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  • Convection for Crisp Crusted Pizza

    Freshly baked crisp crusted pizza with perfectly melted cheese enhanced with savory toppings is a taste sensation but one that can be challenging to perfect in a home oven. The key to success in baking the perfect crust is a consistent powerful heat source and your convection oven may have just the tools you need. Creating the perfect environment in your oven can be enhanced by using a pizza stone or baking steel, but success also depends on choosing the right convection mode. Convection for Proofing Pizza Dough Great pizza begins of course with a good crust and pizza dough is perhaps one of the easiest dough's to prepare. Once the dough is mixed and ready for proofing it is set aside for the first rising and the perfect environment for proofing the dough is your convection or steam oven. In the Proof mode the ambient air in the oven is circulated by the convection fan and the temperature remains at a consistent temperature of approximately 100F. The advantage of proofing in a steam oven is of course added humidity which aids in activating the yeast. When proofing in your oven the dough does not need to be covered. Once the dough is punched down it goes back into the oven for a second rising then it is time to prepare the dough for baking. How to Create the Ideal Oven Environment for Baking Pizza in Convection Whether you are baking pizza with dough made from scratch or using a store bought dough, planning the timing is key. Preparing and proofing a homemade dough takes approximately 2 hours and bringing a store bought fresh dough to baking temperature can also take 2 hours as it is kept so cold. Once the second rising is complete the oven can be heated to bake the pizza. First arrange the oven racks placing one rack on the bottom rack position unless your oven user guide recommends a different rack position. Definitely use an extension rack if your oven is equipped with one and place a baking stone or steel on that rack. Never place the stone or steel on the floor of the oven, always use the oven rack. For ease of handling the pizza it can help to remove the other oven racks. Some ovens feature a Pizza mode and while that mode may be good for baking frozen prepared pizza, choosing a mode that has more intense heat will give the best results when baking fresh pizza. The Convection Roast, Convection Bake or Turbo mode, if your oven features one, are the best choices for baking pizza. In these modes the direct heat from the bottom heating element will ensure the stone or steel is thoroughly heated while the circulating heat ensures even cooking. Always choose the highest oven temperature to heat the oven for baking pizza. Gas ovens provide an ideal environment for baking pizza and breads, as the heated moving air creates a natural convection that is not as drying as an electric oven. The Bake mode in a gas oven gives great results although if your oven has a Convection option that would be ideal for baking thicker crust pizza. An electric oven with a concealed bake element can take approximately 20 minutes to come to temperature for baking the pizza while a gas oven may come to temperature slightly faster, the hotter the oven and the baking stone or steel are, the better the result will be. The great thing about baking pizza is of course that each pizza cooks so quickly, in 6 - 8 minutes you can be enjoying a delicious freshly baked pizza customized to your liking. Then, you can bake another one or maybe bake some bread or a rustic fruit tart on that nicely heated stone. Remember when it comes to cleaning your pizza stone it should never be cleaned with water, any baking debris can be removed with a wire grill brush. Pork shoulder roast is a versatile cut of meat that can be braised or slowly roasted but it is also delicious when filled with a savory stuffing and roasted. One of the best things about roasting a stuffed pork roast in convection is that you can also cook the side dishes at the same time. Check out my next post to learn more. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Mode for Slow Roasted Juicy Tomatoes

    There are many ways to enjoy tomatoes when they are at their peak, and one of the most delicious ways is to slow roast them. The slow roasting process caramelizes the natural sugar in tomatoes giving them greater depth of flavor that can be enhanced by adding good olive oil, fresh herbs and of course garlic. Once roasted the tomatoes make an excellent condiment for simple grilled fish, poultry and some meats or they can be served over grilled summer vegetables or pasta. The tomatoes are also delicious slathered on grilled bread or served with scrambled eggs. Convection: The Best Oven Mode for Slow Roasting Tomatoes When determining which oven mode is best for slow roasting tomatoes remember that convection cooks food by circulating heated air around the oven which helps preserve the natural moisture in the food. When food is cooked in radiant heat, the heat is directed from the top and bottom heating elements, and this direct heat has a more drying effect upon food. Convection (also called True Convection) is also used for dehydrating fruits and vegetables because the slightly heated air circulating around the food for long periods of time helps maintain a good level of moisture during the slow drying process. To dehydrate in your oven the best mode is Convection because in this mode the heat is only coming from the heating elements around the fan. Which is Best Slow Roasting or Dehydrating Tomatoes? Slow roasted tomatoes can be prepared in 2 - 3 hours, and should be consumed within 4 days; however, they can also be frozen in ½ cup or 1 cup portions and added to your cooking as needed. Dehydrated tomatoes can be oil packed and stored in the refrigerator for several months. Best Tomatoes for Slow Roasting Small tomatoes are ideal for slow roasting such as small San Marzano tomatoes, also grape and cherry tomatoes work well or petite heirloom varieties. Using a variety of colors certainly adds to the appeal of the finished dish. To ensure the best flavor be sure to use a good quality olive oil and add a little dried mixed Italian seasoning and finely minced garlic. To preserve the flavor of fresh herbs only add them once the tomatoes are cooked. Most recipes advise cooking the tomatoes cut side up. This is important if you cook the tomatoes in radiant heat because the direct heat from the bottom heating element will cause the tomatoes to stick to the pan as the natural sugars caramelize. I haven’t found the same to be true when slowly roasting the tomatoes in convection, however lining the pan with foil placed shiny side down will make clean-up easier. Along with guiding us to the many wonderful ways to enjoy tomatoes Italian chefs created one of the most popular foods on the planet, pizza. Whether you make your pizza from scratch or bake store bought pizza, check out my next post to learn about the modes best suited to baking pizza in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Oven Mode Best Suited for Crisp Juicy Roast Salmon

