When you think of a convection oven, you may immediately picture something that is separate from your conventional oven. However, that is not always the case. For instance, although you can buy a countertop convection oven, your traditional oven might already have a convection setting.
In fact, you can have a convection setting on your oven and never use it, because you don’t know what it is. You might be wondering, is it best to always use a convection setting, or are there times when the regular setting is better? And is it worth it to buy a convection oven if yours doesn’t have the convection setting? What is convection cooking, anyway?
What is a Convection Oven?
The simple definition of a convection oven is that it has a fan and uses an exhaust system that’s different from a regular oven. The combination of the fan and exhaust blows hot air around and over your food, then vents it out of the oven. This cooking method surrounds your food with heat, so it cooks faster and more evenly. If you’ve had issues with hot spots in your food or uneven cooking, a convection oven might be the solution.
Some confusion can arise from the fact that technically speaking, all ovens use convection to heat food. Convection, from a scientific perspective, is just heat circulating naturally due to differences in temperature. Remember that hot air rises, which naturally creates movement when different temperatures mingle.
Every oven uses convection to heat food. However, a convection oven uses a fan to force that heat to circulate evenly. Convection ovens make the cooking process more efficient.
Why Use a Convection Oven?
You can probably already see some of the benefits of using a convection oven, but let’s take a closer look at some of the top reasons to invest in one.
They cook food faster
Tired of waiting for dinner to get done? A convection oven blows hot air straight onto your food, instead of letting the air flow around it. That means your food cooks significantly faster.
They cook food more evenly
You’ll also get more even cooking with a convection oven. Many conventional ovens will have certain “hot spots” where food gets cooked too fast. However, the fan in a convection oven keeps the hot air moving, eliminating those uneven spots.
They’re ideal for browning
When you use a regular oven, the air can’t escape, so it often gets humid. However, the exhaust system of a convection oven keeps things drier, which can be a good thing for certain types of cooking.
This dry environment helps the sugars caramelize faster when you roast things like vegetables or meat. They’ll get more brown on the surface, without losing the moisture content inside.
They save energy
If you’re hoping to make your kitchen more energy-efficient, a convection oven is the way to go. Your food will cook faster, and you can typically use a lower temperature with convection cooking. It will help you save a bit on your energy bills each month.
When to Use a Convection Oven
Convection ovens aren’t ideal for every cooking task, but they’re ideal for a lot of them. Here are a few of the times when a convection oven is best.
When you’re roasting meat or vegetables, convection is ideal.
It’ll get your food roasted more evenly and quickly, and creates a beautiful, crispy exterior. As mentioned above, convection helps to caramelize the surface of your food.
If you’re baking pastries or pies, convection is an excellent choice. It’ll make steam faster and melt the fat, so your pastries will have more “lift,” giving you the fluffy, delicious results you want. You can also bake multiple trays of cookies at once, without having to open up the oven to rotate them.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, moisture loss is one of the issues that can come with convection ovens. But if your food is covered anyway, moisture loss doesn’t matter, and convection will cook it faster. It is perfect for casseroles covered with foil, or anything that’s cooked with a lid.
When to Use a Regular Oven
Traditional ovens still have their place, in spite of all the things convection ovens can do. However, the list of times you need the conventional oven is relatively short.
Aside from preserving moisture content, the one thing traditional ovens do better preserves the shape of delicate items that need to set while they cook.
Convection ovens blow hot air on the food, so a delicate pastry or bread might end up lopsided.
Avoid using a convection oven for cake, soufflé, flan, custard, and quick bread. Some people also prefer traditional ovens for making bread, since convection can make the bread dry. However, convection does help with browning the bread and making the crust crispy, so it’s just a matter of personal preference.
How to Use a Convection Oven
When you use a convection oven, there are a few things you’ll need to change.
First, lower the recommended cooking temperature by 25 percent. Keep in mind that even with the lower temperature, your food might cook faster.
Make sure to check whether or not it’s done before the total cooking time has elapsed. Change things as necessary if it’s cooking too fast or too slow.
