If you are fortunate enough to have a convection oven or a setting that engages this feature on a conventional model, then you have technology in your home that can make your kitchen become more productive. This option gives you a fan and an exhaust system that isn’t found on the traditional design. These components work together to blow hot air around and over the food, and then vent it back out to create an even cooking experience.
Think about how you feel during the winter when there is a significant breeze hitting you. Do you feel warmer when you stand out of the wind? The same principle applies to the convection process. Because the air movement creates more heat around the food, it can cook faster and more thoroughly than it would otherwise.
There are times when a convection oven is the best option to use for making something. Then there are the moments when a conventional design can provide better results. These are the pros and cons to consider if you are pondering an upgrade to your kitchen in the near future.
List of the Pros of Convection vs. Conventional Ovens
1. Convection ovens cook food more evenly than conventional ones.
If you are cooking with a conventional oven in your kitchen, then it takes some time to get to know what the temperature profile needs to be when making food. It is not uncommon for some of them to be a little cold, while others can be hotter than what the display says. There are also areas inside of the oven that have different temperature profiles.
A convection oven does not deal with this problem at all. There is a fan that is on the inside that allows the hot air to continuously circulate while the food cooks. That’s why it is more effective at baking. The consistency makes the temperature of the items baking become much more consistent.
2. Convection ovens decrease your cooking time.
Because the convection oven uses a fan to circulate the hot air around your food, your cooking times tend to be less when using this technology. If you would normally set your conventional oven at 350°F to make dinner, the convection oven could operate at 50 degrees cooler. That means you’re spending less money on the energy to make something, and you have more time to do something other than cook. If you manage a large family at home, the upgrade to a convection oven vs. a conventional one could create a dip in your electrical bill.
“Convection ovens can do things a regular oven can’t,” Susan Reid, food editor at Sift and a chef in her own right. “They can preheat and cook faster, hasten dehydration, and cook greater volumes at one time.”
3. It is possible to make more than one dish at a time.
If you use a conventional oven at home, then you typically make one dish at a time because of the temperature profile the appliance creates. When you add a second dish to the oven, then you must increase your baking time, cook at a higher temperature, or take both actions. This problem does not exist with a convection oven.
This advantage comes back to the fan distributing the hot air throughout the appliance once again. You can even stack dishes on top of each other and still have them bake correctly because of this technology. As long as there is room for the air to circulate, you have a foolproof method of making good food.
4. The dishes can go anywhere in a convection oven.
When you read the recipe instructions for a conventional oven, you’ll discover that the dish needs to bake at a specific rack height to achieve the desired result. If you place a container too close to the heating element, then you could burn the food. There’s even a chance that a glass baking container could crack because the bottom gets too hot.
You don’t have this worry with a convection oven. The baking dishes can go on any rack. There is never a risk of burning anything – unless you leave the food in the appliance too long. It will cook evenly, at the correct temperature, at any placement.
5. Convection ovens are better at browning foods.
The air that comes from a conventional oven becomes humid over time because the moisture in the food has no place to escape. That means you can end up with fat and moisture on top of the dish, potentially ruining the flavor profile of the item in question. It can even be enough to ruin a baste that you place on some foods.
Convection ovens create a superior browning effect because the humidity goes through the exhaust system. The dryer air allows for the sugars in the food to begin caramelizing faster during the roasting process, which means you can get a better sear when baking to avoid the pan-based step used in the traditional methods of cooking.
6. It can work well for some types of dough.
Some baked goods do not perform well in a convection oven, but pastries and pies are an exception to that disadvantage. The consistent hot air from the fan and exhaust combination melts the fat better, which means more steam occurs during the baking process. This outcome produces a pie or pastry dough that has more lift, better flakiness, and a more robust flavor profile than what you could receive from the standard process.
Because some convection ovens can operate with two fan speeds instead of one, you can produce specific results based on what you make. A higher fan speed could help to crisp the exterior of poultry or meat, while the lower option could be perfect for that apple pie.
7. The setting is very easy to use on most ovens.
If your oven comes with a convection feature, then the only thing you need to do is turn it on. Then you can make the necessary adjustments to the cooking process to get the results you want. Make sure that you check on items earlier than normal, about two-thirds of the way through, because the consistent air temperatures can speed up your cooking time. If you purchase an oven that only provides a convection option, then all you need to do is make sure that there is room for the air to circulate.
Make sure that you don’t cover the oven shelves with foil either if you want to use the convection feature.
8. Convection ovens are available in multiple sizes and options.
If you want a small convection oven to help you make pizza, toast, or grilled cheese sandwiches, then a small countertop option can provide you with the services you need. These models are not always classified as a “true” convection appliance, but the approach to cooking is the same as it is with any other model. You can also choose a regular oven in the traditional design that gives you a convection feature that you can turn off or on at your convenience.
There are industrial-size units available for bakeries and restaurants as well when comparing convection vs. conventional ovens. These units might have 2-3 doors, 6-8 racks to use, and stronger fan motors to create better air distribution.
9. You can use convection ovens for non-food purposes.
A conventional oven can be useful for drying clay or making Shrinky-Dinks, but that is about the extent of their non-food uses. If you have an industrial-sized convection oven, then it can be useful in the manufacturing processes of several items. There are several variations available in the industry today as well, including toaster, impingement, and microwave ovens that use some of this technology. If you have an air fryer at home, then this technology is a countertop convection oven that circulates hot air around food to crisp it up.