    Salmon is such a versatile fish that can be prepared in a variety of ways, but cooking salmon in Convection is perhaps the easiest way to ensure great results with a minimum of effort. Convection is ideal for cooking fish because the heated air circulates around the food preserving moisture while the direct heat from the top heating element provides a great sear and cooking food with high heat really enhances the flavor. Another advantage is that other foods can be cooked at the same time for an easy delicious convection meal. The great thing about our ovens nowadays is that they provide a variety of options for cooking our food. In a steam oven for example, salmon can be poached, roasted at a high or low temperature or broiled and in a convection oven, salmon can broiled and also roasted at a high or low temperature. So the first decision is what method will best suit your recipe. Convection Broil mode, in this mode the oven heats very quickly and other quick cooking vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, peppers and onions or even a corn salsa can be broiled at the same time as the salmon. 450°F is a good temperature to achieve a crisp crust on the salmon while ensuring the fish remains juicy. A little heat tolerant oil or ghee smeared over the top of the fish will ensure the top achieves a slightly crunchy crust. Some gas ovens feature an infrared broiler, a powerful tool for oven broiling. The heated air may not be circulated by the convection fan when this mode is engaged; however, gas has a natural convection that helps preserve moisture in food and infrared broilers provide amazing results. The Convection Roast mode is a better choice if you are also roasting a tray of potatoes or vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, broccoli or brussels sprouts that require a longer cooking time at a more moderate temperature. A good temperature range for roasting vegetables and fish in the Convection Roast mode is 375 - 425°F. In the Convection Roast mode the top and bottom heating elements will be engaged while the fan circulates the heated air. The heat will not be as powerful as the heat emitted when using the Convection Broil mode; however, if the salmon is placed close to the top heating element you can still achieve a nice sear. Ideally roast the vegetables lower in the oven close to the bottom heating element and arrange the oven racks before you heat the oven so you can easily add the tray with the salmon part way through the cooking. Which Type of Salmon is Best for Oven Broiling King salmon, Atlantic and Sockeye salmon are all good choices for oven broiling or for cooking at higher heat in the Convection Roast mode. They all have a decent fat content and only need a little added brush of oil or clarified butter (ghee) to ensure crisping. The timing will depend on the thickness of the cut. If you are cooking a large portion of salmon, the Convection Roast mode would be the best choice for uniform cooking, however you could easily add a touch of Broil towards the end of the cooking if desired. Smaller 4 - 6 oz uniform portions of salmon are ideal for cooking in the Convection Broil mode. Broiling or roasting salmon at a high temperature in Convection ensures great results, but salmon can also be seared then cooked at a low temperature in Convection with stunning results. Learn more about cooking salmon at a low temperature here. In my next post I will review a wonderful method of roasting tomatoes at a low temperature, these slow roasted tomatoes make an amazing accompaniment to fish and meats or added to eggs or vegetable bowls. The more ways we have to cook foods the more varied and interesting we can keep our diets. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Use Your Steam Oven to Create Vegetable Salads

    Steam ovens were originally designed to facilitate the production of large quantities of food in commercial settings so that foods could be cooked with precise results and less guesswork. Fine dining chefs also embraced steam ovens for the same reason, but also because the oven functions made many of the tasks associated with the preparation of food easier. While steam ovens are wonderful for cooking specific types of food, the steam function can be used in the same way it is used in a professional kitchen to make the preparation of food easier. Vegetable salads, for example, can make a great meal or side dish and because you can cook multiple foods at one time they are easy to prepare in a steam oven What Type of Pan is Suitable for Steaming My Vegetables? The Steam Mode in a steam oven has a default temperature setting of 212°F, the temperature at which water boils. For most foods, leaving the temperature at this setting will give the best results; however, the temperature can be lowered slightly when steaming more delicate foods. But equally important is the pan you use to steam your vegetables. Steam ovens have a solid oven pan and a perforated pan for steaming and general cooking. Most vegetables including asparagus, snap peas, broccoli, green beans, carrots, corn on the cob and cubed potatoes are best cooked in the perforated pan. Leafy greens such as Bok choy, cabbage, kale and spinach can be cooked in the solid pan with a little added water or in the perforated pan. The timing will be approximately the same as when steaming the vegetables over boiling water. The Benefits of Steaming Vegetables in a Steam Oven One of the many benefits of cooking in a steam oven is that there is no transfer of flavor of foods cooked in steam. Rather than juggle multiple pans on the cooktop you can steam grains such as rice or quinoa and steam vegetables at the same time or even fish or shellfish to create a vegetable, seafood grain bowl. The other benefit is that you don’t have to worry about pots boiling over, and you can set the oven timer to alert you when the cooking time has elapsed; however, you do have to think through the timing. For example the cooking time for quinoa, orzo pasta or cubed potatoes is between 15 - 25 minutes. If you were adding some green vegetables that only require 6 minutes cooking time they should be added towards the end of the cooking time. Another benefit is that you can easily steam foods that you plan to use for another meal at the same time. For example I like to steam some bone-in chicken thighs for salads and sandwiches and also because I can capture 1 - 2 cups of chicken stock. I hope this simple salad recipe with steamed asparagus and snap peas will inspire you to begin taking advantage of using your steam oven as your sous chef to cook multiple dishes at one time. Simple fresh vegetable salads pair well with many meals including Convection Broiled Salmon; check out my next post to learn more about this easy convection recipe. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • How To Create Flavorful Lion's Head Meatballs With Your Steam Oven

