Convection oven vs. regular oven

Written by christian petersen
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Convection oven vs. regular oven
Convection ovens do a good job on pizza. (pizzas in an oven image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

Convection ovens have been a staple of restaurant kitchens as well as industrial and commercial food service operations for decades. With the introduction of the Jenn-Air home model in the 1970s, the advantages of the convection oven became available to the homeowner. However, the higher cost of convection ovens has kept them from becoming more popular.

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Conventional Ovens

Conventional ovens work on the principal of radiant heat to cook food. Almost all modern conventional ovens are either gas or electric, relying on burners or electric elements to heat food. In its most basic form, the conventional oven is an enclosed box with one burner or element to heat the enclosure and cook food.

Many improvements, including additional elements for more-even cooking and broiling, self-cleaning options, and programmable timers, have become common on conventional ovens. However, they are limited by the physics of heat transfer and they lack a simple improvement that makes a convection oven a better way to cook.

Air Circulation

Convection ovens, like conventional ovens, come in gas and electric types. The main difference is the addition of a high-speed fan that continually circulates the air inside the oven. This fan is usually protected by a shroud and often is paired with an additional heating element. This circulating air provides a huge advantage in cooking food.

Improved Heat Transfer

Air is a good insulator but a terrible conductor of heat. Conventional ovens rely on radiant heat to cook food.

Convection is the principle by which heat is transferred directly from one medium to another. The circulating air transfers heat to the food in a much more efficient manner than stagnant air does. Think of blowing on hot food to cool it quicker. Convection ovens use the same law of physics to transfer heat to food. This allows food to be cooked quicker in a convection oven.

Cooking times in a convection oven might be reduced by about 30 per cent. Alternatively, the temperature may be lowered approximately 1,387 degrees C.

When roasting, it is best to lower the time rather than the temperature. When baking, it is best to lower the temperature, unless the total baking time is very short to begin with. If the original baking time is 15 minutes or less, reduce the temperature but do not change the baking time.

Other Advantages

Convection ovens have other advantages. Food may be cooked on any rack without fear of burning the top or the bottom of the dish. More than one dish may be cooked together without rotating them to ensure even cooking. Baked goods, especially breads, benefit from improved quality. Meats roasted in a convection oven also come out better, as the convection helps to better seal in juices and flavours. Foods of different types may be cooked together without fear of flavour transfer that can occur in conventional ovens.

Drawbacks

Convection ovens need certain types of pans and dishes to take advantage of their improved cooking abilities. Shallow baking dishes, and pans with low sides, are better for convection ovens, as deep dishes and pans tend to shield food from the circulating air. Dark or dull-finished pans absorb and transfer heat better, and they may burn food in a convection oven.

Convection ovens also tuse a little more energy than a conventional oven because of the power needed to run the fan. The fan also can emit extra noise. Convection ovens are consistently more expensive than similar conventional ovens.

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