Convection Oven Advantages and Disadvantages Over Conventional Ovens

A Convection Oven, as utilized in the typical residential kitchen, is a gas or electrically heated oven (not a microwave, although SOME microwave ovens feature a convection heating setting).

Major appliance ovens both over the range and in the range, countertop toaster ovens, and both permanent and portable microwave ovens, convection ovens come in about every size from small portable units to large built-in ovens.  They often incorporate this hallmark feature, which entails a circulating fan, typically found at the rear of the baking chamber.  Convection ovens by Kitchenaid, Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Bravetti, Black and Decker, Europro, et al, offer many design features that make them preferable to conventional ovens in many kitchens, as well as a few drawbacks.  Convection microwave units heat the food more uniformly and quickly.  Convection toaster ovens more evenly brown, bake, and cook, and the same with range-based convection ovens.

Traditional ovens have no circulating fan.  So unless they’re very well designed, conventional ovens often create “hot spots” in the food as well as uncooked regions.  Traditional toaster ovens can sometimes burn the crusts while leaving the middle of the bread practically unbaked.  The same is true of conventional microwave ovens; particularly if they do not include a rotating carousel.  However, conventional non microwave ovens are generally quieter than convection types, and as mentioned, have no fan motor to burn out or fan blades to become dirty.

Advantages and Pros of Convection Ovens

These ovens offer more even and uniform baking and browning. Because of the fan, the heating is more equally spread throughout the chamber, and this means more consistent baking of food.  The edge of that cake is just as well cooked as the middle.

You can often achieve the same degree of cooking in a food with lower oven temperature settings, due to added heat transfers to the food via the fan driven convection air currents.

Also, you can bake more than one item at a time without affecting the oven’s baking ability.  The internal operation of convection units relies less on the radiant heating patterns, and more on the even flow of hot air.  So, blocking those heat rays from the elements or burners with a second pan or tray of food to bake at the same time, has less negative effect on the oven’s performance than it might in a conventional oven.

Therefore, with a properly sized fan, convection ovens have fewer hot and cold spots within, due to their more uniform heating characteristics. Thus, the entire interior assumes roughly the same temperature.

With fewer hot and cold spots, the internal oven temperature is easier to precisely control, and particular temperature settings yield more consistent and repeatable results.

Food placement within the convection oven is less critical as well.  The forced air circulation within helps assure that whether you place a cake on the top, middle, or bottom shelf, that it will bake to the same degree, given the same temperature and amount of baking time.

These ovens with the fan inside are less impacted by lining their shelves with aluminum foil for example, to contain messes, again, because you need not worry about blocking some of the radiant heating. We did this once in our traditional oven, and wondered why it took so long to bake our pizza. But sitting items on cookie trays or aluminum foil in a convection oven should cause no bake time increases.

They generally brown foods faster than non forced-air oven types.

These ovens run cooler. The heating elements need not be heated to such high temperatures because more of the heat they produce actually reaches the food being cooked. Plus, the circulating air reduces the number and degree of “hot spots” both within and outside the oven.

Cooler overall operating, means longer life for the oven’s internal components, although the fan itself could fail frequently, since it features moving parts (the motor and blade), as noted below.

Some say that meat cooks to a more tender and moist consistency in a convection oven, as do vegetables.  Pizza crusts and turkeys come out more evenly brown.

Thus, said ovens can use less energy and time to cook the same amount and type of food to the same degree.

Disadvantages and Cons of Convection Ovens

However, with a convection oven, you have the additional fan motor(s) to worry about failing. So they can be less reliable. But that would not typically be an issue if the motors are of good quality.  Well constructed fans can run continuously for many years without wearing out.

Sometimes, the convection fans used can be either under- or over-sized. An undersized fan would essentially turn the oven into a traditional radiant style type, with the inherent disadvantages of that design in full effect.

An over-sized fan might force too much heat out of the chamber, warming the surrounding area too much, and decreasing food-cooking efficiency. Proper fan size is critical therefore, in realizing all of the pros of convection ovens. So be sure to select an oven made by a reputable manufacturer.

Opening the door during baking can drastically increase food cook times, by interfering with the convection currents inside. So keep the door closed until it’s time to remove the food.  If you like inspecting your cakes while they’re baking, buy a convection unit with a window in its door.

Though you can cook more items at the same time, be careful of how you place the pans. To avoid choking off air flow, leave an inch or so of open space between each tray, dish, or other baking container. Air flow is probably the single most important ingredient in a well-operating convection oven.

Fan assisted convection ovens can be noisy, depending on the size and quality of the fan.

A cook used to baking in a conventional oven will certainly need to experiment with a convection oven to master its peculiarities.  Some foods can cook to the same degree, in half of the time that it would take them to do so in a traditional radiant oven.

Convection ovens generally cost substantially more than their conventional counterparts.  However, they may pay for themselves over time in reduced energy costs and better tasting food.

If you’re a gourmet chef, and highly sensitive to the performance characteristics of your oven, then the convection oven is the more advanced and advantageous choice over conventional models. But if you’re on a tight budget, or do not care so much about hot and cold spots in a traditional radiant heat oven, then go with the cheaper priced conventional models.  In either case, great cooking requires the chef to become very familiar with the characteristics of her oven, whether that be radiant, convection, or a combination of the two.  While it’s certainly possible, and often done in fact, to create gourmet dishes in a conventional oven, doing so may be require less skill of a novice cook, who uses a convection oven.

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Revision History

  • 2014-12-10: Adjusted ad placement and added more whitespace for clarity.
  • 2014-11-07: Added a References section, and additional content.
  • 2012-08-22: Originally published this piece.