    Meatballs are flavor packed morsels that are easy to make, quick to cook and easy to devour. In this recipe the meatballs are steamed in a savory broth in the steam oven. Serving the meatballs in the broth creates a warming flavorful meal and best of all, vegetables to accompany the meatballs can be steamed at the same time. Recipes for meatballs are found in many different cuisines, typically they are pan fried or baked in the oven but steaming the meatballs results in a light texture and the savory steaming broth is also the perfect poaching liquid for any accompanying vegetables. This recipe uses a combination of simple ingredients to create fabulous flavor and great texture. The base for the meatballs is ground pork; ginger and green onions add bright flavors to the meatballs while finely chopped shrimp, water chestnuts and bacon are incorporated into the mix to lighten the texture and add flavor. Instead of egg and breadcrumbs the binder for these meatballs is a little oatmeal and cornstarch. Even though the technique for cooking the meatballs is called steaming, these meatballs are actually steamed/poached in chicken broth. The ingredients and seasonings in the meatballs intensify the flavor of the broth creating a wonderful savory taste sensation. What to Serve with Lion’s Head Meatballs These meatballs are traditionally rolled quite large and are named because they resemble a lion's head, typically one meatball is served in a small soup bowl with the broth. Another option is to add some vegetables to the broth part way through cooking and serve the meatballs with those vegetables in the broth. We chose baby bok choy cut into quarters together with shiitake mushrooms, the combination was delicious. Adding vegetables is not necessary, but it’s a good reminder of how easy it is to cook multiple foods at one time when cooking with the steam oven. If you were cooking a meal with multiple courses and needed some rice then the rice could be steamed at the same time as well. Steam ovens offer a versatile array of cooking options and in many ways can simplify the cooking process. In my next post I will review creating simple delicious vegetable salads in the steam oven so you can take full advantage of these amazing features. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Why Slow Roasting Creates Succulent Chicken Wings

    When steam ovens first came to market over 20 years ago it was a learning curve to learn how to cook in one. When I taught steam oven classes in those early days people would always ask, is there a cookbook? Of course I understood people needed guidance, but I encouraged everyone to be adventurous and try everything, after all people had been cooking with steam for centuries. The Gaggenau steam oven I was working with featured modes for steaming, baking and roasting but also introduced us to techniques that were being used in professional kitchens including Low Temperature Cooking and Sous Vide. Despite some early blunders, Low Temperature Cooking has become one of my favorite cooking methods for cooking lean tender cuts of meat, and that’s the method I like to use for preparing chicken wings. Slow Roasting for Succulent Chicken Wings Chicken wings can be baked at a moderate or a high temperature with good results but cooking them at a low temperature and finishing the cooking with high heat is the best way to keep the meat succulent. One of the reasons chicken wings have so much flavor and remain succulent is because they are cooked on the bone and meats cooked on the bone cook more evenly and retain more moisture. High heat is crucial to crisp the skin but too much high heat can also dry out the meat, so a combination of low and high heat gives a good balance. Even though I usually prepare chicken wings in my steam oven, they can also be prepared in a convection oven using the same technique with comparable results. When wings are prepared this way in a steam oven the pan will collect some cooking juices. These flavorful juices should be poured off before the high heat cooking phase but don’t discard them, they are wonderful to add to your cooking. Creating a Crisp Crust for Slow Roasted Chicken Wings The slow roasting process basically cooks the wings so the final step is to cook them at high heat to crisp the skin. I like to complete the cooking in the convection oven, so I can use the steam oven to steam some vegetables for salads to accompany the wings. For this final stage of cooking, arrange the oven racks so one rack is in the upper third of the oven near the broil element. Change the oven mode to Convection Roast 450 degrees and when the oven comes to temperature, toss the wings with some melted butter and vegetable oil, slide the tray into the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. If additional crisping is desired change the oven mode to Broil Hi or 500 degrees and broil for 5 minutes. Of course the wings will taste delicious on their own but for added flavor a sauce can be added to the sizzling wings when they come out of the oven. It’s best to wait until the wings have finished cooking to add the sauce to avoid the sauce burning during the final high heat cooking. Steam ovens are amazing tools that can truly simplify cooking so if you are looking for more ideas for easy delicious steam oven meals check back to learn how to prepare Lion's Head Meatballs. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Socca Garbanzo Bean Flatbread Cooked in Convection with Great Results

