooking in a convection oven? Most recipes you find will be listed for a traditional oven. The best way to alter your oven temperature when using the convection setting is to lower it by 25 degrees.
You will want to check your food more often when first altering the cooking temperature just to make sure everything is cooking correctly.
Are there cooking pans I should use in the convection oven? When using the convection setting, you will want to take advantage of the air movement. The best way to do this is to use roasting pans (and other pans) with lower sides. This lets the side of your food absorb the heat. If it is a tall pan, the air movement will be blocked.
Additionally, you don't want to use tin foil with your food. This will alter how it cooks with the convection setting. You might need to make some basic adjustments, but you'll get the hang of using the convection setting.
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