When my good friend Michelle moved into her new condo, the first thing I noticed (naturally) was her fabulous kitchen. “No oven, though,” I thought to myself, until I noticed the countertop convection oven in the corner. I promptly invited myself over for a cookie day.
I’d never played with a convection oven before, aside from one night preparing for a Project Transitions charity dinner with my mom, under the supervision and in the digs of our good friend Wendy Kamasaki with Ciao Chow Catering.
A little research revealed a great article on Gourmet Sleuth, which explained that convection baking works great for shallow pans and cookies (score!) and not as well for deeper or denser dishes, although it includes convection guidelines for those, too.
Essentially, convection baking speeds up and evens out the baking process by circulating the heated air with a fan, distributing it throughout the oven and all around your dish. I’ve heard that the fan action can cause splattering or misshapenness with loose-batter baked goods, but neither Michelle nor I had that problem on our cookie day.
Aside from even cooking (there’s even no need to rotate your pans or trays), the greatest thing about convection baking is the sheer speed of it. Convection ovens don’t require preheating, and your baking time is generally reduced by 25 to 30 percent, meaning more cookies in less time.
To convert a conventional recipe for use with convection, you can reduce the baking time, reduce the temperature, or reduce a little of both (which Gourmet Sleuth recommends as the best route). In general, you should shave off 25˚ from your temperature and a quarter of your time. They’ve got some great conversion charts for my fellow mathematically challenged chefs.
Because of the air circulation, the sheets and pans used with convection ovens are typically shallower and lower-lipped. The countertop version we used came with its own pans and racks, as many do. If you’re working with an oven that didn’t, just err on the shallow side and keep the circulation in mind.
Also, take time to check out your brand’s user manual or manufacturer’s guidelines. Not all convection ovens are created equal, and many feature different settings and cook at different heats and speeds. We discovered a “rapid automatic” setting on Michelle’s that basically works just like a microwave, without the micro waves.
And, take another look at your good old fashioned conventional oven. Many newer models come with a convection setting, which can easily get overlooked.
I see a convection cookie day in your future!
Convection Oven Cooking. (2005, September 18). Gourmet Sleuth. Retrieved from http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Articles/Cooking-Tips–Techniques-642/convection-cooking-adjustments.aspx