What Is the Difference Between Baking & Convection Baking?

Woman checking on Thanksgiving turkey in oven
Using an oven's convection setting reduces total baking time. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

If your oven has a convection setting among its features and you aren’t using it, you are missing out on a major convenience. Convection ovens bake foods more quickly and evenly than conventional ovens, saving time and frustration. Meats, vegetables and pastries all benefit from convection baking, with a few exceptions.

How Ovens Heat

All ovens use a combination of thermal radiation and air convection to transfer heat to food. Thermal radiation transfers heat through indirect contact, the way the sun warms the earth. In an oven, thermal radiation comes from heating elements on the top and bottom. Within the walls of the oven, heat is also transferred through air convection - the movement of air molecules. In a conventional oven, the rate of heat transfer through both radiation and convection is relatively slow.

Convection Oven Characteristics

With the addition of a fan, convection ovens increase the movement of air, which speeds convective heat transfer. The fan also helps distribute the hot air around the oven, reducing the hot and cold spots that are characteristic of most conventional ovens. As a result, food baked in a convection oven cooks more quickly and evenly. True convection ovens also have a third heating element that heats the air before blowing it into the oven, rather than simply circulating air.

Making Recipe Adjustments

Most recipes assume that the cook is using a conventional oven. If you are baking in a convection oven, you will need to adjust the recipe’s total baking time and oven temperature. With the increased rate of heat transfer, convection ovens cook food up to 25 percent faster than conventional ovens. Check for doneness well before the given cooking time has passed. Likewise, you should also reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Which Foods Work

Convection ovens are ideal for quickly baking and roasting many foods. Meats, vegetables and pastries brown more evenly, and develop crisper surfaces. You can even bake multiple trays of cookies at the same time, without some cooking faster than others as they would in a conventional oven. However, delicate foods, such as soufflés or cakes, could become misshapen or fail to rise properly if they are placed directly in front of a convection oven’s fan.

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