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Guidelines for When to Use Convection

Q. I’ve had convection ovens for years, but am still not clear on what foods should be cooked with convection and which ones are better off without. I normally use as a guideline that if the food is covered, as in a braise, convection is wasted. Is that true? What about breads?

—MadMom, via FineCooking.com’s CooksTalk forum

A. Your guideline is mostly what I do, but if I am planning to cook something else at the same time, I use convection. Even if both dishes are braises and are covered, I cook on convection and find that they cook a bit quicker than in conventional mode, due to the circulating air.

As for breads, I bake all breads on convection with the bonus that more than two loaves can be baked at the same time, without having to rotate pans. I’ve found that not all breads bake faster in convection, but they do seem to retain more moisture than conventional cooking. Yeast breads with eggs, sugar, and milk will brown faster if cooked under convection, so be sure to reduce the temperature called for by 25°F. For other yeast breads, I generally bake at convection at the same temperature called for in conventional ovens.

As with all dishes, keep a close eye on the dish when using convection for a recipe you’ve only previously cooked with conventional heat. Then make a note on the recipe for the future.

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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