10 Best Convection Ovens | March 2017
- lots of preset one-touch functions
- has a keep warm setting
- 120-minute timer with auto shut off
- food remains moist and tender
- one-touch steam cleaning function
- only has one rack
- includes baking tray and broiling rack
- comes with a recipe booklet
- 1 minute power-loss backup
- great for baking with even heating
- conveniently long 40" power cord
- memory settings remember cook times
- features 9 preset cooking functions
- very user-friendly control panel
- includes 3 additional cooking pans
- 8 cooking settings
- infrared energy source
- large proselect display screen
- brushed stainless steel finish
- individual dials for temp and time
- can fit a quarter-sheet pan
A Nice, Warm Breeze
The next time you find yourself on a beach with someone who exclaims that they're absolutely baking in the sun, you have the distinguished honor of letting them know that they are, in fact, broiling, as baking–which is what occurs in a convection environment–is an entirely different process altogether.
Broiling occurs in the presence of a direct, top-down heat source, like the sun. Baking, on the other hand, occurs when food is placed in an insulated environment in which heat radiating into and around the space creates a natural air current with the cooler air in and around your food. The creation of that air current is called convection.
Essentially, heat is the result of excitement in the molecular structure of just about anything. When exited molecules bump up against less excited molecules, they share some of their intense energy with them, losing a little heat themselves, but heating up the other guys as a result. Inside an oven, as warm air circulates due to small differences in temperature throughout the oven, the excited air molecules give your food a bump, heating it up as they go.
As such, we often consider any oven that creates an environment in which food cooks within a current of hot air to be a convection oven. Traditionally, though, an oven touting convection actually has a fan inside to increase the movement of the air as it passes over your dish.
If you're baking cakes and cookies, the more traditional, fanless kind of environment is ideal, as an increased airflow could dry out baked good rather quickly. In the preparation of meats and other large, savory dishes, however, relying solely on the natural convective currents can sometimes create hot spots or uneven cooks. To guard against this, the convection ovens on our list have the aforementioned fans inside them designed to create a much more evenly cooked meal. To help reduce confusion, a lot of folks refer to these as forced convection ovens.
Now, don't go thinking that means you can't use the ovens on our list to bake up a nice batch of oatmeal cookies or chocolate brownies. Each of the ovens we've rated has the ability to disengage the fan inside, and to allow the natural convective current to take over the cooking process.
Control The Cook
A lot of folks might look at the ovens on our list and see nothing more than glorified toasters, but we know the difference. Still, these folks probably aren't interested utilizing their smaller ovens for much more than browning bread and bagels, despite the fact that today's toaster ovens offer you so many options.
If you're investigating convection ovens of this caliber, the odds are that you're interested in actually using them for cooking or baking applications, so you're likely more attuned to the nuanced features from one oven to the next. Those features will largely determine which of these ovens is best for your kitchen. For example, some cooks are very particular about the apparent durability and interactivity of their kitchen appliances, and the makeup of each oven's individual control panel will be at the forefront of this evaluation.
On one hand, purely manual, analogue dial controls with no digital feedback ought to provide you with the most durable experience, as they have the least variables that could create a mishap along way. On the other hand, an oven with a comprehensive digital feedback system or a set of push-button controls might not inspire the same level of confidence in an oven's long-term life span, but it will provide the cook with a more complete look at what it is they're heating.
In the event that control durability and cooking information don't sway you, there's always the internal capacity, tray count, and unique feature sets to consider. Some ovens have extra settings for specific kinds of cooking, while others have features like water tanks for steaming and keeping baked goods from drying out.
A Long Time Cooking
While humans have used fire as a tool for over 300,000 years, the earliest evidence of any kind of oven that archeologists have discovered dates back some 31,000 years to central Europe. These early ovens were essentially just roasting pits housed inside crude, round tents called yurts.
The climate in the region in 29,000 BCE was remarkably different than it is today. At the time, glacial ice sheets were in the midst of their last great expansion, reaching well into Poland and Germany. In and below central Europe, the land was in a constant state of permafrost, and the nomadic peoples of the region used their roasting pits mostly to cook mammoth, the primary catch of the day.
It's a little sad to think that we'll never know what mammoth tastes like, but I'll trade the experience in for the grotesque abundance of food and cooking methods with which we live today.
From those mammoth days onward, the oven saw only incremental changes, the biggest of which did away with the pit and put a chamber in the presence of a wood fire or, later, a coal fire, sometimes with a dedicated chimney for the control of smoke. After that, the gas oven took over, developing into the ovens we now see in just about every home across the US and many around the world. By 1922, the electric oven came along to give additional options to residents whose homes could not receive a gas line.
Still, the notion of forced convection was a foreign one until 1965, when Michael W. Maier of the Malleable Iron Range Company patented the technology to introduce a fan into the convection oven's environment. That patent led directly to the small, efficient ovens you see on our list.