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Convection vs. Conventional Oven: What's the Difference?

Get to know the defining differences between a convection and conventional oven. Learn how each circulates heat, as well as the pros and cons of both.

Getting Started

Given a choice, would you install a convection oven or conventional oven in your home? Always wondered what the main difference is? You've heard one is better over the other for certain dishes, but when you get down to it, what are the real differences between these two ovens? Better yet, which one is right for your kitchen?
A wall oven is a major kitchen appliance, and it's important to choose the best for your lifestyle and cooking preferences. To help you make a choice, we've put together a list of differences between convection and conventional ovens.

The Main Difference

Convection and conventional ovens look quite similar, and they can also be both gas or electric. So what is the difference between these two oven types? It all comes down to one variable: the heat source. A conventional oven's heat source is stationary, rising from the bottom. But a convection oven's heat is circulated throughout, blown by fans.
And it's this defining difference that may determine which type of oven you choose for your kitchen. There are many pros and cons that separate the two, so let's discuss some of them to help you decide.

Pros and Cons

Heat Consistency

Convection ovens circulate air, which creates a consistent heat. This is an advantage over conventional ovens, which tend to create air pockets that waver and can send a misread to the temperature indicator.
Professional chefs prefer convection ovens, as they offer consistent heat without having to turn or rotate the food. With a conventional oven, that heavy roast will need to be pulled out and rotated at the halfway mark, simply to ensure even cooking and prevent one side from burning.

Quicker Cook Time

Because of a convection oven's unique heat distribution, not only is food heated evenly, but it can cook almost 25 percent faster than conventional ovens. Again, professional chefs love this feature, but even if you're not a gourmet chef, it can still come in handy! Busy parents can also make use of this shorter cooking time, getting dinner on the table quicker.
Another feature that cuts down on cooking time? Convection ovens also preheat faster. Because of this, a convection oven can also save you on energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a convection oven's efficiency allows homeowners to use about 20 percent less energy while cooking, compared to a conventional oven.

The Conversion

The one disadvantage to a quicker cooking time on a convection oven is that you need to remain extra watchful while your food is cooking, since it will cook faster than a recipe states.
For homeowners unfamiliar with convection ovens, it's wise to check in on your dish approximately 10 minutes earlier than it's intended to be done. First-time convection oven users can ruin a perfectly brined Thanksgiving turkey this way, so it's best to always double-check.

The Baking Factor

For those homeowners who enjoy baking cakes and cookies, there is one difference between a convection and conventional oven to be aware of. Most convection ovens offer a "bake" or "thermal bake" mode to perform similar to that of a conventional oven. However, it's also a good idea to turn off the fan, as it can circulate heat in a way that causes recipes like cakes to bake and rise faster than the middle, resulting in a droopy top.
Due to the quicker cook time, certain baking recipes can even completely dry out before they've had adequate time to fully rise. So if you're a home baker, this is something to consider. Not necessarily a disadvantage, but it will take time to adjust if you're used to a conventional oven.
However, certain baked goods don't perform well in a convection oven, period. If you love to cook more delicate recipes, such as souffles, custards, and macaroons, a convection oven may not be for you. Pies and cookies are perfectly fine in a convection oven, browning nicely and evenly but an angel food cake on the other hand, would most likely not come out the way it's supposed to.

Additional Features to Consider

As you decide whether you would prefer a convection or conventional oven, there are a few extra features you should be aware of in making your final choice.
  • Convection Setting—All major appliance brands–including GE, Bosch, Miele, and Frigidaire–offer some form of convection oven. The most common type is a conventional oven with a convection setting (essentially a built-in fan) that you can simply turn on and off.
  • Additional Heating Element—Some ovens offer an extra heating element next to the fan that provides an even more consistent temperature. Look for the terms "third element convection" or "true convection."
Once you decide whether you'd prefer to bake cakes and roast meats in a convection or conventional oven, you can also check out our Wall Oven Buying Guide to explore more features.

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