Most ovens have a “convection” button, and a lot of us aren’t really sure what it does. It changes something, but most people would be hard pressed to explain exactly what changes. Essentially, a convection oven maintains a constant temperature, unlike a conventional oven.
A conventional oven uses something called radiant heat to cook food. Basically, heat is produced from the top and/or bottom of the oven to warm the food. This results in the creation of both hot and cold spots within the oven itself.
A convection oven, on the other hand, uses a fan and exhaust system to pull and blow the hot air through itself and all around the food. In other words, the air that surrounds your food keeps a steady, even temperature. This helps it cook in less time and at a more even rate than a conventional oven allows. The exhaust system also pulls moisture out of the oven, resulting in food that is crisper and browner.
Converting baking time/temperature from a standard oven to a convection oven
Making the switch to a convection oven doesn’t have to be hard. Most of the time, you won’t even need a calculator! The conversions are pretty simple, and you have multiple options, so you can do whatever works best for you. Just be sure to always convert, because it’s easy to both undercook and overcook things in a convention oven. You either need to bake things at a lower temperature or for a shorter amount of time when using a convection oven.
Option 1: Same time, different temperature
Read the directions on whatever you’re planning to make. You can put it in a convection oven for the same amount of time, but just be sure to decrease the oven’s temperature by 25° to 30° Fahrenheit. In other words, if you’re supposed to bake brownies at 350° Fahrenheit in a conventional oven, simply bake them at 320-325° Fahrenheit for the same amount of time.
Option 2: Different time, same temperature
Read the directions on whatever you’re planning to make. You can put it in a convection oven at the temperature listed, but just be sure to decrease the baking time by 25 percent to 30 percent. The easiest way to do this is to multiply the baking time by 0.75 or 0.70 (0.75 for 25% and 0.70 for 30%). In other words, if you’re supposed to bake brownies for 15 minutes in a conventional oven, just bake them between 10.5 minutes and 11.25 minutes. Be sure to remember that 0.5 minutes is 30 seconds, and that .25 minutes is 15 seconds!
Option 3: Different time, different temperature
Every convention oven is a little different, and you have to find out what works for you. While the options above are great guidelines, feel free to mix it up. As you increase the temperature, decrease the baking time. If you decrease the temperature, increase the baking time accordingly.
Convection oven tips and tricks
Maintain air supply to the food
The whole point of a convection oven is maintaining a constant temperature by circulating air around and over what you are baking. If the air can’t access the food, there’s no point in using a convection oven. Stick to trays and baking pans with low sides, because they let the warm air easily envelop the food. Also invest in roasting pans that are shallow and rimless cookie sheets if you can. Never cover your shelves, and keep a decent distance between all trays and food.
When you’re roasting food
- Proteins: Fat roasts very quickly in a convection oven, so only use one if you’re looking to have a crispy, juicy meat
- Fruits and vegetables: Sugars caramelize relatively quickly in a conviction oven, so only use one if you want the center to become creamy and the edges to become crisp
When you’re baking food
- In a convection oven, butter releases steam quickly, which causes the dough to rise more than usual. This results in your baked goods being both crispier and lighter
- If you’re making cookies, use all of the shelf space available and cook multiple trays at once
When you’re toasting and drying food
- Nuts and grains: Toast nuts in a shallow baking pan so air can freely move around them. It should take no longer than 3 to 7 minutes for the nuts to turn a golden brown
- Fruits and meats: Fruits and meats will dry out much more quickly in a convection oven than a conventional oven due to the internal fan. Keep an eye on your food as you toast or dry it
Have any other tips? Leave them in the comments below!
Ready to get started with convection oven cooking? Check out our list of the best convection ovens you can buy!