We are constantly on the lookout for new and exciting cooking techniques that become available on the market. We were ecstatic when we found that our new oven had a setting we haven’t yet come across. This setting is called fan grilling.
But, what exactly is fan grilling? Fan grilling is an oven setting that combines the grill function with the fan function. Essentially, it uses the top heating element, also known as the broiler, to brown food while the fan circulates the hot air so that the food cooks at the same time.
What makes this function so great is that it reduces your cooking time, cooks and browns food at the same time, and produces a much more evenly cooked item.
Today, we will dive deep into everything you need to know about fan grilling, starting at exactly how ovens work. This way, you will be able to easily compare how this method differs from others, why and when it should be used, and exactly how to use it best! Ready to jump in?
How Does an Oven Work?
Before we look at exactly what fan grilling is, we thought it would be good if we’d explain exactly how an oven (and the different cooking settings) works.
This will make it a lot easier to understand exactly what fan grilling is and how it is different from other oven cooking methods.
An oven works with heating elements that produce heat to cook the food. Some ovens have fans included, which have a wide variety of benefits. Fans help circulate heat better and cook food more evenly.
Oven Heating Elements
Ovens can have a wide number of heating elements. Some ovens only have one heating element, which is then usually situated at the top of the oven. You also get ovens which have two heating elements, situated at the top and the bottom.
And finally, you have ovens with three or more heating elements which are located at the top, bottom, and back of the appliance.
Naturally, if you use the top heating element, it produces heat from the top. And, if you use the bottom and back ones, they will produce heat from those areas.
This is important to know because certain functions, including fan grilling, require certain heating elements.
Next, we have the fan. Many ovens today, if not virtually all new models, have a built-in fan. These fans can be switched on and off. Some automatically go on when set to a specific cooking function.
A fan helps evenly circulate the hot air around the oven chamber. This has many benefits including cooking food more evenly and quickly, giving better results.
For example, if you want to bake a cake with good and even lift, the fan will help with that.
Different Oven Settings
Some ovens have a knob with many different images on them. These images indicate the different cooking settings that the oven provides.
Some of them can be set so that only the top heating elements work, while others can be set so that all of the elements work with and without the fan.
The different settings provide different cooking results. Bringing us to today’s topic, fan grilling!
What is Grilling?
Before we discuss fan grilling, we thought it would make a lot more sense to first cover (or recap) what exactly grilling is. This way you will instantly be able to understand the difference.
As we have mentioned, ovens have different heat elements that they work with. And, depending on which is used, you can utilize different cooking techniques, for example, grilling.
When grilling food, the goal is to give pre-cooked food a bit of color and caramelization. This is done by using the grill setting. The setting uses only the top heating element at an extremely high temperature.
Grilling is done with the oven door cracked open slightly to prevent the appliance from breaking or fire from catching. You can grill an item for between 5 and 15 minutes.
Some food items, however, like bread, might only take 30 seconds to 2 minutes to brown before it starts to burn, so watch it closely.
What is Fan Grilling?
Fan grilling is a wonderful cooking technique that basically combines the grilling oven setting with the fan. This setting is also known as fan-forced grilling.
It uses only the top heating element just like the regular grill setting does.
Now, here is how this setting differs from plain grilling. It also uses the built-in oven fan to help circulate the hot air (again, produced only by the top heating element).
So, with an extremely high heat being circulated constantly, fan grilling can beautifully brown food items while simultaneously cooking them. This basically cuts out the entire grilling time after the item has been cooked.
Because the air is properly distributed throughout the oven, it also tends to cook food more evenly and more quickly, saving you even more time.
How Does This Setting Work?
Fan grilling has a symbol with a little fan and the grilling element at the top. The grilling element sign is usually represented with a zig-zag line.
Unlike when you are using the regular grill setting, you do not have to open the oven door while cooking food with the fan grill setting.
The fan helps circulate the heat to allow the food to cook from all sides while simultaneously browning or crisping up.
By leaving the door open, you are allowing the heat to escape. This means that the food will take much longer to cook and potentially not cook at all! So, make sure to leave it closed.
You also do not have to turn your food constantly while using the fan grill setting. At most, you can turn it over once to nicely brown the item on both sides.
This is because the fan helps the extremely hot air reach right around the item, even underneath. So, even if you don’t turn the food item once, you will still have nicely browned food.
And finally, for the best results, you may want to fan grill your food on a wire rack. This wire rack on Amazon is perfect thanks to its high heat resistance of up to 575 degrees F.
Many ovens come with an oven tray that is fitted with a wire rack. This allows the hot air to circulate around the entire item without it touching a surface. Basically, it just gives better cooking results.
How Long Does Fan Grilling Take?
Fan grilling tends to cook food items much more quickly as compared to no-fan options.
As mentioned before, plain grilling isn’t a technique that actually cooks the food (it only browns it), which makes fan grilling much more useful.
