A fan oven, also called a convection oven, is an electric or gas oven with a built-in fan that accelerates the cooking process by circulating the hot air within the oven. All ovens rely on the movement of air within the oven, as well as on heat radiated from the oven’s inside walls, for the transmission of heat to the food to be cooked. Without a fan, though, this convection process is very slow; in addition, ovens can develop hot and cold spots that result in parts of the food being overdone or underdone.
In a fan oven, the circulating air keeps the temperature throughout the oven uniform and all food surfaces are cooked with an equal heat. Some microwave ovens also are equipped with fans, but these fans are only used when the oven itself is being used in “browning” mode. This is a setting of some advanced microwave ovens in which conventional electric heating elements are used to brown food, something that cannot reliably be achieved with a microwave alone.
A fan oven offers a number of advantages over a conventional oven. The first major advantage is that preheating is generally unnecessary with a fan oven because the rapid transfer of heat brings the oven to cooking temperature very quickly, leading to significant energy savings. Recipes and owner’s manuals should be consulted, however, because some foods, like breads and Yorkshire pudding, require preheating even in a fan oven.
Another advantage of a fan oven is that it cooks more quickly, allowing food to be cooked at lower temperatures, which leads to additional energy savings. As a general rule, cooking temperatures can be reduced by about 25 ° Fahrenheit (13.9 ° Celsius) and cooking time can be reduced by about 20 to 25%; beyond these guidelines, users must experiment. The problem of hot spots that sometimes exists in a conventional oven is largely eliminated in fan ovens, and food is not only cooked faster, but more evenly as well.
Fan ovens are found in both residential and commercial applications. Although they cost more than conventional ovens, the savings in time and energy that can be realized in a residential setting can be significant, depending on the how frequently the oven is used. In a commercial setting, a fan oven produces significant savings of energy and time; the time saved can be used to increase production, making the fan oven a distinctly valuable piece of equipment in a commercial kitchen or a bakery.