It is strange, but true. When you don't know someone personally, there is a different kind of connection with them. It is different probably because you are not biased about that person. I have that kind of connection with many people whom I have never seen nor I ever will see. They send me emails, requests, encouraging words and stuff about food or contents of this blog. One such email came from one of the readers which said, "I am new to using an oven. Please help me". Now, I don't consider myself an expert in talking about every single oven that is out there. But, this is my humble attempt to explain what I know about ovens in the simplest terms possible.
Have you thought about how water is boiled? Process is called 'convection'. When the water is heated, water directly next to the bottom of the pan gets heated first. It becomes lighter in weight. It travels up or floats up and the water above sinks in and gets heated. It is simple - every 2nd grader probably knows about this. This is the same concept behind the construction of ovens.
Oven is a box. It has heating elements either on the floor or on both the roof and the floor. There are racks to place the food trays in it. Most of the electric ovens have coil that heats up on the roof and on the floor. Gas ovens have the openings for gas and to burn in the bottom only. What this means is if you are using a gas oven, broiler is in the rack below the oven.
Now, what is broiler? When you turn on the oven to bake, only the bottom heating is turned on. When you turn the broiler on, only the top heating is turned on. Broiling is used to quickly get the nice roasted crust for some dishes (they are placed very close to the coil or heating element so they brown fast) or to brown the top layer to make it look pretty. Example is you can brown the custard or meringue by turning on the broiler for few minutes. When you do turn on the broiler, if you are using an electric oven, you have to leave the door ajar. Otherwise, when the temperature reaches 500F, it shuts off the oven.
Most of the ovens are conventional. Meaning, there are one or two heating elements. That's all. Heat rises. So, when turned on, heat moves from bottom to top. But, in this conventional method of heating, the movement of heat is not so fast that there are plenty of hot spots. That is the reason for specifying to rotate the pans midway during baking. This hot spots can actually spoil the finished product. Also, it takes longer to bake in a conventional oven since the hot air circulates at its own pace.
Convection oven is more recent compared to conventional oven. It can be summarized as a conventional oven with extra in built system to push the hot air around in the oven. There is a fan at the back of the oven wall which pushes the air around. Some convection ovens blow the air from outside to do it and some suck the inside air to keep it moving. Don't think that the blowing air will reduce the temperature in the oven. It doesn't because the fan is operated along with a heating element next to it on which the air is blown. Since the hot air is circulated evenly, food gets baked evenly. No hot spots in a convection oven. Also, food can be baked/cooked at a lower temperature and quicker. It is suggested to reduce the suggested temperature by 25 F as mentioned in the recipe. It is also said that it will bake the food faster than how long it takes in a conventional oven.
Some microwaves come with convection feature which can be used for baking. I neither own one such microwave nor have used one. So, I do not know much about that. But, toaster ovens are same as convection oven but smaller.
Coming to the oven temperatures, different things are baked at different temperatures. I would strongly suggest you to refer to the recipe, but there is a thumb of rule to follow. Subtract the 25 F if using convection oven.
Cakes are baked at 350 F and some at 325 F
Cookies have a range of baking temperature from 300F - 375 F
Pies are baked at 375F - 400 F
Scones are baked at - 375 F - 400 F
Quick breads and Muffins are baked at 375 F
Yeast breads that are not rich in sugar are baked at 375 F - 425 F
Yeast breads which are rich in sugar are baked at 350 F
And the temperature conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius is as follows..
I couldn't think of any other information that is very basic on this topic. If there is any specific question, leave a comment. I will try to answer it to the best of my knowledge.