Now, the high temperatures aren’t the reason the food cooks more quickly. It is actually the use of the fan. This is why air fryers (which work in a very similar way to fan grilling) cook food extremely quickly.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to say precisely how much time you will save by using this setting.
It depends entirely on the item you are making and even its thickness and size. But, you can expect to slice off at least a few minutes on every dish.
This technique also cuts out the grilling time which is usually around 10 minutes after the item has been pre-cooked. While using fan grilling, the food cooks and browns simultaneously.
What to Cook Using the Fan Grill Setting
Fan grilling works best for thicker pieces of meat and other items. However, there is a big difference between thick pieces and large pieces.
Thick items include food such as sausages, cutlets, meat skewers, and chicken. It can even be used to cook thick steaks, fillets, and possibly sticky ribs.
But, this method shouldn’t be used for large pieces and meat cuts like leg of lamb, Texan steaks, gammon, or pork neck. It should also not be used for tough meat cuts that require a long cooking time to soften up. These include stewing meat or chuck.
Fan grilling works best for items that require a medium amount of cooking time using high temperatures, and those needing some browning or caramelization.
Is Fan Grilling Healthy?
Fan grilling is a type of dry cooking technique, meaning it does not require any oil or other liquids to help cook the food. This significantly reduces the number of calories that the final dish will have.
When deep-frying or shallow frying, the oil adds a significant amount of fat to the food (even if they were drained) which translates into calories. The same goes for braising liquids, basting sauces, marinades, and similar flavoring liquids.
So, in general, we would say that fan-grilling is a pretty healthy cooking method when compared to many others.
However, what tends to add calories is when certain food items caramelize a lot.
When sugars and proteins are heated, they undergo an effect called the Maillard reaction. The reaction is what creates the browning effect on meats and what gives items a slightly sweet flavor.
Smeg UK Official came out with a video explaining how their Circulaire setting works. I really like Smeg as a brand overall, and haven’t tried this particular oven, but I recommend many of their other products.
What’s the Difference Between Fan Grilling and Other Cooking Methods?
So, now that we have talked about exactly what fan grilling is, let’s have a look at how it compares against other cooking techniques. This will further clarify exactly what makes this technique so special.
Fan Grill vs Grill
It is likely that you are more familiar with the good old grilling oven setting. To grill food items, the oven uses only the top heating element at an extremely high temperature. This heat is directed directly onto the surface of the item that faces the element.
Grilling browns one surface of the food item. It usually takes place after the item has already been cooked and only needs some crisp, color, or caramelization.
When using the grill setting on an oven, you should preferably leave the door slightly cracked open.
By slightly opening the door, you are allowing a bit of airflow and the internal temperature to drop. It doesn’t lower by much, but enough to prevent any damage to the food or appliance itself.
Fan grilling uses the fan setting, which simultaneously cooks the food while browning it. This saves you a ton of time and will even produce more evenly cooked food.
Fan Grill vs Fan Bake
Fan baking is another one of our favorite cooking methods to use, which isn’t the same as fan grilling.
This method is also sometimes called thermo-fan or convection baking. It uses all of the heating elements inside of the oven, or at the very least, the top and bottom ones.
Then, the fan (which is always used) helps evenly circulate the hot air to evenly bake items and give prime results.
Fan baking differs from fan grilling in that it works at lower temperatures. It doesn’t use the grill setting at all. It is more often used to actually bake food items like cakes, pastries, bread, puddings, etc. Not to roast meat or bake casseroles.
Fan Maxi Grill
Now, on some ovens, there is an oven setting called “Maxi grill”. This setting uses the inner and outer top heating elements. Then, the regular “grill” option uses the inner top heating element only.
The main reason there are different options (and even why only some ovens have this option) is that you can grill different-sized items using one or the other.
The regular grill setting (that uses only the inner heating element at the top) will work great for smaller items that can be placed directly underneath the element.
The Maxi grill will work better for larger items that need to be grilled. This setting is also mainly installed in larger convection ovens.
Fan Maxi grill refers to the Maxi grill setting that uses the fan too. This setting will also cook the food evenly while allowing it to brown nicely – especially the larger pieces of meat.
Can you bake a cake with the fan grill setting?
You should never bake a cake using any type of grill setting. Cakes bake at much lower temperatures and shouldn’t be super crisp and dry at the top.
Many people often confuse the fan grill setting with the fan baking setting. But, as we have mentioned above, these are not interchangeable.
Can you fan grill a whole chicken?
Chicken is an extremely easy type of meat to cook and needs high heat for a relatively short amount of time. Whole roasted chickens work exceptionally well with this setting as you always want beautifully browned crispy skin.
If you see that the fan grill setting is browning the meat too quickly, you can always just set the oven back to a regular fan roasting setting.
Does fan grilling work at lower temperatures than regular grilling?
Fan grilling does work at roughly 65ºF lower than regular grilling. This is part of why you can close the oven door. It is also why the food cooks evenly while being grilled.
Up Next: Best Indoor Grills For Steaks