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Convection Cooking Basics

Q. I’ve had an oven that can cook traditionally or through convection for two years now. I have never used the convection feature, nor do I know anyone with a convection oven. Can you give me some convection cooking basics? What types of foods are good to start with? Is using convection useful for someone who cooks only for two people, and almost never cooks things like a roast or a whole chicken?

—Florida2, via FineCooking.com’s CooksTalk forum

A. You are not alone! Many people with convection ovens have also never tried this mode. The best suggestion I can make is start with a tried and true recipe you have made several times, but turn the oven to convection and reduce the heat by 25°F. Start checking for doneness several minutes before the end of cooking time (you may find the dish cooks faster or takes the same amount of time). For example, if I have a recipe that bakes at 350°F and is done at 30 minutes, I would set the oven to convection cook at 325°F and start checking it at 25 minutes.

For foods that do not require a lengthy cooking time, I’ve also had success in keeping the temperature the same and reducing the cooking time by about 10 percent. For example, a casserole that cooks at 350°F for 45 minutes can be cooked on convection at 350°F for 35 minutes, for the same level of doneness.

Make a note of the new time and temperature on your recipe. Once you get comfortable converting a couple of your favorite recipes, try others. If you regularly cook on the traditional setting, you’ll find it easy to make the same things using convection settings, with only some minor adjustments—and you might find you prefer the convection results.

For more details on cooking with convection, read Susie Middleton’s Better Cooking Through Convection, visit our special section In the Kitchen, and watch a video detailing how convection ovens work.
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