Convection ovens, unlike more traditional radiant conventional ovens, rely on a fan to circulate air throughout the inside of the oven, which cooks food more quickly. Moving air increases the rate at which heat penetrates the oven contents.
Convection ovens eliminate hot spots, which are common in conventional ovens, thereby preventing uneven cooking. This is excellent for roasting meats, as the fat breaks down quickly, sealing in juices and turning the skin crispy. These ovens are also great for roasting vegetables, as their sugars caramelize rapidly, leaving the outsides crisp and the insides creamy.
The fan in a convection oven creates an ideal environment in which to roast grains and nuts, as well as to make granola. It is also effective in drying jerky and fruit that has been sliced thinly.
Cookies and breads, on the other hand, are better off being cooked with radiant heat in a conventional oven, as forced heat tends to dry them out. However, most convection ovens are equipped with the option to shut off the fan, making them a versatile cooking appliance.
Long used primarily in commercial kitchens, convection ovens began catching on with amateur cooks in the early 2000s. Options for home kitchens include standard ovens with convection settings and small countertop convection ovens.