    Pizzas, flatbreads, hot sandwiches, and quesadillas all have something in common, they serve as a base for a variety of ingredients to create a delicious satisfying meal. Another option that also creates a delicious savory base for a variety of ingredients is a socca flatbread made with garbanzo bean flour. Making flour from garbanzo beans shows the ingenuity of the people of the Mediterranean region where socca originated. Not only did socca make good use of a readily available staple it offered a creative way to incorporate a fiber rich food that could be enjoyed as a snack with some added seasoning. Socca was traditionally made in a skillet and cooked over hot coals in market stalls. The high heat cooked the thin socca flatbread quickly creating a desirable crisp edge, and all that was needed was a final garnish of flaky sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning to create a delicious snack. A cast iron skillet or griddle pan is ideal for making socca, and to achieve the best results the pan is best heated in the oven before the batter is added. Of course you can also cook the socca on the cooktop or over hot coals, but since my focus is helping you make the best use of your convection oven I will focus on the oven method. The ideal mode in an electric Convection oven to bake socca is the Convection Bake mode. In this mode the heat is generated from the top and bottom heating elements and the convection fan circulates the heat for even cooking. Gas ovens have a strong lively heat that creates a natural convection and are ideal for high heat baking of breads, pizzas and flatbreads, so the traditional Bake mode will provide excellent results. In this recipe the oven mode is changed to Broil for the final 3 - 5 minutes of cooking, so before heating the oven, organize the oven racks so that you have a rack in the upper third of the oven closer to the Broil element. Remember when broiling in the oven, the oven door should always be closed, not propped open. If your oven has an electric broil element with a default setting of High, Medium and Low choose the High setting; if your oven prompts you to select a temperature then select 450 degrees. Many gas ovens have an infra-red broiler which gives amazing results but err on the side of caution in terms of timing to avoid burning the socca. Paying attention to how your oven cooks will help you achieve good results with all your cooking but is especially important when cooking with high oven temperatures. Toppings to Add to Socca flatbread for Delicious Snacks and Light Meals As with every blank canvas, socca allows you to create the masterpiece that you desire. Socca originated in the Mediterranean regions so it blends well with the seasonings used in the cuisines of the regions. However, I also enjoyed a chickpea flatbread with kimchi folded into the batter that was quite delicious. Other options to enhance a socca flatbread include, chopped rosemary, garlic or onions or just a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt which is perfect when you are serving socca as a snack. A well balanced fruity olive oil combines well with the flavor of the chickpeas and salt. For a more substantial meal, vegetables can be added into the batter or sauteed and served over the socca when it is baked. In this recipe I served the socca with a salad of mixed greens with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese reminiscent of a wonderful meal I enjoyed on the shores of the Mediterranean. Socca is a simple versatile recipe that is easy to prepare. Just remember that the batter needs to rest for at least 30 minutes before baking so planning is key. If you are a fan of chicken wings and want to learn how to cook them so they are crisp on the outside but still juicy and tender then check out my next post to learn how. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • The Benefits of Making Zucchini Noodles for Lasagna with Turkey, Ricotta and Pesto

    Zucchini are a versatile mild flavored vegetable that pair well with a variety of foods and there are many ingenious ways of using them. In this recipe long slices of zucchini are substituted for lasagna noodles and baked in Convection to create a flavor packed lasagna. The baked zucchini slices are then layered with a meat sauce made with ground turkey a combination of cheeses including ricotta and a layer of basil pesto. Preparing the individual components for a lasagna then assembling them does take some time, but I have never heard anyone say they didn’t enjoy eating a lasagna so the effort is definitely worth the time. The great thing about lasagna is that you can easily portion it into several smaller containers for freezing or make one large container. There are several benefits to substituting zucchini for lasagna noodles. For some people, being able to enjoy a lasagna without the added starch is an important consideration. Another reason is to maximize the nutritional benefit of a dish by including an abundance of vegetables. Another important reason is to expand your repertoire of frequently cooked recipes. Once you have mastered making a traditional lasagna, adding some variations will add interest to your family menus and keep your taste buds interested. And of course it’s just one more way that you can make good use of your Convection oven to simplify the preparation of a lasagna Orchestrating the Preparation of a Zucchini Lasagna When preparing a recipe such as lasagna with several components that need to be prepared separately, it’s important to have a cooking plan before you begin. Having a plan makes it easier to orchestrate the cooking and helps keep the kitchen organized; in the long run the more organized you are the less stressful cooking feels. Since the meat sauce takes approximately 40 minutes to cook, it’s a good idea to begin with making the sauce. Very little prep is required; first the meat is browned then set aside then the vegetables for the sauce are cooked, and the tomatoes and meat are added back to the pan and cooked at a gentle simmer. Once the sauce is simmering you can turn your attention to preparing and baking the zucchini. Using Convection to bake the zucchini slices allows you to cook two or three trays of zucchini in the oven at one time, and there will be no boiling water to deal with or having to separate the noodles once they have cooked. Once the zucchini are in the oven your hands are free to assemble the cheeses and other ingredients required for the final assembly of the lasagna. Best Convection Mode for Baking the Zucchini Noodles and Lasagna Either the Convection Bake or Convection Roast mode can be used to bake several racks of the sliced zucchini. Be sure to arrange the oven racks before heating the oven and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for best rack positions. Typically placing one rack in the lower third of the oven and one in the upper third is the best placement. In the Convection Bake and Convection Roast modes the top and bottom heating elements are engaged and the Convection fan circulates the heated air around the oven. Not only will all the zucchini cook through evenly they will brown well without drying out. Once the lasagna is assembled and ready for baking it should be covered, unless you are baking it in a Steam oven in which case covering it is not necessary. Convection Bake is the ideal mode for baking the lasagna and the best rack placement is in the middle of the oven. Once the lasagna has cooked for approximately 30 minutes remove the foil for the final 10 minutes of cooking time so that the top heating elements can add a touch of gentle browning while melting the cheese. Remember once the delicious lasagna comes out of the oven you will need to let it rest for 10 - 15 minutes before enjoying it but it’s well worth the wait. If you are interested in in savory pizza style pancake that uses no flour then check out my next post for Soca (baked chickpea pancake) with greens, for another easy delicious Convection recipe. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Roast Chicken Panzanella Salad with Lemongrass and Turmeric

