With technology evolving so fast, it is incredibly hard to keep up with the latest trends and the new best thing. Convection cooking is definitely the talk of the town, but have you ever had a breakdown of exactly how it works? We bet not!
Did you even know that there are different convection cooking settings? The most common two settings are convection baking and convection roasting, but when do you use which?
Well, to put it simply, it depends entirely on what you want to achieve.
What’s the difference between convection baking and convection roasting? Convection baking is perfect when you need a dish to rise evenly, but it doesn’t brown as nicely. Convection roasting on the other hand is perfect for browning and crisping up food but isn’t good for products that need a lot of rise.
In today’s packed article, we will be looking at every difference between convection baking and roasting including how they work, when to use them, their cooking times, and even which foods they cook best!
We will also be looking at the different types of convection ovens and look at some helpful tips and tricks for using yours at home.
What Is Convection Cooking?
Okay, so it seems like everyone is talking about convection ovens and convection cooking, but do you actually know what it is? How does it work? When to use it? Do you even know how to set it on your oven?
If your answer is no, don’t worry because when this craze started we were just as confused! Luckily, it is much easier than you might think! First, let’s look at what a regular oven is to better understand what convection cooking is.
Regular Ovens And How They Work
Regular or old-schools ovens work with heating elements that are located at the top or bottom of the oven. When you are setting a regular oven, you can make it use only the top, only the bottom, or both at the same time.
This setting allows you to do different things, for example, by only using the top element you can grill your food or make it char. By using both elements, you are providing heat from all sides which promote even cooking.
The biggest downfall of a regular oven is the heat distribution. Have you ever heard of the term “hot spots”? Well, these are the bane of any baker’s and chef’s existence!
A hot spot is when some areas inside the oven are warmer compared to the rest.
This is where convection ovens come in!
Convection Ovens And How They Work
A convection oven also has heating elements at the top and the bottom of the oven, but it has also been designed with a fan and an exhaust system.
The fan helps distribute the hot air around the oven so that you have a very even temperature throughout the entire oven. The exhaust system helps vent out the cold air.
Overall, it gives you evenly cooked products and it also helps cook the food quicker.
Benefits Of Convection Ovens
First and foremost, convection cooking helps cook food more evenly and eliminates hot spots.
By circulating the hot air evenly throughout the entire oven, it automatically helps cook the food up to 25% faster.
This is because the air is blown directly onto the food instead of “floating” around it – it is a more direct application of heat.
By cooking the food faster, you are also saving energy as your oven doesn’t have to be on as long.
And finally, the excellent circulation of heat helps brown food much better. Because the vent helps eliminate any moisture inside the oven, the sugars caramelize quicker and the food ultimately browns better and more evenly.
The Downside To Convection Ovens
Unfortunately, there is a downside to these ovens. Convection ovens in general are more expensive—this makes sense because “better” technology (or more complicated technology) is involved.
They also tend to be louder compared to traditional ovens because of the fans. And, depending on what you are making, the fan can be very powerful and blow the ingredient all over the place.
Lastly, most recipes online have been tested using traditional (non-fan ovens). This means that you might need to try a recipe a few times, or adjust the temperature from the get-go, to ensure the food doesn’t burn or cook weirdly.
European Vs American Convection Ovens
Okay, so we felt like it is necessary to clarify on some terminology as this is a very common question we get. It might also affect the choice you make when buying one or the other.
An American convection oven is very similar to a regular oven and has two heating elements: a baking one at the bottom and a broiling one at the top. At the back of the oven (depending on the design) is the built-in fan.
A European convection oven is exactly the same as the American version but has an additional third heating element located at the back of the oven behind the built-in fan.
This provides additional heat and an even more stable temperature throughout the oven.
Both of these ovens can still be set to convectional baking and roasting. The European version just works a little bit better and is reportedly quicker because of the extra heating element.
What Is Convection Baking?
Convection baking is actually very simple to understand. It uses the heating element to heat the surrounding air. Then, the air is circulated by the fan.
This allows baked goods to rise evenly and beautifully, it cooks the food evenly, and it works faster compared to roasting.
Overall, baking usually occurs at higher temperatures compared to roasting.
The downside of convection baking is that it doesn’t caramelize the food well and, as we mentioned before, the oven itself can be very loud.
Best Dishes for Convection Baking
In our opinion, the best foods to make with the convection baking setting include baking bread, cakes, and cookies—basically anything that needs to rise beautifully!
With the regular oven setting, you will often find that some areas of the cake or bread rise better (or browns better) compared to other parts.
What Is Convection Roasting?
The convection roasting setting also uses the heating element, but alternates between the baking (usually the bottom) and broiling (usually the top) heating element to create heat.
This allows the food to brown beautifully at the top while also creating enough heat so the fan can evenly circulate it.
It essentially creates more top heat so that your food browns and caramelizes perfectly and quickly, it provides quick high heat and creates crispy dishes.
The downside however is that it doesn’t provide enough stable temperatures to make the food rise evenly (for example cakes) and it doesn’t cook the food as fast as compared to convection baking.
Also, the ovens are loud as we have mentioned.
Best Dishes For Convection Roasting
Convection roasting is the best setting to use for larger pieces of meats. These pieces tend to take very long to cook and need low even temperatures to prevent them from burning before being cooked through.
However, they also need to brown nicely, which is where the broiling heating element makes a big difference.
Overall, this setting produces crispy, evenly browned dishes that have also been evenly cooked through.
