A couple of weeks ago during my cooking class, I talked briefly about using the convection setting on my oven. I had forgotten to pre-heat my oven for the class and I was able to pre-heat and then roast my vegetables in no time.
Someone in the class had mentioned that my oven must be fast and hot as she was still roasting.
Do you have convection? Do you use it? Do you avoid it because you don’t know what the heck to do with it?
That was me too.
I had absolutely no clue about how to use this setting on my oven. The only time I thought about it was when I was about to cook something but had no time to figure it out.
Then one day I was watching one of my favourite cooks on Instagram, Pamela Salzman. She mentioned that if you’re going to use it, make sure to decrease the temperature of your oven by 25 degrees.
This piqued my interest and I looked into it. I cooked a few things and after having tried it out several times, I’m now a convert!
First of All, What’s Convection?
The convection setting is found on an oven (it should be found on most newer models — I had one on my old Kitchen Aid).
The oven pulls in outside air, heats it, and then and circulates it around the food. The regular oven setting simply heats the oven without air circulation.
Both gas and electric ovens have this setting.
Convection ovens can have two or three heating elements. If you want the best ‘coverage’ for heat, look for one with three heating elements found at the top, bottom, and back of the oven.
You might notice you have two convection settings: one for baking and one for roasting. The baking setting lowers the fan speed, while the roasting setting has a higher fan speed to brown and crisp food like red meat and poultry.
What are the Benefits?
- Pre-heat and cook much faster than a regular oven setting.
- Improve browning and crisping of certain foods.
- Cook greater volumes of food than regular oven settings as a result of the oven air movement.
- Help to eliminate any ‘hot spots’ that might occur with regular heat producing a more even cooking heat.
You might still be wondering how to use this setting in real life! Here are some tips I’ve found helpful:
- Convection can be used in two ways: if a recipe says to pre-heat your oven to a certain temperature, pre-heat it to 25 degrees less than what a recipe indicates.
OR you can cook it for about 5-10 minutes less than the recommended time. Make sure your oven doesn’t change it automatically for you when you press the convection setting.
For example: If a recipe says to roast vegetables at 400°F, set your oven to 375°F. Alternatively, you can keep it at 400°F, but make sure to start checking the vegetables at least 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Convection cooks much faster, especially if you have a smaller oven, so be sure to keep an eye out! I typically cook at a lower temperature and check the food with 5 minutes until the end of the cooking time.
- Use a pan with low sides so the air can circulate over your food. Light-coloured aluminum pans work best to help prevent over-browning and burnt vegetables (make sure to use parchment paper, however, as you don’t want to cook directly on aluminum).
- Don’t cover your food when using the convection setting. The purpose is to have the air hit the food to cook it faster. The oven can’t do its job if the air isn’t reaching the food.
When to Use it
- The baking setting works best for pizza crusts, scones, and biscuits–foods that need quick heat. I also learned that if you make pies, use this setting when baking two pie crusts to help with more even baking.
- Convection is really good for cookies, rolls, and croissants because it helps to give the food a crispy outer layer while keeping the inside fluffy.
- Add water to a pan at the bottom of the oven if you’re making bread baked at high heat. The steam from the water helps to make a nice bread crust.
- Use it when toasting or dehydrating.
- Great for meats that don’t have to be cooked all the way through like beef. Convection helps to brown the meat on the outside for example, but maintain the meat’s moisture on the inside.
- I love using it for roasting root vegetables and one pan meals. It browns the food nicely!
- Tip! If you’re in the market for an air fryer, try the convection setting first as it uses the same technology!
When Not to Use it
- Try not to use convection for baking quick bread, wet muffins, cakes, and sweet yeast baking however if you bake with heartier grains like I do you might be ok.
The air from this setting can dry out the tops of cakes or create a ripple effect on them from the blowing air.
I hope this gives you the confidence to cook with convection! Try it out the next time you roast potatoes or sweet potatoes. Here’s a quick recipe for you:
Recipe: Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Preheat the oven to 400°F using the convection setting (I typically roast at 425°F on a regular oven setting so 400°F is 25°F less than what I usually set the oven to).
- Chop 2-3 potatoes/sweet potatoes into 1-1.5 inch pieces (wedges are nice too).
- Cover with salt, oregano, pepper, and 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Mix well.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes (check them at 20 minutes).
- Top with another tablespoon of olive oil and a bit more salt when they’re done.
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