Skip to main content

What is a convection oven, and how do you use it?

If you have a shiny new convection oven on your counter, or a wall oven that includes convection capabilities, you may be thinking, “Cool! But what does the convection setting do?”

That’s a good question. What is a convection oven really? Do you just turn it on? Well … not exactly. Convection ovens take a little practice to use with your favorite recipes because they can affect how dishes turn out. Let’s go over everything you need to know about convection ovens and how to cook with convection properly.

Setting the temperature

ConvectionWorks Oven
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The “convection” in convection ovens refers to heating via air. A convection oven still uses traditional heating methods, but it adds an airflow cycle that blows hot air across the cooking dish and vents it back out again.

Basically, this means your food is being cooked by both radiant heat and heated air passing over the food. This speeds up the cooking process, but it also offers other advantages: Food in convection ovens tends to cook more evenly without experiencing “hot spots,” and it’s easier to brown foods a bit for a delicious crunchy crust when appropriate.

In fact, convection cooking is so efficient that you will need to begin by adjusting the temperature down for your recipes. This saves energy and ensures your food will cook as expected instead of cooking too quickly. Here, we offer three important rules to serve as guidelines:

  • For shorter cooking times and easy projects (like cookies), lower the expected temperature by 10% to 15%.
  • For big cooking projects that will take a lot of time (like roasts), lower the temperature by as much as 30% for reliable cooking.
  • When in doubt, drop the regular cooking temperature by 25 to 30 degrees.

Give the air as much room as possible

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Since convection cooking depends a lot on air, it’s important to give that circulating air room to do its work. Convection cooking is not the time to fill the oven rack with every pan you can squeeze in (we’re looking at you, Thanksgiving!). Instead, limit yourself to one dish per rack to give the air plenty of space to move around. Your taste buds will thank you.

Also, use low-profile pans and baking dishes when possible. Expose as much surface area of your food as possible to the moving air so it can cook reliably. Today’s roasting pans and trays tend to have low sides, but if you have older cookware with a high profile, think about an update to improve convection results.

Set your timer a bit early and check your dish

ConvectionEven with the temperature lowered, convection ovens can cook dishes faster than you might expect. To prevent unpleasant surprises, set your timer about 5 to 10 minutes earlier than you normally would (adjusting for the food and tray type), especially when first starting out.

When the timer goes off, check your food. If it looks like it’s doing nicely and could use several minutes to finish up, add a bit more time. But if your food has already browned over, is at a hard sizzle, or just looks done, you may want to cut your cooking time short to prevent drying out or burning.

These foods do particularly well on convection

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Foods that roast or caramelize are an excellent fit for convection cooking. Many baked goods also perform very well in these conditions. Freely use your convection setting when:

  • Roasting ham, turkey, roast-ready beef cuts, and similar meats
  • Roasting vegetables for a little extra crisp
  • Cookies and muffins—especially when you want to bake a lot at a time: These small foods defy our “leave plenty of space” rule because they have space, well, baked in … although the air current may give your muffins a more curious shape
  • Pies and pastry
  • Covered casseroles — when casseroles have covers or foil, they won’t lose much moisture, although convection settings may not be as effective in these situations
  • Toasting breads or buns
  • Drying foods out as part of meal prep — think dehydrating fish or roasting nuts

Avoid convection with these foods

Other foods you want to cook slowly, particularly delicate foods that need a very specific consistency. Avoid the convection option when:

  • Cooking custards or flans — the delicate, spongy surface of these foods fares very poorly in a convection oven.
  • Soufflés — likewise, a soufflé needs carefully controlled surface baking, and a convection oven might burn a soufflé without allowing it to rise.
  • Cakes and similar large confectionary items, which tend to either rise too quickly and collapse or cook too fast.
  • Baking quick breads — this might be confusing, since some cookies and pastries are considered short breads, but we are referring to breads that really need to rise but don’t have traditional yeasts. That includes banana and pumpkin bread, cornbread, beer bread, and so on: You can cook many of these in convection ovens, but you have to be careful and keep a close eye on the process.

Sensors and automatic features

Hamilton Beach

Convection ovens are trying to make the cooking process easier on us all by offering preset buttons, automatic temperature selection, and even “sensor cooking.” Whether or not these options make things more efficient for you remains to be seen.

Brands like LG have well-rated sensor cook options you can use with any dishes that you’re unfamiliar with. The sensors function according to how they’re programmed, so you might prefer to stay close when you’re first using this option so you can change the temperature or cooking time if needed.

When it comes to automatic cooking options, your most reliable option is a thermometer probe. These focus on setting accurate meat temperatures and are available on a growing number of home ovens. If you don’t have one with your oven, you can buy one separately to ensure you’re cooking meat properly.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
What is Amazon Pantry? Everything you need to know
amazon prime free trial price increase 720x720

The marvels of the internet have made it possible to do all your shopping from the comfort of your living room. Whether you're buying a new shirt, the latest tech product, or even your groceries, you can do it all from your computer and wait for the items to show up on your doorstep a few days later. You never even have to set foot into a grocery store ever again if you don't want to. Amazon Pantry is one such service that allows users to shop for groceries and household supplies while chilling at home. Here's everything you need to know about Amazon Pantry.

What is Amazon Pantry?
Essentially, Amazon Pantry is an online store that allows Prime members and non-Prime members in select areas to buy nonperishable food items and household supplies in everyday package sizes. In other words, you won't have to buy the bulk sizes that you would find at Costco Wholesale or Sam's Club. Pantry allows Amazon to expand into the grocery and household supply sector, offering these items at cost-effective prices.
How does it work?

Read more
How to set up Voice Match on your Google Home device
Nest Audio speaker in a moody dark room.

Just because you share your Google Home or Nest device with your family members doesn't mean Google has to feel like a shared assistant. Thanks to a feature called Voice Match, the Google Assistant on your Google Home devices can respond with personalized information based on the voice giving the command or asking the question. For example, Google Assistant can give you and your partner different estimated commute times based on the addresses you have listed as your workplace.

Do you like CNN but your partner is all about NPR? You can customize your daily news briefings, so you can get news reports catered specifically to you, while your roommate gets specific reports for them. To enjoy Voice Match, you'll have to go through a short series of steps. Every person who uses Voice Match -- up to six individuals total -- must link a Google Account and voice to your Google Home device. Here's what you'll need to do to get Voice Match set up on your Google Home.

Read more
How to improve sound and voice recognition on your Google Home device

Whether you use Google Home to play games, to listen to tunes, or to connect to your smart devices, having good sound quality and voice recognition on your speaker is a must. When you can hear every layer and every single lyric of your favorite song, it enhances the listening experience. Sound effects can help to immerse you in Google Home’s audio games, and make you feel like you’re actually in the fictional world.

The sound the speaker puts out is important, but its ability to understand your commands is even more vital. Google Home needs to be able to easily understand what you say the first time you say it. It’s horribly annoying when your smart home speaker says, “Did you say mashed potatoes?” when you really said “Stewed tomatoes.”

Read more