    Roast chicken panzanella salad is an Italian classic that combines warm roast chicken with croutons and a crisp salad. The combination of these ingredients and the texture of the croutons permeated with the warm chicken juices is irresistible. This recipe from my colleague Paul Tang uses the traditional method to prepare the dish but with a burst of Asian flavors. The chicken is seasoned with a marinade made with lemongrass and turmeric, and the salad is tossed with a dressing made from chili sauce and lime juice, while the salad features a flavorful combination of fresh basil, mint and cilantro. Steps to Creating a Perfect Roast Chicken Panzanella Salad There are quite a few steps to preparing this recipe and quite a few ingredients, so before you begin it’s a good idea to assemble all the ingredients. The first step is to make the marinade which only takes a few minutes, then the chicken is coated in the marinade and set aside for a few hours or overnight. In this recipe we spatchcock the chicken, cutting out the backbone and flattening out the chicken. The benefit of flattening the chicken is for more even cooking as well as faster cooking time. Of course you can skip this step, or you could roast some bone-in chicken pieces. Cooking the chicken on the bone ensures you will have plenty of delicious pan juices to add to the salad. The dressing and salad ingredients can also be prepared in advance for easy assembly; the carrots can also be prepared in advance, and the bread can be cubed ready to be tossed with the melted butter and cooked together with the chicken. Convection is Key for Succulent Roast Chicken Either the Convection Roast or Convection Bake mode will work well for cooking this meal because the heating elements of the oven cycle with enough intensity to achieve the desired results. However, convection roast heating cycles are stronger than convection bake. When you use Convection the carrots and croutons can be added to the oven while the chicken is roasting leaving your hands free to assemble the salad and dressing. Remember, foods cooked in Convection have better flavor and texture and because the heated air is circulated around the oven you can cook several dishes at one time and everything will cook evenly. The oven will be set at 375 degrees which will work well for all the items. The chicken will need to cook for at least 45 minutes while the carrots and croutons only need about 20 minutes. As we know all ovens are different and if you have a large capacity range oven you might want to increase the oven temperature by 25 degrees for the final 10 minutes of cooking the chicken to ensure it gets nice and crisp. Of course the chicken will need to rest for a few minutes once it comes out of the oven so allow at least 15 minutes for resting before carving the chicken. The important thing to think about when cooking multiple foods at time is the rack positions. If you are cooking on three racks then plan to place the chicken on the top rack, and add the carrots to the lower rack and the croutons to the middle rack. Placing the chicken on the top rack will ensure it gets nice and crispy from the direct heat of the top heating element while the fan will circulate the heat to ensure even cooking. Chicken Panzanella is a simple recipe, but with all these ingredients and different preparation and cooking steps planning is key. Once you are organized and have the chicken, carrots and croutons in the oven the salad can be prepared and before you know it the meal will come together effortlessly. If you don’t need all the chicken for this salad then be sure to set some aside to enjoy for another meal. Zucchini are in abundance during the summer and a good way to use them up is to bake a Zucchini Lasagna in Convection. Check out my next post to see how Convection can make the preparation easier. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Get the Most From Your Oven With An Easy Berry Peach Shortcake Cobbler

    A warm fruit cobbler with berries and peaches served with ice cream is a summertime classic and one of the easiest desserts to make. While some baked items require special attention and are best baked in the oven on their own, fruit cobblers are not fussy desserts that require special attention and can easily be added to the oven to cook alongside other foods. Of course for best results the oven should be in the Convection mode. Convection Makes Cooking Oven Meals Easy When a convection mode is selected for oven cooking you have the option to cook on multiple trays at one time because the heated air is circulated around the oven, evenly cooking each dish. Cooking a complete meal in convection takes a little planning, but it liberates you from standing at the cooktop or even having to be in the kitchen. In fact nowadays, it's not uncommon for ovens to have an app that allows you to monitor the cooking on your phone. If you are making a simple meal that includes roasting meat, fish or vegetables or baking a casserole a fruit cobbler can be added to the oven and there will be no flavor transference between the different foods. There are, however, the important things to consider including, oven temperature, timing and rack position. How to Cook a Convection Oven Meal with a Fruit Cobbler The first thing to determine is the oven temperature and timing for the foods you will be cooking. Some meats are cooked at a high temperature for a short period of time then the oven temperature is reduced to 350 degrees for the remainder of the cooking. In that case the fruit cobbler would be added once the oven temperature has been reduced. If you are planning on cooking multiple foods at one time then be sure to organize the oven racks before you begin cooking. Plan to cook the meat on the top rack and casseroles or roasted vegetables on the lower rack and to bake the cobbler on the middle rack. This will allow the cobbler to heat through and once the meat is removed the shortcake topping will brown nicely. If you are only cooking two dishes then place the cobbler in the lower portion of the oven. Large capacity ovens are great for cooking large quantities of food but when loaded with multiple dishes they may benefit from a slight temperature increase of 5 or even 10 degrees. The cooking temperature for this recipe is 350 degrees. Typically we reduce temperatures by 25 degrees when baking in Convection; however, reducing the temperature is not necessary when baking this cobbler as unlike a cake or cookies there is little risk of uneven baking. If the entire meal you are planning is cooked at a higher temperature say 375 - 400 degrees then obviously you would have to wait until those foods are cooked and you could reduce the oven temperature before adding the cobbler. Choosing the Right Convection Mode for an Oven Meal Now we come to the deciding factor that will help you achieve success when cooking a complete oven meal. Not all ovens have the same cooking modes so this is why it’s so important to understand the tools you are cooking with. If your oven has a Convection, Convection Bake and a Convection Roast mode it can be confusing to determine which will work best. Here are some guidelines. Convection Mode - in this mode the heat is generated from the heating elements that encircle the fan in the back of the oven. In my Gaggenau oven this mode is very powerful and browns the food well, but in other large capacity ovens I have cooked in this mode is only suited to baking several racks of cookies or other types of baking. Convection Bake - if this is the only convection mode in your oven then it will work well for cooking an oven meal. In this mode the heat comes from the top and bottom heating elements and the fan circulates the heated air for even cooking. In some ovens the heating element around the fan may also be active, however every oven is different. Convection Roast - if your oven features this mode then it is ideal for cooking foods that require greater intensity of heat such as when roasting. If your oven meal includes cuts of meat that cook best with more intense heat then choose this mode. Cooking with convection has many benefits, foods have better moisture retention, large cuts of meat cook faster and we can cook on multiple racks at one time with even results with no transfer of flavor. Cooking an oven meal in convection only requires a little planning to enjoy these benefits. If you are a fan of Chicken Panzanella salad then check out my next post for an interesting riff for an Asian style Chicken Panzanella salad, the chicken is of course cooked in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Poached Salmon Salad Niçoise

