What is a convection oven? And what do they do exactly? Are they even that helpful in the kitchen? The answers to these questions are really simple, and they all come down to the fan.
The term “convection” in convection toaster ovens refers to heating through the air. These gadgets still use traditional heating means, but unlike conventional methods, they add an airflow cycle that will blow hot air across your meal inside the oven.
Allow me to show you the difference between a convection and conventional toaster oven so you can understand the difference better.
A convection oven vs a conventional oven
In a conventional oven (which has the traditional cooking technology) the heat rises to the top. This implies that meals on the top rack of the oven will cook faster compared to items placed on the bottom rack.
If, for instance, you are preparing delicious muffins for a bake sale and would like to use all racks available, then you will run into some complications. While the muffins you placed at the top rack will be perfectly baked, the ones you placed on the bottom will still be undone to some extent.
This problem was what led to the invention of convection toaster ovens. A convection oven retails with a fan inside its cooking space. This fan circulates the hot air inside the oven in all directions. In this case the air won’t just stay at the top, your meal will cook more evenly.
This may sound simple in theory, but it makes a huge difference when it comes to preparing your favorite meals. If you’re a fan of pies like me, it means that if you use a convection toaster, the top sides of the pies will be overcooked while the bottom sides remain soggy.
Roasted chicken will also be evenly browned. Better yet, you can rest assured that foods at the bottom of the rack will cook at the same amount of time as those you placed on the top rack.
Another point worth noting in this section is the fact conventional ovens are typically 25 – 30 degrees cooler compared to convection toaster ovens set to the same temp. As a result, since most foods are intended for conventional toaster ovens, you will need to adjust your appliance’s temperature to approximately 15 Degrees Celsius (around 25 degrees F) less in order to accommodate the variance.
Having said that, regardless of the temperature adjustment, you will realize that convection ovens cook way faster compared to conventional ones: Particularly if the delicacy you’re preparing is a bigger item, such as a turkey.
The downside of this feature is, you will need to keep an eye on your meals when using a convection oven. Quicker cooking time is a good thing because it means your meal is less likely to dry out in the convection oven.
Pastries will also be crispier, thanks to the fact that the extra heat will steam the fat in the dough pretty quickly, creating flaky layers. Thanks to all these features, the US Department of Energy reported that convection ovens consumes around 20% less energy per annum compared to radian toaster ovens.
You can even cook frozen food in a convection toaster oven.
What and what you should not bake in your convection toaster oven?
While it is the new, more efficient technology, not all foods are compatible with a convection toaster oven’s fan. That is why most, if not all of them also retail with a regular toaster oven setting. Depending on what meal you’re preparing, there are multiple instances when you probably do not want a fan circulating hot air around.
The fan usually becomes a liability around delicate meals. Blowing hot air on such foods will probably create undesired results. Refrain from using the convection setting when you’re preparing the following meals:
- Quick breads and bread
- Custards and flans
The last entry has been subject of debate for some time. While others point out that the convection setting creates a great crust and even browning, others have pointed out that it tends to dry out the interior side of the bread.
What you choose in this instance is totally up to you.
In case you are cooking one of the foods I have listed above but decided to use the convection setting, below are several pointers you should keep in mind.
- Focus on the toaster oven’s temperature accuracy: since the fan is already circulating the hot air, reduce the temperature accordingly.
- Check earlier: I have already pointed out that foods will cook relatively faster on a convection oven. So, if you’re cooking one of the meals mentioned above for the first time, check on it from time to time throughout the cooking duration and make the necessary adjustments during preparing the meal.
The best times to use the convection setting.
- Anytime you are roasting.
Meals that are roasted, such as vegetables and meats, usually benefit from convection cooking. They will cook more evenly, faster, and the drier environment will yield caramelizes exteriors and crispy skins way better.
- When baking pastries and pies
Convection cooking creates steam and melts fat faster, which helps you creating more lift in pastries and pie doughs such as croissants.
- When you are baking cookies
The convection setting will permit you to bake a huge number or trays of cookies evenly at the same time without needing to rotate them partway throughout the time.
- Anytime you are dehydrating or toasting
When you dehydrate or toast food, the goal is to ensure you remove moisture as fast as possible, which means that a convection toaster oven will be more efficient compared to a regular one.
Don’t take what I’ve educated you here today as rules you must follow. They are simply guidelines. Do not be afraid of being innovative and trying out new things or cooking methods. Embrace the convection oven’s great features. Better yet, play around with its functionalities and there is a chance you’ll be amazed by the results. I hope you now understand what a convection toaster is and how does it work.