Things to Know using a Convection Oven
Convection ovens have become more popular as it makes baking, reheating and cooking easier. What’s more, you can savor those tasty deep fried dishes or go the healthy route if you prefer. Even if you’re not a master chef you’ll be creating sumptuous meals in no time. ere are some tips to consider if you are new to convection baking and cooking.
Proper Aeration is a Must
Convection ovens need aeration to function properly. Air must be able to circulate on each side for optimum cooking results, so there needs to be a 4 inch space on every side.
4 inches is the minimum, and your instruction manual may recommend even more. Aeration ensures food is cooked evenly and also keeps the unit from overheating, so you need to take this into consideration before you start using - or even buying - a convection oven.
It is hard to emphasize how important it is to give a convection oven space. Actually, room is needed by all kitchen appliances especially if you’re going to use it extensively. With a convection oven, it’s even more critical.
Can you still cook on a crowded kitchen? Yes, but the results won’t be the same. Cooking time will take longer as the restricted airflow will hinder the oven’s ability to cook. You can cook with several racks, but filling each one is not a good idea as it could take more time to get everything cooked.
Read the Instruction Manual
This may be stating the obvious, but you should read the manual before using a convection oven. Have the manual nearby too just in case you forget how some of the controls work.
Aside from the how-to element, the instruction manual may also include a recipe guide and tips for better usage. You’ll want to keep that info handy especially if you’re new to cooking.
Keep an Eye on the Temperature
The temperature and other settings will determine how the food comes out, so make sure it’s correct for dish you’re preparing. The temperature is a little higher at the upper part of the oven than the rest, as that’s where the hot air flows.
You’ll want to use the oven’s hotter parts for browning or baking. You could for instance, bake along the upper rack for some deep baked goodies. If you want to make pizza, you’ll need to do the opposite and cook at the lower part.
Each recipe requires a particular temperature to get the best results. In many cases you have to strictly follow the instructions. In other cases however, you can reduce the temperature down to 25 F as convection ovens are very effective.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Your convection oven is going to last longer if you take care of it. Follow the manual for instruction on how often to clean the unit. If it comes with an auto-cleaning function that’s even better. If you’d rather clean the oven manually, use water and baking soda. You just need to sprinkle a bit of water and the oven should be clean and tidy again.
Use the Appropriate Containers
Convection ovens are great because of their versatility, but you also need to use the right utensils. For slow cooking, wood utensils are best, while glass is most appropriate for cooking at medium speed. For quick cooking, you will get the best results if you use metal utensils.
One more thing: even after you turn the oven off, the dish still gets “cooked”, which is why most dishes should be allowed to set for a few minutes after cooking. If you want your dish to retain a specific texture, smoothness or color, you may want to turn the oven off a couple of minutes early so the food doesn’t get overcooked.
Proper containers also means using the right roasting pans and baking sheets. Just like with the other recipes, you may be required to use specific types of baking sheets. For convection ovens though, rimless baking sheets and low sided pans are the best.
Whether you’re cooking veggies or baking cookies, you’ll find these sheets and pans provide optimum air circulation and will make the food crisper and cook faster. Note that this is mostly applicable for baking and roasting: it is not as important when it comes to cakes and casseroles because those depend on the pans’ high sides.
Keep an Eye on the Food
Convection ovens often cook food faster compared to other methods, so you may need to check on the dish often when cooking time is halfway done. There is no exact science here, so you need to judge by the food’s smell or looks. There’s probably a timer built in with your convection oven, but you’ll learn to trust your own gut. Over time you will be more comfortable with the timing.
Cook the Right Food on Convection Ovens
Convection ovens are not the best for souffles, custards, quick breads or cakes. You can still prepare these on convection ovens and the extra heat will help, but the airflow from the exhaust system and the fan might lead to uneven cooking. Custards in particular could end up dry and unpalatable.
If you have never used a convection oven before, the easiest way to learn is to just cook with it. Get your favorite recipes and cook at a lower temperature (25 F as suggested). Cook it for a short time and see what the results are like. It might take some experimentation but it will be worth it.
You can usually turn the convection on and off, so make adjustments as befits the food you’re baking. When browning for instance, you’ll want to use convection during the end or at the start, but keep it off the middle part of cooking. Also, it’s common for convection oven parchment to get blown. You can avoid this by using a utensil to keep the parchment down.
Cooking with a convection oven is easier than you think, and with the tips given here you’ll realize that you don’t need to be a kitchen expert to serve delicious meals.