    Salad Niçoise is a popular salad that originated in Nice in the south of France designed to take advantage of the abundance of tuna that is fished in the Mediterranean. Combined with steamed potatoes, green beans, hard boiled eggs and Niçoise olives it makes a flavor packed meal. Even though the traditional recipe uses tuna this salad also adapts easily to different interpretations. This recipe uses poached fresh salmon instead of canned tuna, and the preparation of the meal is greatly simplified by using the steam oven. Instead of individual saucepans to cook each component the salmon, potatoes, eggs and green beans are all steamed simultaneously in the steam oven. The potatoes, eggs and green beans can all be steamed in the large perforated oven pan while the salmon is steamed in a small solid oven pan. If your oven doesn’t have a small stainless pan any oven safe container will work. Steaming & Poaching Ideal Cooking Techniques for Superior Flavor and Texture Foods cooked in steam have noticeably better flavor, texture and nutrient value and even though we are using the Steam mode to prepare this meal the vegetables and eggs are actually being cooked by a different method to the salmon. The vegetables and eggs are cooked in the perforated pan allowing the steam to circulate around them and cook them through. This technique is similar to placing a perforated pan over boiling water and covering the pan with a lid. The benefit of steaming in a steam oven is that the oven maintains a consistent temperature throughout the steaming process and foods can be easily added or removed depending on the individual cooking time. The salmon is also cooked in the Steam mode however in this case the steam is used to gently poach the fish. The fish is poached in a solid pan with a little water, lemon slices and seasoning which add flavor to the fish as it poaches gently in the steam. This technique is similar to placing the fish on a perforated tray in a fish poacher and covering it with a lid. A gentle consistent temperature is key to successfully poaching fish so again the steam oven provides the ideal environment. How to Use a Steam Oven for Easy Meal Preparation This recipe perfectly illustrates how easy it is to cook multiple foods at one time in a steam oven instead of using a separate saucepan to cook each one. Success when cooking multiple foods at one time begins with planning. Basically once you calculate the cooking time for the items that take the longest you can add the other items towards the end of the cooking time or cook them once the longer cooking items are removed from the oven. In this recipe the potatoes and eggs cook within the same time frame, but the potatoes need to cool prior to being combined with the dressing; and other ingredients and the eggs need to sit in cold water for at least 5 minutes before the shells can be removed. The green beans will take approximately 6 minutes to steam and the salmon depending on the thickness will take approximately 10 minutes. What makes this process easy is the fact that no temperature adjustment is required, once the steam oven is set to the steam mode all you have to do is add the food and set the timer. An added benefit to cooking in the steam oven is that the stainless steel cooking containers require minimal clean-up and are easily washed by hand or in the dishwasher. If you are looking for a delicious dessert that uses a bounty of summer fruits and can easily be cooked as part of a Convection meal, then check out my next post. The benefit of learning how to make effective use of your convection and steam ovens is that meal preparation becomes easier and cooking results improve as you take advantage of the features of these ovens. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection for Succulent Oven Fried Chicken