Finally, convection ovens only work well if the air is free to circulate the food. Avoid covering your oven’s shelves with foil, since that will impede the movement of the hot air. Use roasting pans, baking pans, and trays that have low sides so the air can move more effectively.
Convection Oven Prices
Don’t want to replace your whole oven? You’ll be glad to learn you can enjoy the benefits of convection cooking with an affordable countertop model! The simplest countertop convection ovens start under $100. High-quality models can range up to $500. But even the most expensive model is still more affordable than replacing your oven.
Countertop convection ovens can sometimes be worthwhile investments even when you do have a convection setting on your oven. They can help you cook lots of dishes at once when the holidays come or let you cook things at different temperatures at the same time. They’re also great when you’re just cooking for one or two people and don’t want to use your whole oven. The smaller models are easily portable, so you can even move them to different rooms if you want.
2018’s Best Convection Ovens
Ready to enjoy convection cooking for yourself? Check out our top countertop convection oven choices here.
It can cook a small pizza, or make six pieces of toast at the same time. You can also insert a 9-by-11-inch baking sheet if you want to make a casserole, rolls, or brownies.
The oven has a door that rolls open, so you can easily access it without burning yourself. You won’t need room for the door in front of the oven or on the side, so this is a great way to maximize your counter space.
Use the settings to broil, bake, or make toast easily, and choose the stay-on function if you need to cook something for more than half an hour. You can also use the low temperature setting to keep your food warm while you’re waiting for something else to finish cooking.
This option has a higher capacity, you can cook two medium pizzas at once, or 14 pieces of toast. The digital controls are super easy to use, and cleanup is simple since you won’t have to wipe off any control knobs.
Select settings for baking, broiling, defrosting, toasting, or making pizza. The 90-minute timer shuts off automatically for safety, and the temperature ranges between 200 and 450 degrees. This oven also comes with a baking pan, two oven racks, and a broiler rack, plus it can hold most standard pans. However, avoid using foil in it, since this can make it overheat.
You can fit two small pizzas, two cake pans, or two 9-by-13-inch baking pans in this model, so the capacity is nice. The rotisserie fits a five-pound chicken or roast.
The timer runs for up to two hours, and the oven has settings for both broiling and baking. Some users say the temperature tends to run low, so you might have to adjust your cooking temperatures accordingly. And if you plan to make toast with this oven, keep in mind that it doesn’t have a “toast” setting - but it will still do the trick.
If you need to save counter space without sacrificing quality, try this compact option. The price tag is a great value. Although this oven is on the small side, it can cook a 12-inch pizza, and the reversible racks make it easy to adjust the height according to what you’re making.
The upside of a small countertop oven is that it heats up super fast, so this is also a terrific choice if you want to cook things quickly. But you can also use its four-hour stay-on function when you feel like making something that requires a slow roast. Choose from broil, bake, toast, and warm settings - the toast setting also lets you adjust the toast's darkness.
This option is small, but it comes with a lot: two racks, a removable crumb and drip tray, a broiler pan, and a grill rack.
The Wisco-620 oven is made with commercial cooking in mind, but it’s great for an avid home cook. It has essentially the same features as a standard oven and cooks things to the same quality. The timer runs for two hours and the temperature ranges between 100 and 450 degrees so that you can use it for anything from warming to high-temp baking.
The fan’s high speed ensures the ultimate heat distribution for the evenest cooking. This oven is also better insulated than most, so the exterior won’t get too hot to the touch.
You can take off the door and slide out the racks, making cleanup a breeze. This convection oven's main drawback is that it doesn’t have a broiler. However, it comes with three custom 13.5-by-10-inch baking trays, which is a bonus.
If your oven already has a convection setting, you may not need to invest in a countertop model at all. But if you want more cooking options in your kitchen, or your oven lacks a convection setting, a countertop convection oven can help bridge the gaps.
The least expensive models on this list are easy to justify buying, even if you’re not an avid cook. But the higher-end models are ideal for people who are passionate about the craft of making food. Make sure to choose something with settings that you’ll use, rather than buying a fancier model just because it sounds exciting.
Will a countertop convection oven benefit your kitchen, or are you sticking with what you have? Leave a comment and let us know!