An oven with convection can speed up cooking and improve browning and crisping. Learning how to use it takes some practice, and reading the manual is a must. But this oven feature is worth mastering, so we asked Susan Reid, an expert on getting great results using convection, for advice. Reid is a chef and food editor of Sift magazine, published by King Arthur Flour.

“Convection ovens can do things a regular oven can’t,” says Reid. “They can preheat and cook faster, hasten dehydration, and cook greater volumes at one time.” In conventional ovens, with less air movement, results can be uneven.  

Convection varies by brand and model, but basically the oven uses one or more fans to circulate the hot air. Some ovens have two fan speeds. A convection baking setting lowers the fan speed while convection roasting relies on a higher fan speed to brown and crisp the exterior of meat and poultry. That said, Consumer Reports’ tests have found that not all ovens with convection heat evenly. Know your oven, then give Reid's recommendations a try.


You'll see some good deals this time of year, so before you head to the store, check our range buying guide and range ratings. Click on the Features & Specs tab in the ratings to find out whether a range has convection, and also see our brand reliability information.
 

Convection Cooking Tips

Use pans with low sides. This allows the hot circulating air to work its magic. Light colored aluminum is ideal for baking and for roasting vegetables—even when not using convection. It helps prevent the bottoms of cookies and breads from overbrowning, and the natural sugars in vegetables from burning. With a dark pan, heat transfer is accelerated and food can darken faster.

Lower the baking temperature. Lower the temperature by 25° F under what's recommended, and check 5 to 10 minutes sooner than your recipe says. Some ovens automatically lower the temperature when you hit the convection setting, so you'll want to know that first. For roasting, rely on what the manual says. 

What to bake. Biscuits, scones, and pizza crusts need quick heat for best results, so convection works well with these foods.

Add water. Place a pan filled with an inch of simmering water on the oven floor before baking artisan breads, which are usually baked at a very high heat. The steam helps create a crispy, crackly crust.

What not to bake. It's better to use the oven with the convection option off when baking quick breads, wet muffin batters, cakes, cupcakes, sandwich breads, and sweet yeast baking. “The convection fan has a tendency to dry the tops of some things,” says Reid.

How to roast. Try dry brining and refrigerating meat and chicken for at least an hour before roasting with convection. This dries the poultry skin or the outside of the meat and helps form a seal in the oven more quickly, keeping it moist. Check for doneness in half the time of a conventional recipe.