Convection Oven vs Conventional Oven—What's the Difference?

convection oven vs convention oven

And what are the pros and cons of each?

If you watch cooking shows on TV, nearly every oven you see in those professional kitchens is convection. Convection ovens have been the darling of chefs for years and years. They are instantly recognizable by the interior fan mounted in the back or side wall.

So, if you need to replace your stove, range, or wall oven, or you're ready to upgrade, you may well be considering convection. Especially since the technology is more widely available.

But just what is the difference between a convection oven and a regular oven? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

You've come to the right place for answers. We're going to review the two technologies so you can make a more informed decision.

And we're also going to briefly look at countertop convection alternatives such as the air fryer, the convection toaster oven, and the microwave convection oven combo.

What is a conventional oven?

Conventional ovens are the ones we grew up with. They cook by passively radiating heat up from the bottom from either an electric element or from a gas burner. In addition to conventional or regular, these ovens are also called traditional, radiant, or thermal.

Electric ovens broil with their top element. Gas ovens are a bit trickier. Some may have an extra burner on the oven's ceiling while others may only have that lower gas burner, placed underneath a thin piece of metal so spillovers don't directly contact the flames. If there are two burners, any bottom drawer can be used for storage. If there's just the one, the bottom drawer is the broiler compartment.

What is a convection oven?

Convection ovens are an enhancement of a regular one. A rear fan actively circulates the radiantly produced hot air. This evens out the oven's internal temperature and speeds the cooking time. They can be all convection or a hybrid of conventional and convection.

Be sure to look for additional Convection Bake and Convection Roast settings. Roast has a higher fan speed, ideal for crisping exteriors. This provides a finer control.

Some convection ovens also add an extra electric heating element to speed up cooking time even more. These can be labeled as True Convection, European Convection, or Third-Element Convection.

As gas appliances typically plug into a 120-volt outlet (to run the clock, electronic igniter, etc.), the addition of a simple convection fan should not cause a problem—if there's a dedicated 15- or 20-amp circuit. This should be true for gas wall ovens as well as those on gas ranges.

However, if you want gas plus enhanced True Convection, consider a dual-fuel gas range. It has gas for the cooktop and all electric for the oven, which may well be the best of both worlds. It will require a 240-volt outlet in addition to your gas connection. As for a gas wall oven with True Convection, it may be very awkward trying to find one much less plumbing/installing it.

No matter which way you are leaning, narrow your finalists and review each one's installation manual for the required electrical connections. Plus, check with your electrician and/or gas plumber. Know what you are getting into up front before you spend your money. Fortunately, many new appliances have their installation manuals online, so it's easy to do your research ahead of time.

Convection vs conventional ovens pros and cons

Convection Pros:

  • Cooks faster and at lower temperatures, so you spend less money on energy costs
  • Better at browning while retaining interior moisture so it's ideal for roasting meats, cooking pastries, caramelizing vegetables, and baking many breads
  • Consistent results even when using multiple racks
  • Even heating reduces need to rotate pans and cookie sheets
  • Preheats more quickly
  • Professional bakers prefer convection

Convection Cons:

  • Can cost several hundred dollars more than a regular oven
  • Most recipes are designed for conventional ovens, so experimentation is required
  • As results depend on freely circulating air, the interior should not be overcrowded, nor should tall or high-wall pans be used
  • Should not be used for moist desserts, cakes, quick breads, souffles, flan, or cheesecake

Rule of thumb convection cooking differences when using traditional recipes:

  • Reduce oven temperature by 25°
  • Reduce cooking time by up to 25%
  • Check cooking doneness more frequently

Conventional Pros:

  • Typically, less expensive
  • Easy, straightforward cooking method; no experimentation required; virtually all recipes, especially those treasured family ones, are based on the conventional oven, so temperatures and cooking times given are generally accurate
  • Best for any breads that require rising

Conventional Cons:

  • Different sections of the oven have different temperatures, resulting in uneven heating and the need to rotate dishes
  • Uses more energy because it takes longer to roast and bake

Is an air fryer the same as a small convection oven?

Almost. Air fryers use forced air, like a convection oven. But the fan is at the top, above the heating element. So, the overall shape and resulting air circulation is vertical, taking up less counterspace. To help ensure air circulation, a basket with a perforated tray is used. Accessories are perforated too. You may have to remove that basket periodically to shake things around since food tends to be stacked up rather than spread out.

A countertop convection toaster oven is much wider than an air fryer, so it hogs counterspace. It has a rack to accommodate a shallow pan. This lets you spread the food out for even cooking. It will also hold a lot more food than the typical two servings of an air fryer. This eliminates the need to shake things around.

While you can't see inside an air fryer, the convection toaster oven has a big window. Air fryers also tend to be noisier than convection toaster ovens. They may well be more expensive and more difficult to clean.

Air frying has its appeal and it's spread beyond the standalone appliance. Good Housekeeping notes: 

"Some convection ovens and toaster ovens now include an air fry setting, too, as do certain pressure cookers and microwaves."

Even some big ovens now have air fry settings.

If you choose to get a countertop appliance, have your electrician check the wall outlet's circuit to make sure it can handle the power draw.

What about a microwave convection oven combo?

Microwaves cook from the inside out by way of electromagnetic radiation. One with a convection component adds an electric heating element and a fan. This means foods cook from the inside and the outside at the same time. Controls should allow you to mix and match the various heating mechanisms.

The combination of convection and microwave oven is not new. I personally had one dating from the late 1970s. It was a beast and didn't perform very well. But then the concept fell out of favor around the time mine finally died. Today's technology is much, much better.

Plus, there are microwaves that have a top heating element but no convection fan. These usually come with an interior stand. This lets you place food closer to the element for browning and crisping.

Before you make that final decision…

Be sure you measure all your spaces. Check with your electrician or natural gas plumber so the connections will be good to go. Read all installation manuals on any appliances that interest you. And remember, chances are the appliance store won't install a gas appliance. And they certainly won't install a new electrical outlet. So, ask up front.

Convection ovens pull moisture out of the oven. So, if you're getting a convection range or stove and there's not a range hood in place already, consider adding one. Code may require you to vent it to the outside. Otherwise, you may be able to vent it back into the kitchen. Either way, vent pipes can become grease-coated over time and will need to be inspected/cleaned periodically.

Wall ovens, however, passively ventilate out the front and should not require special venting. But if you're concerned, ask questions at the appliance store. Or check the installation manual.

Before you buy, make sure you can turn off the convection function. This lets you use it as a traditional oven. The easiest way to know if you can use it in either mode is to check the control knob. If you see separate Bake, Broil, and Convection settings, you're golden.

Upon delivery, keep the user manual. You'll need it to decipher the more subtle ways various ovens use convection. For example, some may automatically compensate for the 25° temperature shift.

And should you need a new heavy-duty electric range power cord or a gas line connector kit, Certified Appliance Accessories has you covered. You can then purchase them online at Lowe's, Walmart, Amazon, and other ecommerce sites.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.