Get to know the most misunderstood setting on your oven.

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Many of us have a convection setting on our ovens. Or maybe you have a separate convection oven, or a toaster oven with convection capabilities. But what is a convection oven? And when do you actually use it? If you're perplexed by convection cooking, you're not alone. Learn how and when to use a convection oven versus a conventional oven so you can cook with confidence. 

How Does a Convection Oven Work?

A convection oven works by circulating hot air around the cavity of the oven, helping food to cook faster and more evenly. It does this with the help of a fan and exhaust system that blows hot air around the food. Not only does this help food to cook more evenly, but it also gives you a crispy result (much like that of an air fryer) because there is less moisture collection. 

Oftentimes, conventional ovens will come with a convection oven setting, that when turned on activates the fan and exhaust system. You can even find toaster ovens with built-in convection ovens nowadays. 

Convection Oven vs. Conventional Oven 

Here's your quick reminder on how a conventional oven works: A conventional oven has two heating elements that heat up the air inside the oven to cook food. One can be found on the bottom, and is used for most cooking and baking. The other is on the top, which is mostly used for broiling. 

Because a conventional doesn't circulate the air like a convection oven, you might have "hot spots," or pockets of air that are hotter than others. This can lead to uneven cooking, which is why recipes will often call for you to rotate the baking pan in order to more evenly cook your dish. 

Convection Oven vs. Air Fryer 

Here's a hot take for you — an air fryer is just a small, countertop convection oven. That's right, air fryers don't actually fry foods at all. They work the same way as convection ovens do — by circulating hot air around the food until it is cooked through on the inside and crispy on the outside. 

But before you throw out your air fryer, there are some things to be said for the internet's favorite countertop appliance. Because air fryers are so small, the cooking area in which the food cooks is smaller, and will heat up faster. This means cooking your food in an air fryer is going to take less time than it would in a traditional convection oven. 

But this also means that it holds less food, so you may have to cook large quantities in batches. We'll let you decide if it's a trade-off that's worth it. In my opinion, the air fryer is a great tool when you're cooking for just a couple people, but if you're cooking for a large family, you're better off going with a convection oven. 

When to Use a Convection Oven

Okay, so if the convection oven heats food faster and more evenly, then why don't we always use it over a conventional oven? Believe it or not there are times when you don't want hot air circulating around your food. 

What You Shouldn't Cook in the Convection Oven:

Anything with a delicate batter that can be altered by blowing air on it. This includes:

  • Quick breads
  • Custards
  • Delicate pastries 
  • Cakes 
  • Souffles

What You Should Cook in the Convection Oven:

There are still quite a number of foods that do well in the convection oven. The hot air will give you a result that's evenly cooked through with a browned, crispy exterior. Here are some examples of foods that will do well in the convection oven:

  • Roasted meats and vegetables
  • Casseroles 
  • Cookies 
  • Pies 
  • Anything you're toasting or dehydrating 

How to Use a Convection Oven 

Convection cooking is not as simple as turning on the convection setting. This is because most recipes are written for conventional ovens, which means you'll need to adjust your temperature and cooking time to accommodate. 

It is recommended that you reduce the cooking temperature by 25 degrees F. As for the cooking time, Whirlpool suggests multiplying the cooking time by 0.75. So this would mean a recipe that normally has a cooking time of 40 minutes should be cooked for 30 minutes on the convection setting. 

You'll also want to use bakeware with low sides to allow for proper air circulation. Avoid overcrowding your pan for best results. 

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