Convection ovens cook food more evenly, at a lower temperature and in a shorter amount of time than conventional home ovens. They accomplish this through air circulation. Convection ovens feature a third heating element and a fan to move air around the food.
While there is no technical difference between roasting and baking -- both are dry-heat methods -- the term roasting generally refers to savory dishes such as meats and vegetables while baking is used for breads and desserts.
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Circulating air means convection ovens don't have hot spots, so there's no need to rotate food for even cooking.
Convection roasting makes cooking large cuts of meat or poultry simpler. The hot air renders fat quickly, creating a crispy outer skin that seals in juices.
Roasting vegetables is equally successful. The convection action of hot air caramelizes the sugars in vegetables more quickly than a traditional oven can. This allows the center of the vegetables to remain soft and moist while the outer layer is crispy.
Convection ovens are equally proficient when it comes to breads, cakes and cookies. Butter produces steam rapidly in a convection oven, which causes pastry and cookies to become flakier and rise higher than they would in a regular oven. In a typical oven, a rapid rise in a tender pastry would inevitably cause the pastry to fall, because the outer layers would not have time to set and support the baked treat. In a convection oven, the outer layers cook more quickly, allowing them to maintain their structure.
Breads and cakes tend to cook better in a traditional oven, which retains a slight amount of humidity that is evaporated in a convection oven.
Convection Cooking Tips
There are a few important things to remember when baking or roasting in a convection oven:
- Use shallow pans with low sides. These allow for the greatest amount of airflow around food.
- Never cover the oven racks with foil. Doing so would hamper airflow.
- Lower the temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit when using a recipe developed for a traditional oven.
- Check for doneness 75 percent of the way through the stated cook time.