If you’ve done any research into the world of cooking appliances, you’ve likely heard the phrases “convection oven” and “conventional oven” used in relation to one another. Some people even refer to conventional ovens as "standard or regular" ovens. But what exactly is a convection oven, and how does it differ from a conventional one?
There’s really one main difference between a convection oven and a conventional oven—a fan, or in the case of higher-end models, multiple fans. Both oven types use heating elements to heat up the interior of your oven (and the food inside), but a convection oven also uses a built-in interior fan system that keeps the hot air constantly circulating throughout the oven cavity while cooking. This is designed to provide more even cooking results as well as some other benefits we’ll discuss in more detail below.
But is a convection oven really worth the cost? Are there any disadvantages to be aware of when considering a convection oven over its conventional counterpart? In this guide, we’ll take you step-by-step through the pros and cons of convection ovens and regular ovens—and help you make the right choice for you.
Pros of Convection Ovens vs. Conventional Ovens
First off, let’s take a look at the most significant advantages that convection ovens hold over their conventional cousins. These are the four biggest reasons to choose a convection oven over a conventional model.
More Even Cooking
The entire design of convection ovens is centered around more even cooking capabilities. In a traditional oven, the heating elements are arranged as evenly as possible—but the shape of your dishes and the interior of the oven mean that some areas will receive more heat than others. In a convection oven, a fan (or multiple fans) circulates the hot air throughout the space and over every inch of your food. In theory, that means you’ll no longer have to deal with dishes that are done on the outside but not fully done on the inside. This is a common occurrence with conventional ovens, one that can often be avoided when you opt for convection cooking.
Shorter Cook Times
Because convection fans circulate heat more evenly throughout the interior of the oven, you can often enjoy shorter cook times thanks to heat reaching your food more efficiently. This design also means that you can use lower temperatures than you would need in a conventional oven—and that means less time waiting to preheat. Shorter cook times and lower temperatures don’t just add up to a more convenient cooking experience, but they also mean less energy usage and slightly reduced electricity bills.
Cook Multiple Dishes More Effectively
Because convection ovens do such a good job of circulating heat throughout the oven, larger dishes or multiple dishes are baked more effectively than their conventional counterparts. For example, in a conventional oven you might find that a large dish placed on the top rack blocks heat from fully reaching dishes on the lower racks. You’ve probably experienced this when you’ve tried to cook two trays of cookies at once, with one tray being cooked (or burned) before the other is ready.
A convection oven helps you avoid this issue thanks to its internal fan, which makes sure that heat moves over and around dishes placed inside the oven cavity for even cooking on every dish.
More Flexibility in Food Placement
For similar reasons, convection ovens offer more consistent cooking throughout the oven. That means you don’t have to fret over whether your dish should be placed on a lower rack, middle rack, upper rack, to the right, left, or center. Generally, a quality convection oven will cook your dish just right no matter where in the oven it’s placed. In conventional ovens, there’s often a significant disparity between the top rack and the bottom.
Cons of Convection Ovens vs Conventional Ovens
We’ve discussed all of the benefits of convection ovens, but are they perfect? Not necessarily. Home cooks do occasionally report dissatisfaction with convection over conventional cooking, and their complaints generally fall into one of the following four categories.
Just about every recipe you read in a food blog, recipe book, or on the back of a box will give instructions for cooking in a conventional oven. That means that if you’re using a convection oven, you’ll need to make adjustments to temperatures and cooking times to account for your oven. Fail to make the right adjustments, and you could end up with underdone bread, burnt cookies, or mushy birthday cakes. While some recipes will tell you the necessary adjustments for convection cooking, there may be a time that you need to use your own judgement or do some Googling to find the right changes to make.
Poor Performance for Some Food Types
Many convection oven users say that dishes that require a moist environment, such as puddings and flan, don’t quite get the same results in convection ovens as they do in conventional models. The convection oven environment is slightly drier, so home cooks often place puddings and flan dishes in a water bath.
Another way around this is to choose a convection oven that allows you to choose whether you’d like the fan to operate or not for a given cooking task. This essentially gives you two ovens in one, as a convection oven without the fan on is basically a conventional oven and will cook as such. This will allow you to choose conventional cooking for the foods better suited to it, and switch to convection when you need a perfect all-over doneness for other dishes.
More Parts That Can Malfunction or Break
As appliances go, a conventional oven is pretty straightforward. It converts electricity to heat energy to heat up the internal cooking elements, which in turn heat up your food. But a conventional oven adds a whole other system of moving parts—the fan mechanism. With multi-fan convection ovens, the amount of moving mechanical parts is doubled or tripled. That means there are more parts in your oven that can malfunction, break, and fail—which means a higher likelihood of repair or replacement costs.
You can avoid this issue by choosing a convection oven from a brand with a trusted reputation for quality construction—and a robust guarantee or warranty program for faulty parts and wear & tear.
The Competitive Landscape of Ovens
The debate between convection vs conventional ovens used to be very heated. In modern days, however, convection fans made their way into almost all ranges, stoves, and wall ovens with the exception of sub $999 price point. Therefore, the biggest competition among manufacturers is how to come up with the most effective convection chamber inside their ovens.
As an example Wolf prides itself with their new "Advanced Dual VertiCross Convection" which not only provides even cooking for multiple dishes on different racks, but also allows for fast preheat times.
Recently, Air Fry became a fad across the US and "hot air fry" devices started cluttering homes. Lucikly, oven manufacturers realized that convection fans with proper programming and correct angling of the fan blades will have the same effect as air fryers. Cafe and GE Profile lead the market with great products.
Speed ovens are popular in elegant kitchens with their flush look in cabinets. They combine the power of a convection oven with microwave technology.
Miele's combination speed ovens are remarkable with their gourmet programming of tens of premade recipes. This techonology is largely facilitated by convection cooking.
Steam ovens are innovative and allow us to enjoy healthy recipes.
Miele makes the most advanced steam ovens in the market and it uses convection technology.
Choosing the Right Oven Type for You
No one can tell you the perfect oven style, brand, or model for you—it all depends on your personal preferences, budget, and cooking needs. A convection oven certainly offers some distinct advantages for many cooking tasks, but you’ll have to decide whether the potential inconvenience of adjusting a recipe now and then are worth the benefits of improved evenness, faster cook times, and greater flexibility.
Ideally, you would opt for a oven that features both convection and conventional cooking options, which will give you the full range of cooking abilities to handle any task you throw at it the next time you’re in the kitchen.
What is a 'conduction' oven?
In our daily lives we never use terms such as convection or conduction. However, manufacturers' technical jargon still makes its way into marketing materials. So, in case you came across this term here is what is means - "a standard stove".
Conduction according to merriam-webster dictionary is defined as conveying heat and energy through a conductor, which is a material or object that permits the energy to flow easily. Think of your cast iron pan. The heat source, flame from the stove, touches the pan. In turn, the pan is made of a material that is super efficient to pass this heat to the food.