You can even purchasing a combination steamer that uses convection technologies with superheated steam to retain more nutrients in the food, add moisture to it, and create even faster baking times.
List of the Cons of Convection vs. Conventional Ovens
1. You will need to make adjustments to all of your recipes.
The directions on the back of a box or in a cookbook are all based on the idea that you’re going to use a conventional oven. If you have a convection oven at home, then you’ll need to adjust the recipe to ensure that the food doesn’t overcook. Baked goods are the most susceptible items that run into this disadvantage, especially cakes and cookies. Not every recipe will give you alternative instructions.
There are some time charts that can help you to make some adjustments, but as a general rule, you’ll want to reduce the cooking temperature on the convection oven by 25°F or take 25% off of the cooking time. That means cookies that bake at 350°F for 12 minutes would take 9 minutes in your convection oven.
2. Dough doesn’t rise as well when using convection ovens.
If you start using a convection oven for dough-based products, including cakes, bread, or pizza, then you won’t get the same amount of lift from the item. This disadvantage is due to the consistent temperatures found in the appliance. Baked items with dough tend to do better when they are in a place where there can be some inconsistency in the temperature profile. You can also avoid this disadvantage by choosing an oven that allows you to turn the convection fan off if you’re trying to bake something.
Reid says that using a pan of water can help with this disadvantage too. “Place a pan filled with 1-inch of simmering water on the oven floor before baking artisan breads, which are usually baked at a very high heat. The steam helps to create a crackly, crispy crust.”
3. There are more things that can go wrong with a convection oven.
Convection ovens use a heating element and a fan to make sure your food items receive the correct temperature for banking. Because there are more working parts with this technology, there are more things that could go wrong with it. Although many premium models can last for several years without encountering this problem, some of the entry-level ovens might need help in 12-24 months.
If you are thinking about an upgrade to a convection oven for your home, then it helps to invest as much as you can into this technology. Avoid the As Seen on TV products in this category as well so that you can put your cash into quality instead of potentially questionable add-on features.
4. You can still hinder the performance of a convection oven.
If you prevent the fan from circulating the air properly in your convection oven, then you can still cause problems with an inconsistent temperature profile. Blocking the fan or overcrowding the space will create inefficiencies that might impact the quality of your dishes. It might take longer to cook something, the item might not rise or stabilize as it should, or there could be inconsistent temperatures in the food. Try to put as few dishes as possible into the oven so you can achieve the best possible results.
Reid says that anything involving sweet yeast baking should be avoided as well. “It’s better to use the oven without the convection option when baking quick breads, wet muffin batters, cakes, sandwich breads, and sweet yeast baking as the convection fan has a tendency to dry the tops of some things.”
5. It costs more to have an oven with convection features.
If your budget is tight and a new oven is needed, then a conventional oven can come home for about $500. Unless you need a gas connection, that could be the extent of your cost. A convection oven is typically double the cost of the traditional technology, with entry-level models priced around $1,000. If you want a model that provides premium features, then it could cost over $2,500 to bring home something that can support your cooking habits. You’ll want to bring home the best oven you can afford to reduce the risk of a poor baking performance happening.
6. You might need to purchase different pans for a convection often.
Because convection ovens require circulating air to improve the baking experience, you will want to have pans that offer low sides to encourage this magical process. It helps to use light-colored aluminum for roasting vegetables and general baking because there is a lower risk of having the baked goods over-brown on the bottom. It will also help to prevent the sugars in the vegetables from burning on you.
7. Some ovens automatically change the cooking temperature.
If you choose the convection setting for your oven, then the appliance might automatically adjust your cooking temperature to match the conventional equivalent. You’ll need to know if the equipment will do this before starting your baking because it will throw off your times. That’s why it can be a disadvantage just as readily as it could be a benefit for some homes. Since every make and model approaches this issue a little differently, you’ll want to consult with your owner’s manual for roasting guidance instead of relying on a trial-and-error method.
8. Additional venting might be necessary for a new convection oven.
If you are replacing a conventional oven with a convection model, then you will usually need a vent to the exterior wall to meet coding requirements. The heat from the oven exhaust needs to go somewhere, so you’ll need to route it to the outside. This disadvantage can raise the cost of the installation significantly if your older oven didn’t require that need.
You might have the option to vent it inside your kitchen, but that is not recommended since the temperatures will rise dramatically in that space. Do you really want 350°F air blowing in your face? There are some ventless models as well, but you may not see all of the advantages this technology provides if you choose that option.
Verdict of the Pros and Cons of Convection vs. Conventional Ovens
Conventional ovens fit right into our comfort zone. This technology has been in use for generations. Most of us learned how to cook and bake using this option, which is why the average cookbook bases its recipes on the traditional option. The average home is going to have at least one oven.
Convection ovens might come with some disadvantages, but it can also open a new world of possibilities to your cooking creativity. As you get to know this technology, you’ll discover that the results can be incredible.
When evaluating the convection vs. conventional ovens pros and cons, you will want to get what your budget can afford. Then take advantage of this technology instead of being scared by it because you can do some amazing things with a more consistent appliance.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.