Conventional, convection, fan-assisted, combination…? Oven settings can be seriously confusing, especially when it comes to baking!
But don’t make the mistake of disregarding them in a recipe. Beyond the obvious task of turning raw batter into something edible, oven settings play a big role in the final texture, colour, moisture level and flavour of your baked goods.
So today, we’re deep-diving into the best oven settings for baking. Understanding the influence of oven temperature and the distinctions between conventional and fan-assisted modes will help you to whip up perfect NOMU MiniMakes cakes, cookies, blondies and brownies consistently and confidently!
Conventional vs convection
Conventional heating uses top and bottom heating elements to radiate heat to the centre of the oven. It is an ideal setting for cakes and cupcakes as it creates a gentle, even rise and caramelization. Cakes are traditionally baked around 175-180°C, although a lower temperature of 160°C can help to create a flatter surface, perfect for layer cakes.
Convection (fan-assisted) modes, on the other hand, circulate hot air around the oven with the help of a fan. The increased airflow results in faster cooking times while also encouraging crisping, ideal for snap cookies. Furthermore, the even heat distribution eliminates pesky hot spots in the oven for uniform baking.
There are a variety of convection mode settings across different oven models and brands, each one with its own application. Our most versatile go-to oven setting for baking uses a combination of conventional and convection modes in one (see icon above). This setting encourages beautiful golden crusts to form on your bakes before the interior completely cooks through – perfect for fudgy blondies and brownies, and gooey choc chip cookies!
Unless used in combination with conventional mode, convection baking is not recommended for cakes. The intense heat distribution can cause them to rise and darken too quickly before the interior sets, resulting in a sunken centre.
*NOTE: Oven mode naming conventions and icons can vary between oven models and brands.
Get to know your oven
While the above is great to know in theory, unfortunately all ovens are built differently. Part of becoming a better baker involves getting to know the unique quirks of your oven and in turn, which temperatures and oven modes work best for your bakes.
Perhaps there’s a hot spot in the far-left corner, so you have to rotate your bakes halfway through the cooking time.
Maybe your oven has a weaker fan than most, so you need to increase the baking time by a few minutes.
Or perhaps your oven generally gets too hot, so you know you need to decrease the temperature stated in the recipe by about 10°C.
HOT TIP (pun wholly intended): It’s worthwhile investing in an oven thermometer to verify the accuracy of your temperature settings. Read more about the basic baking tools every home baker should own.
Switching between conventional and convection modes
It’s easy to switch between conventional and convection modes to figure out which is best for your bakes. When doing so, it’s essential to adjust the temperature accordingly.
Why? The increased airflow and efficient heat circulation of convection (fan-assisted) modes generate more intense heat. Therefore, it is recommended to reduce the temperature by about 10°C compared to what’s recommended for conventional baking – usually, this is around 160°C.
Let’s use an example: If a recipe calls for 180°C, you can adjust it to 170°C fan-assisted mode. Or visa versa – if a recipe calls for 160°C fan-assisted mode, you can bake it at 170°C conventional.
Unless an oven setting is explicitly stated in a recipe, it’s a good rule of thumb to assume that it uses conventional mode.
Every oven setting has its own unique cooking and heating properties, which will have different effects on how a bake turns out. Conventional heating is great for cakes, while fan-assisted convection (specifically the mode in combination with conventional heating) is better suited for cookies, brownies and blondies. It will take a few trials to figure out which setting and temperature combo works best for your bakes. Regularly check your baked goods for doneness and make slight temperature modifications as needed to achieve optimal results.
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Feature image: by Ron Lach from Pexels