Words by Anneka Manning
Ovens, an essential when baking, can vary enormously in accuracy and usability from one to the next. On top of this, home cooks quite often don’t know how to get the most from their oven when baking – including which setting to use. And that is why it is so important to get those instruction books out and get to know your oven. In the meantime, this information will help you understand the differences between conventional, fan-forced and fan-assisted setting.
Most ovens are multifunctional and have different settings suitable for a number of cooking methods. The conventional setting is the most basic of settings and means that both the top and bottom elements heat the oven with no fan. If using this setting, remember that most of the heat in the oven will be at the bottom and top of the oven. Therefore, when you are cooking a couple of trays of biscuits or multiple layers of a cake at the same time on different racks, you will need to swap them around about halfway so that they cook evenly and in the same amount of time.
Another setting you may like to use for your baking is the fan-forced one. This setting is suitable for all types of baking except recipes that require long, slow cooking, such as a rich fruitcake.
When you use the fan-forced setting, the fan in the back wall of the oven evenly distributes the heat from the element that surrounds it. This means that, if your oven does it the way it should, there is no need to swap or move trays of biscuits or cake layers around during the cooking process to ensure even cooking and browning, as you would if using the conventional setting.
A setting that works in a similar way to fan-forced is the fan-assisted (sometimes called convection) setting. However, when using this particular setting it is the top and bottom elements in the oven, not the one at the back around the fan, that heat the oven. Again, it is the fan that distributes the heat around the oven. The benefit of this setting is that the food gets direct heat from above and below it (to crisp and brown), plus circulating air (to cook the food evenly). It is a great setting to use when baking at a reasonably high temperature (180°C and above) for a reasonably short period of time, such as is required when baking pies, pastries, biscuits and scones.
Making temperature adjustments to suit the setting
If you are using either the fan-forced or fan-assisted settings you will need to make minor adjustments to the temperature and/or cooking time if the recipe is written for a conventional setting (which is usually the case unless otherwise stated). As a rule of thumb, I usually start with dropping the temperature by 20°C (for example, if the recipe specifies to preheat the oven to 180°C you will need to set the temperature to 160°C fan-forced) and cooking for the recommended time, checking it 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Make sure you note any adjustments on your recipe for next time.
Remember, ovens do differ and it is worthwhile going through your oven’s instruction book or getting in contact with the manufacturer for more specific guidelines if you are unsure or are having trouble understanding which setting is best to use for specific recipes.
Here’s a deliciously Simple Banana Cake recipe – perfect to put that new-found oven setting knowledge to the test.
Until next time… happy baking!
For more posts by Anneka Manning, click here.
Anneka Manning is a food author and the founder of exciting new Sydney-based cooking school, BakeClub. Visit her website at www.bakeclub.com.au to join the club, book into a BakeClass, download delicious no-fail recipes and be inspired by baking videos. You can also find BakeClub on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. To find out more or ask about private BakeClub classes, call (02) 9399 7645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.