If you are shopping around for a new toaster oven then you have probably noticed that quite a few models include fans for convection cooking. You have probably also noticed that most toaster ovens that include convection fans cost more than those that don’t.
At this point you may be wondering if it is worth paying extra to be able to cook with convection, and that is a decision I am going to help you with this by pointing out the benefits of convection cooking in a toaster oven, as well as a few tips.
Before I go into the benefits I want to briefly explain how convection cooking works. Any toaster oven that uses convection cooking has fan inside that, when turned on, circulates the heated air around the inside of the toaster oven. It’s as simple as that, and pretty much anything that can be cooked in an oven can be cooked with convection. And now, on to the benefits and tips.
Benefit #1 – Even Cooking
Cooking without convection can result in hot or cold spots in food because food is cooked from the heat given off by the heating elements. The heat from the heating elements is linear, which means that the parts of food that are closest to the elements will get hottest while the parts that are furthest away will be the coolest.
But, if you turn on the convection fan, these hot and cold spots disappear. Why? Because heat becomes fluid as the fan blows the hot air around, and all parts of the oven maintain the same temperature. The convection fan will always be located between the upper and lower heating elements to maximize the efficiency of circulating air.
Benefit #2 – Faster Cooking Time
Food naturally has a layer of cool air surrounding it when cooked in a non-conventional oven. The cooler air is a result of the lower temperature of the food and it takes a while for a non-conventional oven to penetrate the cooler air.
When you use convection cooking the fan circulates the heated air and immediately eliminates the layer of cooler air that surrounds the food being cooked. The benefit of this is that it takes less time to fully heat and cook food when convection is used.
It is important that you reduce your cooking time when you cook with convection so that you don’t overcook your food. A general rule of thumb is to shave off 25% off the stated cooking time. You can always add more time if needed.Benefit – Lower Cooking TemperatureConvection cooking is much more efficient than non-convection cooking. This efficiency includes being able to cook at a lower temperature. Most foods will cook just fine if you lower the temperature by 25° F.
Benefit #3 – Save Money With Convection Cooking
What happens when you shorten your cooking time and reduce the cooking temperature? You use less electricity, which saves you money on your electric bill!
Benefit #4 – Foods Cooked With Convection Are Juicier
Did you know that using convection cooking will stay juicier than if you used conventional cooking? The reason for this is because the continual flow of air over food wicks away the moisture from the exterior of the food, causing a nice crust. The crust keeps the moisture and juices insides. Breads, cookies, and pies don’t dry out during cooking and are wonderfully moist inside. Steaks stay deliciously juicy.
This is in contrast to non-convection cooking, which can result in dehydrated, dried out food. Food tastes better with convection cooking!
Tip #1 – Rule of 25
You may have noticed that you should reduce both the cooking time and the cooking temperature when you cook with convection. The easiest way to remember what to do is to memorize the Rule of 25, which is to lower the temperature by 25° F and to reduce the cooking time by 25%.
Tip #2 – Bakeware Matters
Chances are you haven’t given any thought at all to the color or shape of your cookware – I know I didn’t until recently. Interestingly, the color or shape of your cookware will affect the end result of cooking when convection is used. Here are the best types of pans and bakeware to use for the various cooking jobs you can do in a toaster oven:
- Baking Cakes and Cookies – Cakes and cookies require delicate browning, not dark browning. You will get the best results when baking cakes and cookies in your toaster oven by using shiny pans.
- Baking Breads and Pies – Breads and pies need much more browning than cakes and cookies and the best way to achieve this is by baking them in dark pans. If the thought of pan colors is confusing then think about standing outside on a hot day. You will stay cooler if you are dressed all in white than if you are dressed in black because the darker the color, the more heat that is absorbed.
- Roasting Meats – Meats are usually placed in a pan with edges when cooked, but the edges will block the circulated air and prevent uneven cooking. There are two ways that are best for roasting meat in a convection toaster oven:
- Elevate the meat by placing it on a rack within the pan, so that the meat is as close as possible to the edge of the pan (just use care that the meat isn’t too high, which can cause it to slide off the rack when removed from the toaster oven).
- Place the meat on a v-shaped roasting rack, then place the rack on a shallow pan. The v-shaped rack will elevate the sides of the meat, allowing the circulated air to flow all around it. There should always be a pan under the meat to catch the fat and liquid that drips off the meat, so make sure the edges of the pan are high enough to contain the drippings.
Tip #3 – Experiment With Cooking
No two toaster ovens with convection cooking are the same, so you benefit from experimenting when you use the convection feature. Start by reducing the temperature and cooking time, then adjust them as needed until you find what works best for your specific toaster oven. Just keep in mind that you don’t want to open the door any more than you have to or you will unintentionally extend the cooking time because the oven has to heat back up from the loss of heat when the door is opened.
Tip #4 – Save Money in the Long Run
I’ve saved the best tip for last. Although the cost of a toaster oven with convection cooking may cost more than a toaster oven that doesn’t have convection cooking, you could recoup the upfront cost by using the convection feature. Shortened cooking times and reduced cooking temperatures will result in less electricity used when you cook with convection. The upfront cost of a convection toaster oven will more than pay for itself over time because of your savings in electricity.
Only you can decide for yourself if buying a toaster oven that uses convection cooking is a good choice for you. I hope that the above benefits and tips will help you with this decision, and I invite you to read my reviews for two of the best convection toaster ovens that I have reviewed – the Breville BOV800XL (this is the toaster oven that I own) and the Cuisinart TOB-135.