Convection ovens are one of the most useful appliances you can have in the kitchen.
However, with the popularity of convection ovens on the rise, many wonder how to get the most out of their oven and whether rack placement makes a difference in how foods cook.
Quick answer: Rack placement does matter, but the specifics depend on what you’re cooking and what your goals are.
Read on below to find out more!
Convection Oven basics
First thing’s first:
The convection cooking basics. Unlike conventional ovens, which use radiant heat, convection ovens use convection heat to cook food.
Convection heat is achieved through the use of heating elements in the back of the oven. A special fan system circulates the heat from these elements around the interior of the oven, resulting in an equal distribution of heat through all of your dishes.
Convection ovens are a hot topic because of their many advantages over conventional ovens.
Not only do they distribute heat more evenly, resulting in a more thoroughly cooked product, they also cook more quickly at a higher temperature, saving you time and energy in the long run. Foods cooked in a convection oven will brown more crisply and retain moisture better.
Does it get any better than that?
Rack placement in your convection oven: does it matter?
I’ll be honest with you:
Whether or not rack positions matter in convection cooking depends on who you ask.
Because convection ovens have a specialized fan, heat is distributed evenly throughout the oven which technically means that it shouldn’t matter where your racks are positioned.
However, there are a few factors to consider such as:
Even though the heating element is usually located in the back, heat does rise, which means that the top rack may cook faster than other rack positions.
If you have something you want to brown or cook quickly, consider placing it on a top rack.
Spacing and Element Positioning
Ideally, all racks and dishes will be spaced evenly from each other. This gives the heat room to circulate and cook evenly.
Also, because the heating elements are located in the back, positioning a dish towards the rear of the oven can help it cook or brown more quickly.
Browning your food
Use the upper rack if you are roasting a piece of meat or something you wish to caramelize.
The swirling heat will surround the joint and crisp it.
Getting consistent heat
The middle and bottom racks can be used for a wide variety of dishes as it generates a consistent heat level. Just make sure that your racks are spaced evenly from each other.
No matter where your dishes are placed, make an effort to use shallow baking pans. This will allow the heat to circulate more evenly around your food.
Disturbing your food while cooking it can ruin even the most well-placed dish. When you open the oven door, heat escapes, which can disrupt the cooking process and set you back, adding more time and less-than-perfect results.
What makes this an even more controversial topic is that convection ovens will cook differently from model to model. We recommend that you experiment with rack placements with your own oven and find out what works for you.
Feeling a little nervous about experimenting with your oven?
Check out these tips below:
Conclusion – rack placement matters
So, does rack placement actually matter? Our official answer is yes–to an extent.
Because of the fan system, dishes in a convection oven need to be spaced apart far enough to allow the heat to circulate evenly between dishes. Otherwise, you may have food that cooks more on one side than the other.
So it is important that your racks are placed an even amount of space apart.
However, will food cook differently depending on which rack it is placed on? That answer depends on your specific model of convection oven.
A general of thumb is that dishes will cook more quickly the farther back they are placed in the oven.
Frequently Asked Questions
I need to cook a lot of food, but this means my oven racks won’t be spaced evenly. What should I do?
If possible, try to utilize other appliances in your kitchen. If you have multiple dishes that need to be crisped, for example, an air fryer can provide a crisping effect similar to that of a convection oven.
Depending on how large and powerful your convection oven is, you can try to pack it to the max, but this could disrupt the flow of heat throughout the oven. If that happens, you run the risk of food that doesn’t cook evenly on all sides or that doesn’t brown as well.
Do I need to clean my racks regularly?
Yes, you should clean your racks regularly. Not only will this keep your oven looking nice and clean, but it will also help it work more efficiently. If your racks have burnt food or build-up on them from the last time you cooked, it will take up some of the heat and energy that your oven could be using for your dishes.
Luckily, cleaning your racks is a fairly simple process. All you need to do is clean it with some warm water and gentle soap, then wipe it clean with a dry rag. If you’re in the market, I recommend using a microfiber cleaning cloth like these that you can buy on Amazon.
And, voila! No excuse for a dirty rack.
Why does food cook more quickly in the back of a convection oven?
The fan and heating element of a convection oven is usually located towards the rear of a convection oven. This is so that the fan can blow the heat from the heating element throughout the rest of the oven, resulting in an equal distribution of heat.
Since this is where the heat originates from, it tends to be hotter than the rest of the oven, although only nominally. Nevertheless, if you’re in a hurry, it is a nice little fact to know to speed up your cooking time.
Does it matter what kind of racks I use?
When it comes to the cooking process, the kind of rack you use is entirely a matter of personal preference. One won’t cook your food better than the other.
However, it will make a difference in the cleaning process. Cleaning traditional oven racks tends to be easier than cleaning telescopic racks. When cleaning a telescopic rack, you need to make sure that you clean out the interior of the rack as well as the exterior.
For more information on how to clean your racks, check out my article about caring for your convection oven.
What is the difference between using shallow or deep pans?
If you’re using a convection oven or setting, always go with a shallow pan.
This is because of the way convection ovens are designed. They heat food by circulating hot air evenly throughout the interior. If your food is placed in a deep pan, this circulating heat will have more difficulty reaching your food, which can result in an uneven cooking process.
If you absolutely have to cook with a deep pan, consider putting a top or lid on it. Because the food will be entirely encased, it will cook evenly, although it won’t brown as well.
Got another tip? Leave it in the comments below!