December 21, 2014

Questions and Comments About Convection Ovens

It seems lately that everyone is interested in convection cooking and that even though manufacturers have brought the technology to the simple toaster oven, many home cooks are still confused about how to use them.  The The Wichita Eagle fields some questions regarding convection oven use and has some simple advice.

I almost never use the convection option when I bake, because recipes never mention it. When I tried it — shortly after we got the new oven — the suggestion to lower the temperature didn’t work the way they said it would, and I prefer having temperatures I can rely on. What is your opinion of convection cooking? Should I keep trying to figure it out?

Unlike a traditional oven, a convection oven contains a built-in fan that intensifies the circulation of hot air, which evenly surrounds your food and speeds cooking. It is particularly good for cookies and pastries because the even heat promotes uniform browning and saves you from repositioning baking sheets midway through.

It’s also great, says cookbook author and frequent Post contributor Tony Rosenfeld, for getting that perfect crisp skin on a roasted chicken. He would know: He cooked hundreds for his book “150 Things to Make With Roast Chicken (And 50 Ways to Roast It).”

Convection baking is less successful, some say, for wetter foods, such as braises or casseroles, that you want to keep from drying out.

The degree to which the cooking is sped up depends on the model of oven and what you’re cooking. Recommendations vary, but most guides advise decreasing regular recipe temperatures by about 25 degrees and cooking times by 10 to 25 percent. One alternative is to cook at the prescribed heat but start checking for doneness early.

The best advice is to follow the instructions for your particular oven and to spend time learning what works and what doesn’t. If you like to follow recipes to a T, use the regular settings.

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Purchasing a Toaster Oven

If you are like me, you prefer a toaster oven to a pop-up toaster in your kitchen. A toaster oven is more versatile. To begin with, the oven can warm pastries and muffins and toast thick sliced bread that a pop-up toaster can’t handle. A larger toaster oven can hold a small casserole or cake, can roast a small chicken or even broil a steak. They can heat up frozen meals- french fries or a serving of pizza. They add less heat to a kitchen than a full size oven, which is nice in the summer. Although you might do some of these tasks in the microwave, the toaster oven browns foods, crisping them, which the microwave can’t do.

Now that you’re convinced of the necessity of owning a toaster oven, you need to choose one. Here are some things to look for when you’re shopping:

Capacity:

Smaller ovens (12″wide x 10″tall x 12″ deep)hold four slices of bread; larger ones (20″ x 10″ x 15″) can handle six.

Settings:Krups toaster oven

The most basic models have a “toast” setting, but most have more, including light, medium and dark settings. For other settings, most have the capacity to bake and broil and some can heat up to 450 degrees.

Also look for features such as preset functions for pizza or bagels which are kid friendly, electric touch pads for setting the temperature or timer, digital displays for setting precise heating and non-stick or porcelain interiors which are easier to clean.

Be sure to measure your counter space, some of the premium toaster ovens can be large and all require an extra four inches behind them (They can’t be flush against the wall) to allow for heat dissipation.

Another feature appearing on taoster ovens is convection cooking. Convection cooking uses air to circulate the heat, cooking food faster and more evenly. It is used for roasting and baking.

The really is a toaster oven for every budget. Some samples (We have not reviewed these particular models.) are:

Black & Decker Model TRO962 Toast-R-Oven with Convection Cooking, about $30black and decker toaster oven

Tefal OT806000 Avante Elite 1600 Watts Toaster Oven with Convection Cooking , about $80

Oster Model 6292 , about $100

Krups Model FBC5 Toaster Oven with Convection Cooking about $200