Not sure how to use your toaster oven’s convection function? Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think. With a few small changes to a recipe’s baking time and temperature, you’ll be turning out perfectly crispy on the outside, tender on the inside dishes every time.
(this post was updated 7-7-2017 and contains affiliate links)
This is embarrassing to admit but for years we never tried our toaster oven’s convection feature.
Clueless as to what convection was and fearful of ruining anything we stayed far away from that “Turbo” setting on the functions dial.
But we kept hearing how convection cooked better and faster.
So finally, last year we read the manual and gave it a go. Immediately we were Addicted to cooking with convection.
Now, we know you want to cook the food you love better and faster too.
But you’ve got some questions.
So we’ve researched, tested recipes and even ruined a few cookies to put together a guide that aims to answer ALL of your questions starting with…
What is a convection toaster oven?
A convection toaster oven is a standard toaster oven but with a built-in fan.
Yeah, a fan doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as a custom pizza function, rotisserie option or baked cookies setting. But the truth is a fan is better than any of those fancy bells and whistles you’re barely going to use.
“Okay, but what’s the difference between cooking with a conventional toaster oven vs. a convection toaster oven?”
This video from CNET does a good job explaining the difference between conventional and convection heating. It’s in relation to full-sized ovens but the principals are the same for your toaster oven.
Basically, conventional toaster ovens use 3 main sources of heat to cook food with the Bake setting:
- Radiant heat emanating directly from the heating elements and metal walls.
- Warm air within the toaster oven that surrounds your food
- Conduction from the baking pan to the item inside it.
A convection toaster oven uses the same 3 heat sources but source #2 is super-charged by a fan.
The convection fan forces air warmed from the heating elements to circulate around the inside of your toaster oven which…
- Increases your toaster oven’s temperature but keeps it consistent and accurate
- Removes moisture and encourages browning (great for roasted veggies!)
- Cooks food faster and more evenly
Womp Womp…Not Every Toaster Oven Has Convection
How to know if yours does?
Look on your control panel.
If your toaster oven is digital, check for a small button with a fan symbol or a button labeled “Conv” or “Convection.” If your toaster oven has only knobs check the Cooking Functions Knob for a setting labeled “Convection” or “Turbo.”
A few convection toaster ovens, like the older Kitchenaid Convection Countertop models do not have a button or separate function to select convection.
These toaster ovens usually activate the fan every time it’s used and the fan cannot be turned off.
Some toaster ovens, like the Breville Smart Oven Pro (affiliate), automatically select the convection feature when using specific functions like Bake, Roast, Pizza, Cookie and Reheat.
To turn it off just push the convection button until the fan icon disappears from the screen.
It’s important to note if your toaster oven auto selects convection as you need to make adjustments to your recipe’s time and temperature when cooking with convection.
How To Use A Convection Toaster Oven
Are your dishes missing a crispy on the outside and tender on the inside finish?
Then the convection setting is just what you need and we’ve got two easy tips that will get you success.
- Reduce your toaster oven’s temperature by 25 degrees from what the recipe instructions call for.
- Check for doneness 2/3 to 3/4 through the cook time called for in your recipe, adding time as needed.
You should use those conversions any time you try a new recipe in your toaster oven with the convection fan on.
Get The Most Out Of Cooking With Convection
The circulating hot air is your superstar here and there are a few things you can do to help it shine.
- Use pans with low sides (if you have them). Think roasting pans and unrimmed baking sheets. Don’t run out and buy new pans though, we use rimmed baking sheets and get great results too.
- More isn’t always better. If there isn’t space between your food and the top of the toaster oven the air can’t do it’s job and circulate.
- Avoid covering your food. Covering your food with either a lid or foil will keep the air from directly circulating around it.
Where Should I Put The Rack?
For the best results check your manual’s recommended placement for the function (bake, roast, etc.) you are using with the convection fan.
If no placements are given, the middle or bottom rack position (if there are only two positions) are your best bet. Just make sure your food item is a safe distance from the top elements.
Do I Need To Rotate The Pan?
If you are using only one baking pan, you shouldn’t need to rotate it because the temperature should be the same throughout your toaster oven.
If you are cooking with two pans or more on multiple racks refer to your manual for directions. Generally, pan rotation is suggested for even convection baking with multiple pans.
Can You Use Foil In A Convection Toaster Oven?
Most manufacturers don’t recommend it but you should contact your toaster oven’s manufacturer or check your manual for specific instructions.
Yeah, we know some manuals are as helpful as the instructions for your NORDLI dresser from IKEA. But others do have useful information.
What if I Can’t Find My Manual?
Major manufacturers now offer appliance manuals for free on their company websites (even for older models).
Search in Google for your toaster oven’s manufacturer name and the model number. Example: Oster Toaster Oven Model TSSTTVCG02 Manual
Still not sure if you can use foil?
