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  • The Importance of Planning for Successful Convection Cooking

    Convection ovens are remarkable tools that deliver improved results with oven cooking because the food is cooked with the circulating heated air rather than direct heat from the heating elements, which is a more drying heat. While there are many benefits to cooking with convection there are no guidelines to cooking with convection noted in recipes which of course makes it confusing for the user. Here at Convection Kitchen you will find a resource in our Plan section to help you better understand the tools you are cooking with as well as guidelines to help you benefit from cooking with convection and steam ovens. The Oven Size and Shape Will Influence the Outcome I have been teaching people how to cook with their convection ovens for over 20 years and have cooked in a variety of ovens, both electric and gas, very large ovens and very small ovens. Each oven cooked differently, but by following the basic convection principles and paying attention to how each oven cooked I was able to achieve success cooking in each one. Nowadays many people have two ovens of different sizes in their kitchens. A standard sized wall oven and a smaller cavity steam oven or convection microwave oven. While both ovens will cook really well, the timing and the mode selection will vary because of the different shape, size and cooking modes in each oven. Understanding Convection Oven Modes Recipes state an oven temperature and suggest timing; however, if your oven has a choice of cooking modes you have some thinking to do before you turn the oven on. Oven manufacturers provide useful information in the oven User Guide; nonetheless, you will find important information and tips in our Plan section to help you better understand how to choose the oven mode best suited for the food you are cooking. In addition you will find useful information about the types of pans that work best for baking and roasting as well as suggestions about rack position. Once you have a better understanding of how your oven cooks or bakes in each mode you will know how to benefit from the oven modes and be able to trouble-shoot any cooking fails. Benefits of Convection Cooking Here are some ways you will benefit from cooking in a convection oven: Food cooked in convection has better moisture retention. Large roasts such as turkey cook much faster in convection, no turning or basting is necessary. Soaking meats in a wet brine is not necessary as meat will not dry out as much when roasted in convection. However, roasting on a rack in a shallow pan is essential for good results. Multiple racks of cookies or other baked items can be baked at one time without having to rotate or turn the pans.  However, the recipe temperature should be reduced by 25 F when baking in convection. A complete meal can be cooked at one time with no transfer of flavor, simplifying meal preparation. Understanding Steam Oven Cooking Steam ovens became an option for the residential kitchen over 20 years ago and in the last ten years have become fairly mainstream. There is definitely a familiarization process when learning to cook in a steam oven, and we understand how important knowledgeable guidance is. While you don’t  need special recipes, it does help to think a little about the science of how the food is being cooked so you can fine tune your results. The ability to steam multiple foods at one time instead of cooking in multiple saucepans is a definite advantage when cooking in the Steam mode. Foods roasted in the combination Convection Steam mode have remarkable flavor and texture as well as nutrient retention. Some steam ovens feature techniques that have been used by chefs for many years that have become mainstream and opened up new ways of cooking familiar foods. Low temperature cooking with a reverse sear, and sous vide cooking are two techniques that have given us a greater appreciation of the benefits of cooking with lower temperatures. Convection and steam ovens were developed for professional food service to better cope with volume cooking and to provide tools for restaurants to achieve reliable results. Residential versions of these ovens were developed because chefs noticed the improved results when food was cooked in these ovens, and I can honestly say understanding how to use these ovens will make you a better cook. It just takes paying attention to your appliances and doing some planning rather than blindly following a recipe. I hope you will take advantage of the educational resources here Convection Kitchen to learn how to get the best out of your convection and steam ovens. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Roasting Vegetables in Convection Ovens: Elevating Your Soup Game

