Saturday, May 7, 2011

Conventional Oven Vs. Convection Oven

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..
You have to pay attention to which rack you use to bake different things. You don't have to worry about that in a convection oven, but in a conventional oven, it is safe to bake everything at the middle rack except for some of the breads for example pizza. They are placed towards the lower third of the oven. Use the recipe guidelines.

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.

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  1. Happy mother day!

    A very comprehensive post.Thanks.

  2. I am not finding words good enough to appreciate the work you have put into this write up on ovens. I too am quite ignorant about ovens, so this article has been very helpful.
    I was planning to buy a microwave- convection oven( also called combination oven).I wish you could put your knowledge of ovens to help me with understanding difference between pure convection ovens and the combination types. Thanks again.

  3. Lovely info on oven and baking! I have a MW with convection and also a conventional oven. I used to like my conventional oven a lot before I switched over to the MW convection. Easy to handle and needs less supervision. Good post.

  4. Another helpful post Champa. You are doing a good job. Thanks a lot.

  5. hi.. i am nisha here thanks a millions to u its so helpfull for me as i was 0 in this concept OVEN this was new to me but now i am sure i will learn from u very sooooooon and coook my my kids anddd my sweeet hubby love u bye

  6. Thanks everyone.
    From what I have learned, convection oven is just the oven as I have described - it could be a toaster oven or the big one. Combination microwave is the one which acts like a microwave (with a turn table and all) and a convection oven. When you use the option of convection in a microwave if you have it, it acts like a toaster oven or the mini convection oven. If you don't choose the option, it acts like a regular microwave. This is in simple terms. I am not fond of microwave cooking or baking. BUt this is just me and since I have the access to bigger oven, I have never felt the need to get the combination one.

  7. Hi Champa,
    Thanks so much for your response. I guess I will make do with the combination oven since it combines 2 functions into one gadget and I could save precious kitchen space.
    Here's to wishing you great fun and happy times with your oven, thanks so much again.

  8. Great job Champa. I too am thinking of getting a convection oven and have been going back and forth. Are you using a convection oven? Any thoughts about a gas cooktop and a convection oven?

  9. Madhuram,
    I have a conventional oven. That was the oven I got with the house. When it breaks, I might get a convection oven. But I don't think it is worth replacing just for that. And I like gas stove top too so that reduces the choices. When I do buy a new one, I might buy the one with the split two ovens. Saves energy and is convenient to bake two things at different temperatures at the same time.

  10. Me too. Got the convention oven with the house, but I love to have a gas stovetop. What do you mean by split oven? I saw a GE Profile with 2 ovens. Do you mean that?

  11. Yes. The oven space is divided into 1/3 and 2/3 as two ovens. That is the one I was talking about.

  12. Very informative post..Champa, if you won't mind me stealing your space, in response to Rajani's question, I can share my thoughts. Since I have a mw convection oven and also had a convectional oven a while ago, I know the combo mode works very fast and gets that tandoor effect. Like when you make Paneer Tikka in Combo mode, you get the paneer cooked as well as the top crisp but not rubbery. Same goes to non veg dishes.

  13. Srivalli,
    Thanks for jumping in. No, I don't mind more information.

  14. Champa, this is one of the best piece of info you have posted dear. I had no idea about this and glad to learn :)

  15. Champa, Nice info....I live in apartment so I've to work with what ever is there & it's always conventional only though I do have a toaster oven which I use for many things but baking cakes. Now reading your response to one of the comment above a question popped.... do U have experience with electric oven,why? b'coz in my previous apartment I had electric oven(conventional kind only) & I was getting good result with cakes(no matter what size) BUT now i have gas oven & small bakes are good but when I tried to bake 8" square cake & 9x5" loaf cake they are taking too long to bake means cake come out dry or if I take it out early then middle is still soggy :-((...& i'm using my tried & tested recipes eggless versions....I'm planning to get small thermometer as it was already in my list may be inner temp. is not as per the u have any suggesstions...

  16. Spice,
    Yes. I do have experience with electric oven. When we lived in apartment, that's what we had. I had no issues there either. Now that I have gas oven, I felt in the beginning that the cakes were baking faster than what the recipe said. So, I went and bought the thermometer. It showed the correct temperature. Then I realized that my pans were heating up too fast (this is many years ago) and that is when I started using aluminum pans. They work fine. Every oven is different. There is a chance that the oven could be little less hot than what the knob says or the oven rack position needs to be lowered so that it gets enough heat.

    Also, on a thumb rule, if your cake or bread isn't done after 45 minutes, tent with aluminum foil and bake. It won't get dry and it won't brown too much either.

  17. Beautiful post! Though i read your posts regularly, i can leave comments only on weekends or from home.... Nice info....
    BTW, i have a request to you... all your recipes generally mention the temparature in deg F... whereas our ovens in India have the scale in deg C... It is just a matter of conversion, i know.... but sometimes i have faced sitation when i'm viewing the recipe on my handheld, in the kitchen and at that point i feel it'll be better if it was in Celcius as well... i know for someone who is giving out so many tips already, i am still asking for more.... but thought i'd put it here as there may be many more like me... Thanks again for all your work :)

  18. Sum,
    Thank you. I will make a point to enter the celcius value too.

  19. Hi Champa...I hopped onto ur blog accidently but it was worth!!!I loved this particular tip on diff kinds of oven...I have a MW and it has the convection and the combi mode...all this while i baked in my microwave oven,but i had this prob of proper i recently bought a new conventional oven....from ur blog i found out it is better to use aluminium bakewares and dat was a gr8 piece of info for me!!!i would like to know if i cud use these aluminium bakewares in a microwave,when baking under the convection mode???

    1. CJ,
      Thanks for kind words. I think you should be fine using aluminum bake ware under convection setting of microwave, but I cannot be 100 % sure since I have never used the microwave for baking. I am assuming it should be fine since I have seen the microwave with a stainless steel stand for use under convection mode. Your best bet is to check the manual.


If you have a question and you leave it as a comment, I'll surely answer the question to the best of my knowledge. Thanks for visiting.