#1 Toaster Oven Safety Tip: When in doubt, leave it out.
Can You Show Me How Food Cooks Differently If I Use Convection?
Absolutely. Let’s see how things go with a few pieces of pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough.
First, let’s bake some test cookies without convection and use the package directions of 350°F for 12 to 16 minutes.
This is why test cookies are important!
Even though the directions said 12 minutes the cookies were done (a little overdone depending on your tastes) at 11 minutes. If we made another batch we’d take them out around 10 minutes.
“Okay, so what happens if I use convection but make no adjustments to the baking temperature or time?”
Your cookies might look like these ones that were baked at 350°F with the convection fan on for 10 minutes.
I know what you’re thinking. They’re certainly overdone but don’t look too bad.
Looks can be deceiving.
The cookies were terrible: dry and crumbly with zero flavor.
“Okay, so if I use convection, lower the temperature by 25 degrees and check on it early what does that look like?”
Hopefully, like these guys that were baked at 325°F with the convection fan on for 9 minutes.
Crispy edges with a gooey just-cooked middle, now that’s a tasty chocolate chip cookie.
When I handed one to Tim he said: “Mmmm, just like at the mall”
We hope this little cookie experiment was helpful in understanding how cooking with convection affects your food and the small changes you can make to be more successful using it with your toaster oven.
Does Convection Work The Same For Every Recipe?
That would be awesome.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that will affect your recipe, from your toaster oven’s heating to your ingredients.
The “Lower Temperature 25° and Cook for 1/4 Less Time” is a good starting place. But you’ll still need to do some tasty experimenting to discover what works for your little oven.
Take this roasted cauliflower, our original recipe was created using a conventional toaster oven and takes between 25 to 35 minutes to cook.
Roasting it with the convection on and the temperature reduced from 450 to 425 it took about 25 minutes to become browned and fork tender.
In our toaster oven, it seems like vegetables don’t cook much faster with convection. But they do get crispier and taste fantastic, especially these easy sriracha roasted red potatoes.
Until you get comfortable with how your toaster oven cooks, we recommend you reduce the temperature for every recipe.
You can always cook something longer but once the damage is done you can’t cook it less!
What Are The Best Foods To Cook With Convection?
That’s going to depend on your own taste and texture preferences.
We’ve found it’s best for items that you’d like to be crispy outside but tender inside. Foods like fries, buttery pastries, pizzas, roasted vegetables, biscuits, and cookies.
What about cake?
You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t use convection to cook cakes, muffins, and quick bread because it can dry them out. We’ve even shared that advice before.
Here’s the thing, we were wrong.
So we decided to give convection a try with a small batch of Lemon Olive Oil Cupcakes.
The result was light and tender (not at all dry) lemony cupcakes.
But one positive experience isn’t enough to say it’s a good idea all of the time, right?
So the verdict is still out but we do plan to keep testing baking with convection and will update you with our results.
What about cooking chicken, pork, and beef?
While we’ve never cooked meat in our toaster oven (I don’t eat meat and it’s a rare thing for Tim) we didn’t want to leave you hanging.
The only book we could find on the subject at the library was Cooking with Convection by Beatrice A. Ojakangas (affiliate). It’s about full-sized ovens but her directions are the same for reducing the cooking time and temperature.
The author suggests using a meat probe or instant-read thermometer to test the doneness of your protein.
If you’re looking for a quality thermometer America’s Test Kitchen voted the ThermaPen as their number one selection and the ThermoPop as the best budget selection. Both are available from ThermoWorks (these are not affiliate links we just like their products and think you will too).
For a simple Temperature Guide check out Fine Cooking’s “Safe, but Not Overcooked” article. In addition to cooking temperature guidelines, it’s got helpful tips about carryover cooking and using larger cuts of meat.
And if you’re looking for meaty recipe inspiration we found some videos of Chef Ming Tsai roasting and baking with the convection setting on the Breville Smart Oven (affiliate).
You can watch the videos on YouTube using the links below:
- Roasted Chicken with Broccoli and Rice
- Spiced Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Chicken Cordon Bleu
If you already cook meat in your convection toaster oven, there are a lot of people just like you who want to enjoy a properly cooked piece of meat.
>>Can you do us a favor and share your best tips in the comments below?<<
Recipes We Cook With Convection
All of the recipes on Toaster Oven Love are purposefully created without convection so they can work in any toaster oven.
If specific convection instructions aren’t also included, just remember to reduce the temperature and time!
Below are some of our favorite recipes to cook with convection:
- addictive roasted sweet potato rounds
- toaster oven potato wedges
- roasted Brussels sprouts
- seasoned pita chips
- and any small batch cookie recipe!
Have more questions?
Leave us a comment! Already use your toaster oven’s convection feature? Please share what you like best about it and any tips with the community, in the comments below.