The convection feature in the ranges and wall ovens that Consumer Reports tests does a lot more than just circulate hot air. Convection can cut cooking time and improve browning and crisping—all winning qualities when it comes to creating bountiful holiday meals.

Convection is an oven feature well worth mastering, so we asked Susan Reid, a chef and food editor at "Sift" magazine, for advice. 

“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.” Convection ovens also can produce more even results than conventional ovens, which have less air movement.

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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, and 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.

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Convection Cooking Tips

Use a pan with low sides. This allows the hot circulating air to work its magic. Light-colored aluminum is ideal for baking and for roasting vegetables (with or without convection) because it helps prevent the bottoms of cookies and breads from overbrowning and the natural sugars in vegetables from burning.

Lower the baking temperature. Lower the temperature 25° F below 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 the manual's guidance. 

What to bake. Biscuits, scones, and pizza crusts need quick heat for best results, so convection works well with these foods. "I also recommend convection bake for two-crust pies," says Reid. "It can help set the crusts sooner to keep them from getting soggy." 

Add water. Place a pan filled with 1 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 without the convection option on 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 the inside moist. Check for doneness at half the time of a conventional recipe.

Before you shop for new cooking appliances, check our buying guide and ratings for ranges and ovens. Click on the Features & Specs tab to see whether an appliance has convection.