    Convection and Steam ovens are remarkable tools because they offer many options that can simplify meal preparation. All it takes to benefit from those tools is some planning. One of the more remarkable aspects of convection is the ability to cook multiple foods at one time with no transfer of flavor. That means that any time your oven is on, unless you are cooking a specialty item that requires precise temperatures, you should be able to cook several different foods at one time. Since it’s the season for warming winter soups, let's look at how using your Convection or Steam oven can simplify the process and help you create flavorful soups. Roasting Vegetables in Convection the Key to Delicious Soup There are several reasons why roasting vegetables for soup makes sense. When vegetables are roasted, their natural sugars caramelize so they develop better flavor. Vegetables roasted in Convection retain more moisture which translates to better flavor. Most of us don’t have a soup pot large enough to accommodate a large quantity of vegetables so roasting vegetables for soup makes more sense. Best of all it’s easy to roast a tray of vegetables for soup while you are cooking other foods. Making the soup base on the cooktop is relatively easy. Slowly cook the foundation ingredients such as onions, leeks, garlic, carrots and celery, add the stock and simmer for approximately 20 minutes before adding the roasted vegetables. Soups such as pumpkin, butternut squash, cauliflower, mushrooms, tomatoes, broccoli, corn and zucchini can be pureed, but a variety of roasted cubed vegetables can be added to broth soups or soups that feature beans or lentils. Best Convection Oven Mode for Crisp Roasted Vegetables Either the Convection Roast or Convection Bake mode will work for oven roasting vegetables. If you roast the vegetables on rack position 1 or 2 counting up from the bottom of the oven the vegetables will be close to the bottom heating element and should caramelize well. If you need a little more crisping, then move the tray up closer to the top heating element for the final 10 minutes of cooking. The ideal cooking temperature and timing will of course depend on your oven. For example 375F in my 24” oven is very powerful but larger 30” ovens may provide better results at 400F. I also notice that when I roast vegetables in my gas oven, too high a temperature can cause burning on the edges. Understanding the rack position and temperature that will work best in your oven is key to successful cooking overall, so don’t follow a recipe blindly, pay attention to how your oven cooks to achieve the best results. Some vegetables such as fresh corn, peppers or tomatoes, add a lot of flavor to soup if they are cooked in the Convection Broil mode to gain a nice char. Coarsely chopped and added into the soup these vegetables will add wonderful bursts of flavor. Another important aspect of roasting vegetables is using the right amount of oil. If the vegetables are tossed in too much oil they become limp, not enough and they will be dry. Start with a light coating of oil and adjust as needed. Steaming Vegetables for Soup Roasted vegetables give soup a lot of flavor but there are certain soups that are delicious made with steamed vegetables. When you are in the mood for a soup with fresh bright flavors, steamed peas, broccoli, asparagus, spinach and potatoes are a good choice for a lighter soup. While roasting or steaming vegetables can certainly enhance soup, the key to really good soup is really good stock. Roasting bones for stock or simmering a chicken carcass are easy to do, yes it takes planning, but it is easy and your soup will be so much more delicious made with homemade stock. So next time you are baking a casserole or baking some potatoes or roasting a chicken consider getting a soup base started on the cooktop and roast some vegetables for another easy delicious convection meal. Thanksgiving is such an important feast but one that can cause tremendous stress when orchestrating the cooking of so much food. In my next post I will be addressing the best type of pan to use to roast your turkey or turkey breast this Thanksgiving and of course reminding you of the many helpful videos and recipes I have created to help you understand how Convection can ease the stress of the cooking. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Healthy Twist on Classic Comfort Food: Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe

    Mac and cheese on its own is a favorite with adults and children alike, especially when made with a combination of delicious cheeses. Even though the original is good as is, this is also a casserole that can be combined with other foods to create a memorable meal. When you are in the mood for something truly decadent, adding lobster to mac and cheese is a good option but when you are in the mood to keep it simple and nourishing, adding in some vegetables is equally delicious. Vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli are also delicious when baked in a cheese sauce and are perfect to bump up the flavor and nutrient value of mac and cheese. Even though mac n cheese is a simple dish the preparation does involve several steps and saucepans which can be off putting. In this post I will give you some tips for simplifying the preparation as well as tips for baking the casserole in Convection. Mac and Cheese Preparation Made Easy Preparing Mac and Cheese involves several steps, cooking the pasta in boiling water, preparing the bechamel sauce and if you are adding in another ingredient, cooking that ingredient as well. Since this means several saucepans or oven trays, it’s always a good idea to know the options that will work best for your time frame and minimize the amount of clean up. There is no escaping cooking the pasta in boiling water, macaroni cooks quickly and achieves the perfect texture when cooked in rapidly boiling salted water, so that part is easy. When adding vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower there are several options for cooking them. The florets can be steamed in a steam oven or in a steamer basket over boiling water. They can also be roasted at high heat (375 - 400°F) in the oven. Cauliflower is especially delicious when slightly caramelized around the edges so broiling the cauliflower in the oven is another option. Then of course there is the microwave option. Vegetables steam very quickly in