It also works nicely for vegetables as it browns and caramelizes the outside while keeping the inside tender and soft.
What Is The Difference?
So, comparing the two settings side-by-side, the biggest difference is the way the heat is produced.
Convection baking usually only uses the baking heating elements to heat the air which is then circulated by the fans.
The roasting convection setting uses the baking and broiling heating element to create more top heat for browning while still creating an even oven temperature.
The convectional baking setting allows items to rise evenly because it creates a much more stable (or even) internal temperature. This also directly affects the cooking time.
Because the oven doesn’t have to constantly even out the temperature from two different elements, the cooking time is much faster compared to the convection roasting setting.
The convectional roasting setting works better for food that needs to be caramelized (or browned) but still cooks evenly. It takes slightly longer for the food to cook as the temperature fluctuates a bit more.
How To Use The Convection Setting
So, as we have mentioned, most recipes are written for traditional ovens without the excellent air circulation.
And because the convection oven setting cooks food faster, you will have to make a few adjustments before popping your ingredients or dish inside.
Here are our top tips and tricks to help you make the correct adjustments:
- First, make sure the recipe isn’t written for a convection oven setting. Usually, the recipe very specifically states which convection setting you have to use if they used it. They will use phrases like “the oven setting with the fan” or “convection baking/roasting setting”.
- You can lower the temperature slightly. We would recommend lowering it by only 25-30°F. So, if a recipe calls for a traditional oven setting at 400°F, lower the conventional oven setting to 375°F.
- Alternatively, or along with lowering the temperature, you can check your food earlier. Check on your food roughly three-quarters (75%) of the way through the originally recommended cooking time. This will ensure that the food doesn’t burn or gets overcooked.
- Ensure that your oven can efficiently circulate the air. By this, we mean that the circulated air should be allowed to reach (touch) the food. This can be achieved by using trays or pans with lower sides. You should also test recipes without covering them in foil first (especially the roasts).
- We highly recommend using broiler pans. Usually, they are sold along with the convection oven. They have been specifically designed to help with airflow, especially when roasting large pieces of meat.
If you cannot find a broiling pan, simply place a metal (oven-safe) cooling rack over a roasting tray and place it inside the oven.
Which Setting Should You Use?
The convection baking setting is best for items that need to rise evenly and bake evenly. The convection roasting setting is best for large pieces of food (or dishes) that need to caramelize or brown while cooking evenly.
You can use the convection roasting setting for virtually every time you need to roast a dish. This includes meat and vegetables or fruits.
The dry environment makes their skin crispy, perfectly brown, and generally, they cook faster.
Convection roasting is also perfect for any dish that usually needs to be covered like a braised dish, casserole, or stew. With convection roasting, you won’t lose as much moisture, and the dish cooks faster.
The convection baking setting can always be used when you are baking pies and pastries It helps melt the fat evenly which means that steam will be formed faster.
Quicker steam formation creates more lift in the dough of crusts and pastries and ultimately creates a more appealing product.
You can also use the convection baking setting for big batches of cookies (or other products) because the air is evenly circulated. You don’t even have to rotate the pans or batches!
And finally, you can use either setting to dehydrate food. We prefer using the convectional baking setting to prevent the ingredients from becoming too dark. These settings help remove the moisture quickly and evenly.
When NOT To Use Convectional Cooking
This is a very tricky question and it honestly, at least in our opinion, comes down to your specific recipe, not even what you are making.
Convection baking is usually where the frustration comes in. While it is an excellent setting that allows dishes to rise evenly, that is exactly why it won’t work for some recipes.
The strong circulating air could potentially cause delicate cake structures to collapse and come out lopsided.
To determine which recipes will work, the best advice we can give you is to look at the batter (which is usually the type of recipe that can’t handle the blowing air).
If you have a batter that is very airy (for example a soufflé batter) that first rises before it starts setting, the convection setting shouldn’t be used—or at least it is risky.
Other dishes that are often times too fragile for this setting include flans and custards, soufflés (savory or sweet), certain airy cakes, and certain types of bread.
With the bread, while it does create a beautiful brown crispy crust, some say that it dries the crumb (the inside) out too much.
In the end, it’s entirely up to you and the best way to determine what works with these settings is to test them yourself.
Now that we’ve looked at the differences between convection baking and convection roasting, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
Is convection cooking better than regular cooking?
Neither is better compared to the other—it depends entirely on what you need to achieve. When it comes to even cooking and efficient rising on baked goods, convection cooking is sometimes the way to go.
As we have mentioned before, it depends on a lot of factors and the best way to test which is best is by making the recipe yourself and taking note of the results.
What is the difference between an air fryer and a convection oven?
An air fryer is essentially a smaller version of a convection oven. It works in basically the same way: a heating element provides the air while a fan circulates the heat.
You can air fry food inside a convection oven; however, you won’t be able to roast or bake as many things inside an air-fryer. This is solely because of its smaller size.
Can you use stainless steel in a convection oven?
You can definitely use stainless steel inside a convection oven—actually, any oven-safe material can work. This includes metals like cast iron or aluminum, ceramics, and glass cookware.
Just avoid any pot, pan, or baking dish with plastic, wooden, or silicone handles as they might burn or melt.
Can you grill using the convection roasting setting?
We would say it depends entirely on how grilled or charred you want your food to be. If you want a very charred piece of food, then you may want to switch the convection roasting setting to only grill.
Otherwise, if you only want a nicely browned piece of vegetable or meat, the top broiling element will provide enough heat when it’s in the roasting setting.