    There are many delectable ways to prepare chicken, but hands down some of the most popular methods involve achieving a crisp crunchy exterior. Think buffalo wings, crispy chicken tenders and of course the perennial favorite, fried chicken. One of the reasons fried chicken is so delicious is that the chicken is cooked on the bone ensuring better flavor and texture, and the other is the delicious crisp crust that forms during the frying. The only downside of fried chicken is of course the large amount of oil that is required. If you fry food frequently then you may have good skills working with hot oil and also have also developed a good routine for straining the oil, storing it safely between uses and of course the difficult part, disposing of the oil. So what’s the solution when you have the urge for some home-made fried chicken? The perfect solution is oven baked fried chicken, it comes close to oil fried chicken without having to deal with the issues associated with frying. How to Achieve Crispy Convection Oven Fried Chicken We still use oil when baking chicken in the oven, but the key is to spray the battered chicken with a heat tolerant spray oil just before it goes into the oven for baking. To achieve really flavorful fried chicken the chicken should first be soaked in a buttermilk brine or given a dry rub a day in advance. I have tried both methods and the buttermilk brine definitely creates a more melt in your mouth texture, but both methods add a lot of flavor to the chicken. We feature two recipes for oven fried chicken on the website. The recipe for the Deviled Fried Chicken uses generous amounts of cayenne pepper, mustard, black pepper and garlic herb seasoning giving it a nice spicy kick. After soaking in the brine for 6 hours or a day the chicken pieces are dredged in flour and placed on a rack in a shallow baking pan to dry out. Just before going into the oven the chicken is sprayed with avocado oil to help crisp the crust. The second recipe for Crispy Oven Fried Chicken uses a milder blend of spices and is dredged in flour, then dipped in egg and finally rolled in Panko breadcrumbs. Once again spraying the chicken pieces with spray oil just before baking ensures the crust gets a nice crunch. In this recipe, once the chicken has been battered it needs to baked immediately, so being organized is key. What is the Best Convection Mode for Baking Chicken Which Convection mode you choose will of course depend on the Convection modes in your oven. If your oven has a Convection Bake mode I would choose that mode and place the tray one rack up from the middle rack position. That way it will be closer to the top heating element which will help with the crisping. The Convection Roast mode is designed for roasting meats so it is more intense than the Convection Bake mode and could cause a little too much crisping of the batter. You could also use the traditional Bake mode although in order to keep the chicken nice and juicy Convection is a better choice. Baking the chicken on a rack in a shallow pan is also important as this allows the heated air to circulate evenly around the chicken and crisp all the edges. Of course you may want to spray the rack first to avoid the batter sticking to it. Another benefit of choosing a Convection mode is that you can bake side dishes to serve with the chicken at the same time. I baked the Crispy Oven Fried Chicken with a Corn Spoonbread casserole and added in some broccoli tossed with white onion and red pepper during the last 10 minutes of cooking time. If you had to purchase a quart of buttermilk to brine your chicken you will have some leftover but it doesn’t have to go to waste. Check out this great recipe for a Lemon Cornmeal cake that is very easy to make and will make good use of any extra buttermilk. Learning to cook multiple dishes at one time in a Steam oven takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it you will be amazed at how much easier food preparation can be. Check out my next blog post to learn more. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Baked Eggplant Stuffed with Savory Lamb, a Taste Sensation

    Vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, peppers and tomatoes grow in abundance in the summer, and an easy way to create delicious meals with these vegetables is to stuff them with a savory filling. There are many delicious recipes for eggplant stuffed with lamb from the Mediterranean region, and this recipe is especially easy to prepare because the lamb is baked with the eggplant in the oven. This dish makes a great meal served with a Greek salad or pita bread and tzatziki, but if you were in the mood to create a feast you could consider stuffing some peppers and baking them at the same time. The Simple Steps for Baking Eggplant Stuffed with Lamb In some recipes for baked eggplant stuffed with lamb the eggplant is first halved lengthwise and baked until the flesh has softened. Once soft the flesh is scooped out and mixed with cooked ground lamb and spices and stuffed back into the eggplant and then baked until heated through. In this recipe the eggplant is cut into slices; however, it’s not cut all the way through. Then the ground lamb is combined with the seasoning and formed into patties and the patties are stuffed in between the eggplant slices. Once stuffed the eggplant goes into the oven to be baked. A large eggplant can take an hour or more to bake until soft so for this recipe look for smallish eggplants that are on the narrow side. Ideally each eggplant should easily hold 4 - 5 lamb patties when sliced. To prevent the eggplant from fanning out too much a metal skewer can be inserted through the eggplant to hold the patties in place as the eggplant bakes down. Do Foods Need to Be Covered When Baked in Convection? There are several reasons why some recipes recommend covering food that is being baked. Typically we cover casseroles when baking them to trap moisture in the food to assist with the cooking and prevent the food from drying out. Even when baking a casserole in Convection covering the food during the initial baking time is recommended as the “steam” created by covering the food ensures the food will be cooked through. In this instance the eggplant and lamb are cooked uncovered allowing the circulating heat of Convection to evenly penetrate into the food. Key to ensuring the food benefits from the circulating heat is to bake the stuffed eggplant on a shallow rimmed baking tray. This is another simple delicious recipe from the Mediterranean that is easy to prepare, and you may find that you will have more lamb than you need to create the patties to stuff the eggplant. I did have extra patties which I froze and was able to use for another meal. Because they are small they defrost quickly and are delicious cooked in a skillet and served with sauté of zucchini, onions, garlic and garbanzo beans. It’s hard not to love crispy fried chicken and dealing with frying in hot oil and storing and discarding the oil is no fun, but in my next post I will show you how to cook amazing oven fried chicken without the oil. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Tips to Prepare a Sirloin Roast for Tender Flavorful Results

