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What Is Convection Cooking?

How Does it Compare to Traditional Cooking?

By Kris Jensen-Van Heste

Q. What is convection cooking?

A. Convection cooking simply brings airflow into conventional cooking, and what a difference that makes. To illustrate, imagine a standard oven with three racks of dinner rolls, all the same size. You know the rolls on the bottom (closest to the heating element) will brown first - and quickly. Then you have to keep an eye on the top rack, because heat rises and those will burn if you aren't on your toes. The middle rack will take its sweet time.

But with convection cooking, an integrated fan circulates the hot air around and across the rolls, cooking them all evenly and all at the same time - and in less time than in a standard oven. Generally, convection cooking takes three-fourths the time of standard cooking, and, as a rule of thumb, at 25 degrees lower.

How does it work? A good convection oven will have three heating elements: top, bottom and rear, with a fan connected to the latter. As the oven pulls in outside air, it's heated immediately and circulated. With meats and poultry, that gives you amazingly even cooking and perfect browning while retaining the meat's moisture. The results are even better with baked goods, like our imaginary rolls. The airflow draws the moisture out of the breads, cakes and cookies, giving you even baking and delightful texture: flaky crusts, crisp pastries and light, fluffy croissants.

When buying a convection oven, look for that third heating element. If there are only two, you won't get the optimum results.

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