Ovens: thermal or convection?
Many people looking to replace an existing wall oven or are purchasing a remodel or new construction have no idea of recent advances in ovens. Over the past 10 years, the appliance industry has made many exciting advancements that make cooking more predictable and enjoyable. This is certainly an area where the “proof is in the pudding”!
Thermal or convection ovens?
I don’t assume that anyone I talk to knows what convection is or the benefits. The vast majority of people have never cooked with convection, why should they know? Here’s an explanation of thermal and convection ovens …
Thermal Ovens – This is the standard baking and broiling oven that most people are used to. Although there are differences from brand to brand, most manufacturers offer ovens that produce fairly consistent results. Most modern ovens will heat evenly when the oven is preheated properly. If you’ve never had convection before, are on a tight budget, or are a Swanson TV diner, you may never miss out.
Convection oven: Convection has to do with the circulation of air (in this case, hot air) in the oven. The air movement will cook food faster and, in most cases, more evenly. Gas ovens are natural convection and the by-product of fuel combustion is moisture. Some gas ovens will also include a convection fan. Electric ovens produce dry heat and tend to dehydrate food. Introducing convection (via a fan and usually with an additional heating element around the fan and hidden behind a baffle at the back of the oven) can help burn the outside of what you’re cooking, with meats being the best beneficiary. When it burns, the moisture is sealed inside. Because of this, it’s a great idea to scoop the meats off the floor of a skillet with a wire rack so the heat can wrap around the rib, turkey, etc. Baked goods also benefit from the uniform heat that most convection ovens produce. You may be able to cook up to 6 cookie racks at a time with consistent results.
Because convection cooks faster, you must compensate for it by adjusting the time or temperature. A good rule of thumb is the 25/25 rule. For meats, use the same temperature you’ve used for years in the bake oven, but shorten the time by 25%. So for a 1 hour cook time it now becomes 45 minutes. To bake, lower the temperature 25 degrees (Fahrenheit). This is not a perfect rule, but it gets you very close to the pin. Most of today’s convection ovens, especially premium brands, offer temperature probes to take the guesswork out. Set the cooking temperature, then the internal temperature and the oven will alert you when the food is done.
There are several convection modes available. Be careful when comparing brand to brand / feature to feature. Not all brands will call their convection modes the same name. Dacor will call their bread and butter convection mode “Pure Convection”, while Miele will call theirs “Convection Bake”. This can be very confusing as most ovens have a convection bake mode that cooks very differently. 5 minutes spent in your dealer or owner’s manual on cooking modes is time well spent. Ask if there is a demonstration available where they cook for you and explain the different modes. Learn how to use convection if you buy an oven that offers it! It is a waste of money not to use the mode that produces the magic convection it gives you.
Regardless of which oven you buy, here’s an important tip, (as my old Dacor rep used to say) “There’s no catch in preheating!” All ovens will notify you when they have reached the desired temperature. Most will arrive in less than 15 minutes at 350 degrees. But the moment you open the door, all that ambient heat is coming out of the oven. You now have an oven that’s about 230 degrees inside. That is why your cookies come out uneven. For best results, it is recommended to preheat the oven for a minimum of 30 minutes.