When you're craving your favorite chocolate chip cookies or laboring over your grandma's recipe for snickerdoodles, you want to know that they'll taste just right when they come out of the oven. If your oven uses convection heat or is a model that has both thermal and convection settings, then those familiar cookies are well within reach.
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Baking in a convection oven is actually a really useful (and delicious) way to prepare cookies, in part because this baking method is great for getting food brown and crispy. This method requires only minor adjustment if you're used to baking in a conventional oven.
Unlike conventional ovens, which use heating elements to surround food with heat, convection ovens have fans that continuously circulate hot air around the food. A convection oven also has an exhaust system that vents hot air, which pulls some of the moisture out of the oven and speeds up browning or crisping.
Cookies are one of the baked goods that are best suited for convection ovens. The circulating hot air can be a problem for anything at all delicate, like light and fluffy cakes or yeast breads, but most cookies aren't as disturbed by the air movement in the oven. A convection oven is suitable for baking fresh or frozen cookie dough.
There's a simple rule of thumb that helps bakers translate their usual recipes for baking in a convection oven: Lower the temperature by 25 degrees and expect the food to cook a little quicker than it would in a typical oven. If the cookie recipe calls for 12 minutes of baking in a 375-degree oven, then 10 minutes at 350 degrees might be just right in the convection oven. At least when you're first experimenting with baking cookies in convection ovens, it's advisable to stay in the kitchen and check on them often. Once you're more familiar with your specific oven's results, it should be easier to predict when a batch of cookies is perfectly done.
Tips for Convection Oven Baking
Food will cook unevenly if the convection oven's hot fans can't reach all parts of it, so choose cookie sheets that are either entirely flat or that have a small lip. Don't use baking pans with tall sides, which may keep the cookies on the border from cooking at the same rate as the cookies in the middle. To keep air circulating, don't crowd the cookie sheets with too many cookies or the oven with too many cookie sheets.
One of the things about which to be conscious when baking cookies in convection ovens is that opening the oven door will let circulating hot air escape and will disturb the baking process. It's best to check the cookies through the oven window instead of opening the door. That said, if you notice that food cooks slightly unevenly in your oven, it may be necessary to rotate the cookie sheets about halfway through baking.
Finally, keep in mind that not all convection ovens are created alike, and not all cookie recipes will turn out perfectly in this type of oven. In ovens that have multiple settings, the convection feature sometimes doesn't work at maximum efficiency. A small countertop convection oven will also yield different results than a built-in convection oven. The bottom line is that becoming comfortable baking with your convection oven may require some trial and error.