For an inexperienced cook, it might seem that convection and regular ovens look similar and work based on the same principle. However, that is not the case. Though they look similar, they do not work alike.
Foods cooked in a conventional oven are surrounded by hot air. Generated by heating elements at the base, the air naturally rises from the bottom to the top. As a result, food placed on the top rack is cooked faster than food placed on a lower rack. Which means if you cook several meals simultaneously you may end up with some food being burned and some food undone. In order to not that happen, you need to be in the kitchen and keep an eye on the cooking process all the time. Of course, many people who're used to cooking in a conventional oven won't consider it that big of an issue, but let's be honest, our lifestyles require more convenient and less bothersome options.
Convection ovens work based on a convection technology that allows for effective heat transfer by means of a quick physical air movement. Being circulated at rapid speeds by built-in fans (usually located in the rear of the cooking chamber), hot air quickly transfers heat to the food which ensures its faster cooking and more even cooking results. This makes convection ovens a better option, allowing even inexperienced cooks to cook fantastic dishes on the first try.
Performance aside, let's see how conventional and convection ovens compare in terms of design. Most convection ovens are more versatile and come in multiple sizes, unlike regular freestanding ovens that are large and bulky, usually. The market offers a whole range of countertop and wall-mounted convection ovens that can fit even limited kitchen spaces so you can easily pick the model that will suit your interior best. Design isn't the only aspect where convection ovens shine. What makes them even more attractive is that, as a rule, they provide truly versatile functionality combining functions of several kitchen appliances such as a toaster, air fryer, slow cooker, and a microwave.
Once we've figured out the main differences between a regular and convection oven, let's explore their advantages and disadvantages, see how they both compare and learn how it's best to use them in order to create delicious treats.
Basic no-frills design
Traditional electric or gas ovens are a staple of any domestic kitchen. As a rule, they come with a stovetop so you can cook a wider variety of dishes. Conventional ovens are usually very simple to use and feature intuitive controls (whether manual or electronic). They need minimum maintenance and are less prone to malfunctions overall.
Better option for novice cooks
Conventional ovens can be easily used by everyone, regardless of their culinary skills. Even if you have never done any cooking before or you instinctively feel that cooking isn't your forte, you will still be able to master a regular oven in a short while. Plus, if you strictly follow a recipe, great chances are that your meal will come out delicious and appetizing from the very first try, thanks to extensive collections of conventional ovens recipes available online.
Affordable price tag
Conventional ovens are usually not expensive. Unless you pick a sophisticated model packed with some advanced functions and technologies, it is something that will fit any budget.
Longer cooking and higher energy consumption
Conventional ovens use radiant heat that distributes slower and less evenly. And since there is no added air circulation, it takes more energy to heat the cooking chamber up to the set temperature, as well as more time. As a result, traditional ovens are more heavy on energy bills and you need to wait longer (on average) until your meal is ready.
High occurrence of uneven cooking results
Due to slower and uneven heat transfer, non-convection ovens tend to produce uneven cooking results. With the radiant heat rising to the top, hot and cold spots often appear inside the cooking chamber, leading to foods being burned from one side and poorly cooked from the other. To achieve uniform results, you will need to stay in the kitchen and control the cooking process, turning food over every few minutes and tweaking time and temperature settings.
Limited cooking options
With a traditional oven, your cooking experiments will be limited only to baking and roasting. While this type of oven works wonders when it comes to cooking dishes in liquids or baking dough that requires rising, it will be quite tough to achieve an appetizingly crispy golden crust when baking bread and making roasts or fish pies.
Faster and more energy-wise cooking
Due to a fan, a convection oven works 25% faster than a conventional oven. By blowing hot air flow directly onto the meals, a convection oven ensures quicker and more efficient heat transfer while not increasing cooking temperature. As a result, cooking in a convection oven doesn't add up time and allows reducing energy expenses by 25%, which makes them more energy-wise alternatives to conventional ovens.
Excellent cooking results
Strange though it may seem, while requiring considerably less cooking time, meals cooked in convection ovens usually turn out much better than in conventional ovens. The secret lies in convection technology which ensures that dishes remain soft and succulent inside and have a tempting crust outside. Apart from excellent browning and crisping, convection guarantees consistently even cooking with no hot or cold spots so you can bake anything you like and be sure your meals will always look nice, with no soggy middles or uncooked bottoms.
Numerous cooking options
While conventional ovens are limited in cooking options and excel only in delicate baking tasks (this is by far the only weak point of convection ovens), fan-assisted ovens boast numerous cooking options. All of them can dehydrate food, bake, roast, fry, grill, and warm, and there are modern premium models fitted with such extra functions as slow cooking, air frying, and toasting.
Despite all of its merits, there are a few disadvantages to a convection oven, too. One of them is somewhat noisy operation. Another one is the fact that they are more prone to motor and fan malfunctions. Also, they are quite expensive, although since they consume 25% less energy, they can save you more in the long run. Finally, there aren't many recipes designed for convection ovens, so you'll need to be quite creative.
Not suitable for all recipes
Delicate baked goods are what may present a challenge for a convection oven, and if you aren't a seasoned cook we would not recommend you to bake egg-sponge cakes, souffles, flans, etc. which often turn out lopsided, bumpy, and uncooked inside.
Need some adjustment to achieve perfect results
Because a majority of recipes are created for conventional ovens, most of them will require slight adjustments to be cooked in a convection oven, too. And if you've got little to no experience, it might take you some time. The good news is, once you learn, the results will be on a completely new level, and that makes it worth the time and effort.
In conclusion, there's no absolute-winner in this battle, at least in our eyes. Both of these ovens have their own advantages and disadvantages and both of them will handle most baking jobs. Which one will be best for you? If you aren't picky and looking for a basic oven that will do its job fine, a traditional oven will be a good option. If you have budget and expect a little bit more, then you may want to turn to a convection oven having a slight edge over conventional ovens in terms of flexibility and convenience. Great news is, many companies produce combo models that use convection technology too, so you're free to choose which oven suits you most.