    A flavorful sirloin roast is the perfect cut of beef for roast beef sandwiches with mounds of thinly sliced medium rare beef, a beef salad with crisp greens, ripe tomatoes or beets and blue cheese or a sumptuous roast beef dinner. It seems not every butcher or market carries the same cuts of beef so if you are unable to find a top sirloin roast other options that work well include, an eye of round roast or a sirloin tip roast. These are all flavorful lean cuts of beef that share one thing in common, cooking them at a low temperature yields the best results. Season The Meat Few Hours In Advance Is Another Important Tip There are numerous choices for dry rubs available these days which makes it easy to season a roast with the flavors you prefer. Rubbing a dry rub into the meat a few hours up to a day in advance will definitely add to the flavor of the meat but go carefully when adding salt as some rubs are high in added salt. Because this roast cooks at a low temperature I like to use a combination of fresh herbs and minced garlic mixed with olive oil. Since there is no high heat cooking phase the herb crust doesn’t burn and the flavors just dissolve into the meat. The olive oil adds another dimension of flavor and a little added good fat. Why Convection is Best for a Juicy Evenly Cooked Beef Roast To help retain the natural juices in meat it’s important to cook the roast on a rack in a shallow pan. Placing the meat on a rack prevents the heat of the pan from leeching moisture from the meat and allows the heated Convection air to circulate evenly around the oven cooking the meat from the edge to the center. This roast can be cooked in either the Convection Roast or Convection Bake mode. The important thing is to use a low temperature of 325°. You can even drop down to 300° if you have plenty of time. Before you heat the oven, arrange the racks so you can place the pan with the beef roast in the center of the oven. The next thing to consider is timing, if your oven is equipped with a meat probe using the probe will give you the best results. Remember to insert the probe at an angle and be sure the tip is in the meat not touching the pan. If your oven has a little metal cap over the probe receptacle in the oven just push that aside with the blunt side of a knife to insert the sensor. Be sure to cover your hand to avoid coming into contact with the hot oven wall. When you close the oven door you will be able to program in your preferred target internal temperature. In order for the probe to activate you may have to touch the probe symbol again or touch start to activate the probe, so be sure to take a quick look at the User Guide to confirm how your oven works. My3lb, room temperature roast took 60 minutes to cook through. If your oven doesn’t have a probe I recommend testing the internal temperature with an instant read thermometer after the roast has been in the oven for approximately 50 minutes. That way you will have a good sense of the progress. Remember when you choose the target internal temperature that the internal temperature will continue to rise as the beef is resting. The circulating heat of Convection will do an amazing job cooking the beef roast, however there are some important steps for success that are in your hands. Remember to bring the roast to room temperature before cooking and allow for 15 - 20 minutes resting time before carving. Will There be Pan Juices? Cooking your beef roast as outlined above will definitely yield some pan juices and if you would like to increase the pan juices, then add ½ - 1 cup of beef stock to the base of the pan. When the beef comes out of the oven and is resting, pour off the juices and skim off the fat, the pan juices can be used to make gravy or to serve with hot roast beef sandwiches. This sirloin roast is so easy and delicious and the thought of the wonderful sandwiches and salads we enjoyed is making my mouth water. Another mouthwatering crowd pleasing meal is Fried Chicken so be sure to check out my next post in which I will explain how to achieve fabulous results with Oven Baked Fried Chicken. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Cook Succulent Oven BBQ Chicken With The Help of Your Convection Oven

    Grilled BBQ chicken sounds easy enough to make, but in fact it takes quite a bit of skill to evenly cook chicken on the grill without burning it. The key to successfully cooking BBQ chicken on the grill is to use a combination of high heat to sear the chicken then to move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill to cook it through. Then of course the chicken needs to be brushed with BBQ sauce and monitored carefully so it doesn’t burn. But if you reverse this method in convection, you'll have great results every time. How Does Using Convection Ensure Succulent BBQ Chicken The high heat of the grill brings out the flavor in food but to cook chicken successfully on the grill it’s important to use a combination of direct heat and indirect heat. Direct heat sears the chicken, rendering the fat and crisping the skin. Indirect heat, is used to cook the chicken through at a lower temperature. The result, perfectly cooked chicken. However, reversing the process and cooking the chicken at a low temperature in the oven and finishing the cooking at a high temperature in the oven or on the grill is definitely the easiest way to ensure great results when planning a succulent BBQ chicken. Circulating Convection heat prevents food from drying out and cooking lean tender meats like chicken at a low temperature ensures especially succulent results when the chicken is finished at high heat. Another advantage to cooking chicken at a lower temperature in the oven is that you can easily monitor the cooking time of the dark and white meat to avoid overcooking. Set the timer for 25 minutes for the breast pieces and continue cooking the dark meat for for another 10 minutes. Ideally the internal temperature for the chicken will be around 150 degrees at this point. Once the chicken has been finished at a high temperature, the internal temperature should be approximately 165 - 170 degrees. How to Cook Oven BBQ Chicken In The Oven To prepare chicken for cooking in the oven, simply rub the chicken pieces with your preferred dry rub or a blend of spices, some kosher salt and pepper. Rub a little oil into the chicken pieces and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. To cook the chicken select the Convection or Convection Bake mode and set the temperature to 200 degrees. Place the chicken in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes for legs and thighs and 25 minutes for breast portions. If you are planning to finish the chicken on the outdoor grill, begin to heat the grill at least 15 minutes in advance. If you are finishing the chicken in the oven change the temperature to 425 and the cooking mode to Convection Roast Roast when you remove the chicken from the oven. If your oven doesn't have a Convection Roast mode then leave it set in the Convection Bake mode. Cook the chicken on the grill or in the oven for approximately 10 minutes until the skin begins the crisp. Brush the chicken with a generous amount of BBQ sauce and cook for another 5 minutes to heat the sauce. We need heat to cook food but too much heat can destroy food, but this method of using Convection set at a low temperature for the initial cooking stage followed by a high heat finish ensures succulent flavorful results. Learning how the tools of your Convection and Steam oven can be used to achieve great results with all your cooking takes a little practice but once you have had a few successes it becomes easier. Then when you read a recipe you can use the seasoning the recipe writer recommends but use the technique that works best in your oven. Cooking an expensive cut of meat can provoke anxiety and in my next post I will review how to cook a Beef Sirloin roast to perfection using Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

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