While convection ovens offer a number of advantages over conventional ovens, you need to know how to use them to make the most of them
There used to be a time when convection ovens were only seen in restaurants and on cooking shows. No matter how much you loved backing, you simply couldn’t afford them unless you could justify a professional kitchen. Today, things have changed; thanks to the affordability of high-end ranges like Viking for high end prices and Bourdeau Professional Kitchen BG3080U for mid-range prices, it’s possible to add a commercial-grade range to just about any kitchen renovation.
However, just because you can afford one doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to know how to use one. Today we’ll share several important baking tips to help you make the most of your convection oven.
Lower your baking temperature by at least 25° F when using a convection oven
The cooking is more efficient, which means you can lower your temperatures when baking…
When using a convection oven instead of a conventional oven, you’ll need to adjust your cooking techniques since convection ovens are so much more efficient due to the fan and exhaust system in a convection oven.
You’ll generally want to reduce the oven temperature by around 25°F compared to the setting you’d choose in a conventional oven. Of course, if your recipe or cookbook already includes adjustments for convection ovens, you can just follow those directly without the need for further changes. And it’s important to remember that the precise temperature adjustment from a conventional to a convection oven won’t always be 25°F; the exact number will vary with the two ovens compared as well as with what you’re baking.
Check your food at the 1/2 and 3/4 points in your cooking time
…while lowering your cooking times and using your eyes, nose, and tongue as your guides instead of your timer.
Whatever you’re cooking in a convection oven will take a little less time to fully bake than it would in a conventional oven (or a convection oven with the fan turned off). To avoid burning your food, you’ll want to check your dish at the halfway point of your expected baking time to get a better idea of how quickly the food is cooking. As you get closer to the endpoint, you’ll want to check your dish more frequently. As is almost always the case in cooking, you’ll want to use your eyes, nose, and, if possible, tongue to determine whether your food is done instead of simply following the timer. The more time you spend baking with the same convection oven, the better you’ll get at estimating how much time you need to cook particular meals, and the more you’ll be able to skip the check-recheck-recheck steps described above.
Keep the oven at least half empty to maximize efficiency
Make sure you don’t overfill the oven…
A convection oven is basically a regular oven with a fan and an exhaust system to effectively move hot air around your oven’s interior, cooking food more quickly and evenly. As a result, for the convection function to work, air needs to have room to flow. And for that to occur, you mustn’t overcrowd your oven.
It’s not that your food won’t cook, because it will; however, it’ll take significantly longer and will occur with lower levels of efficiency. In other words, you won’t get the benefits of a convection oven if you stuff it to the gills with food. This doesn’t mean you can’t use multiple racks to bake, but it does mean that the racks should have some free space rather than being completely filled from one wall of the oven to the other.
Use the right-sized pans and baking sheets for your recipes
…and keep track of which pans work best with which recipes…
When baking with a convection oven, the kinds of pans and baking sheets you use can make a large difference in the speed and ease of your cooking due to how they affect air circulation. When backing cookies and biscuits, roasting vegetables, you’ll want good air circulation to create crispy foods; to achieve this, you’ll want pans with low sides and baking sheets without rims. However, when baking cakes, casseroles, and similar dishes that don’t require crisping, you’ll want to stick with your high-sided pans, both to keep the foods in place and because the increased airflow isn’t necessary.
Turn off the fan when baking cakes, breads, soufflés, and custards
…as well as dishes that are best baked without the convection function.
Finally, it’s important to remember that convection ovens aren’t a cure-all for all baking projects. While a number of dishes work well with the air movement and heat supply of a convection oven, not all do. Cakes sometimes have trouble rising well with convection ovens due to the constant movement of air within the oven; similarly, quick breads may cook unevenly. And custards can dry out and crust over due to the more arid environment in a convection oven. To put it simply, if you’re baking a dish that benefits from additional moisture, leave the convection fan off and cook it in a conventional mode.
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