What’s the Difference between a Convection Oven and a Conventional Oven?

Learn more about the pros and cons of convection and conventional ovens.

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If you’re moving into a brand new home or if you want to renovate your current kitchen, the typical oven to choose from is either a conventional oven or a convection oven. You've probably heard the pros and cons of both types, but what is the difference between the two?

Conventional or Convection?

Both types of ovens look the same at first, and both can be gas or electric. The difference between them is that the source of heat in a conventional oven is stationery and rises up from a heating element at the bottom. The heat from a convection oven is blown by fans, so the air circulates all over the inside of the oven. Because of this, the heat in a convection oven is consistent.

Although conventional ovens are less expensive than convection ovens, they do have their drawbacks. Conventional ovens can have pockets of air that are warmer or cooler than the temperature that is on the indicator. It’s why cooks open the conventional oven half-way through the cooking time to turn the roasting pan or cookie sheet around. This prevents the food in the back of the oven from being burnt while the food in the front of the oven is barely done.

Why are convection ovens a better choice? In a convection oven, the heat is distributed evenly all around the food. Professional cooks like convection ovens because they not only cook food evenly, but they cook it as much as 25 percent faster than a conventional oven. If you were used to cooking in a conventional oven and swapped it for a convection oven, you'll need to compensate for this faster cooking time. Cooking experts recommend that you check the food in the oven about 10 minutes before it's supposed to be done. Convection ovens also do not need to preheat like conventional ovens do.

Despite this, convection ovens have their drawbacks, especially when it comes to baking. Most convection ovens have a "bake" or "thermal bake" mode which functions just like a conventional oven. When baking, it's sometimes best to turn off the convection fan because convection can cook the outside of a cake faster than the middle. The difference in bake times can be so pronounced that the top of the cake could flop over, and the entire cake could dry out before it’s done. Some bakers know how to operate the fans so this doesn’t happen, but a ruined cake or two for a regular cook might make them keep the fans off completely and revert to a conventional oven. Fortunately, most convection ovens have the ability to turn the fan off. Most convection ovens also have variable fan speeds. A high speed is good for roasts, and a low speed is good for cookies and for dehydrating foods.

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