If you’re in the market for a new oven, consider getting one with true convection. Why? Because they’re faster and more efficient, and they give tastier results than regular ovens. So what is true convection? Well, with a conventional radiant oven, you generally get two heating elements–a bake element in the oven’s bottom and a broil element at the top. With a true convection oven, you get that, plus you also get a fan and an extra heating element around the fan. This system heats air to a uniform temperature before the fan blows it into the oven. We recently spent a day cooking with the latest true convection ovens from Gaggenau and Thermador and discovered that this hot circulating air has several benefits for the cook.
True convection ranges and wall ovens range in price from about $1,150 to $9,000. The list of manufacturers at the end of this article is a good place to start your research.
Some convection ovens have a fan but not the third heating element. This setup will not produce the consistent results of “true” or “pure” convection. When shopping, be sure to confirm that the oven has that third heating element around the fan.
Generally, true convection speeds up cooking by about 25%. The time savings is subtle with quick-cooking items like cookies—you’ll shave just a minute or so off the baking time—but with a whole turkey, you could save yourself nearly an hour. We roasted a 3-1/2-lb.chicken in just 45 minutes (15 minutes at 425°F, followed by 30 minutes at 325°F) instead of the usual hour.
The circulating hot air that helps you cook faster also speeds up the chemical reactions that occur during cooking, giving you superior results. In our tests, the skin of the roasting chicken rendered its fat and browned quickly, so that by the end of cooking, the skin was deep golden brown with a crackly, crisp texture over the entire chicken, and both the white and dark meat stayed tender and juicy. The sugars in roasting potatoes caramelized quickly, creating crisp edges and deep flavors.
True convection ovens don’t seem to be plagued by the hot and cool spots so common in conventional ovens. Baking several sheets of cookies at once in a conventional oven is a recipe for disaster—some cookies will burn and others will be underbaked. And even a single sheet of cookies generally needs to be rotated once during baking. But when we baked three sheets of cookies simultaneously in a convection oven, the cookies baked evenly on all three racks, and we didn’t have to rotate the pans. Very efficient.
It may sound far-fetched, but with true convection it’s possible. We cooked a juicy roast beef and a pan of chewy, fudgy brownies together in the same oven with no flavor transfer. In a different oven, we roasted monkfish tails with curry spices on the top rack, cooked a pan of mustard & rosemary roasted potatoes on the bottom rack, and baked an apple crisp on the rack in between. Again, there was no flavor transfer—the apple crisp didn’t taste like curried fish or vice versa. The hot circulating air cooked the items evenly, and special filters eliminated odors. Plus, all the dishes still cooked faster than they would have in a regular oven.
The ovens we tried let you turn the convection function on and off as you please—but that’s just the beginning. You can use the convection element as the sole heat source. Or you can use the convection element with just the broiler or just the baking element. Or you can use all three elements at once for the most intense heat and fastest cooking.
Fisher & Paykel
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