the microwave or if you have a Speed oven you could roast or broil the vegetables with some added microwave power to speed up the process. So lot’s of options, to simplify getting those vegetables ready. The bechamel sauce is traditionally made on the cooktop by slowly cooking the butter and flour together then adding the milk and heating gently until thickened. A simpler option is to make the bechamel sauce in the microwave; however, you will need a microwave safe measuring cup or bowl with at least a 4-cup capacity. A large container is necessary so that you can stir the cheese in once the sauce has thickened. To prepare the sauce in the microwave, combine the butter and flour in the container and cook on hi for approximately 1 minute. Add the milk, whisk the ingredients to combine, cover the container and cook for approx 2 minutes until the mixture has thickened. If you were to use the microwave to prepare the vegetables and the bechamel sauce you could conceivably prepare all the components to assemble a cauliflower mac n cheese in approximately 10 minutes. Then of course the casserole needs to go into the oven to bake through. In addition to speeding up the preparation, microwave bowls are all dishwasher safe for easy clean up so using the microwave for some of the prep is definitely worth considering. The Best Oven Mode for Baking Mac n Cheese Once your Mac and Cheese casserole is assembled then it needs to go into the oven to heat through and develop a slightly browned crust. The Convection Bake mode is ideal for baking casseroles because in this mode heat is directed from the bottom and top heating elements and the convection fan circulates the heated air around the baking dish ensuring even heating. Placing the casserole in the middle of the oven will give the best results for even heating. If the casserole is being baked directly after it has been prepared it will only need to be in the oven for approximately 25 minutes and will not need to be covered. However, if you are baking the casserole cold from the refrigerator, allow approximately 45 minutes and keep the casserole covered for the first 20 minutes; then remove the foil for the remainder of the baking time. The many ways in which a Mac and Cheese casserole can be enhanced is a good example of how a traditional recipe has evolved to reflect current food trends. So when it comes to preparing your Mac and Cheese, make sure you also take good advantage of your modern appliances to simplify the preparation of this simple, delicious culinary standard. Simple foods have great appeal and our convection ovens are great tools for achieving great texture and flavor when preparing many popular foods. If you want to learn how to prepare a sirloin strip steak in convection with tender juicy results then please check back for my next post Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Achieving Perfect Apple Pie using Convection-Bake Mode in Your Oven

    Baking an apple pie from scratch takes some time and effort but the result is so rewarding the effort is definitely worthwhile. Warm apple pie fresh from the oven and served with vanilla ice cream is a simple but memorable treat and with all the fresh apples available now, it’s the ideal time to perfect your pie baking skills. Pie recipes have often been handed down from one generation to the next and the recipe hasn't changed much over the years, but the ovens we bake our pies in have changed a great deal. After you have read through the following tips for success don't be afraid to tweak the baking instructions and take advantage of the improved technology in your oven. Adapting Traditional Recipes for Baking with Modern Oven Technology I often marvel at how Convection ovens have improved our options for cooking and am in awe of the women and men who literally had to slave over their stoves to produce great meals, breads and desserts in times gone by. Even though ovens began to improve in the 1950’s, it took until the late 1990’s for ovens to really transform into tools that produced more reliable results. The first improvement was of course the addition of the convection fan with a heating element around the fan that could circulate heated air around the oven, cooking the food evenly. The second transformation was the repositioning of the bottom heating element. For many years the bottom heating element in an electric oven was exposed which caused many problems when baking pies. The direct heat from the exposed element often caused the pie filling to bubble up over the crust onto the oven floor, where it made an awful mess and it also caused a lot of staining on the crust of the pie. In order to counteract this effect many pie recipes instructed one to add foil around the edge of the pie to prevent the crust from burning and to bake the pie on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Now that the oven design has changed and ovens generally heat more evenly baking a pie is much easier. Tips for Baking Pies in Convection for Great Results Both gas and electric convection ovens offer a Bake mode and a Convection Bake mode and either is a good choice when baking pies. I prefer to use Convection Bake because the circulating heat cooks the crust evenly and often in less time. In addition to cooking the crust through perfectly I like the way fruit cooks in convection as opposed to the more drying heat of the regular Bake mode. First arrange the oven racks before heating your oven. The User Guide for your oven will recommend the ideal rack position, but generally with pies rack position one counting up from the bottom works well. In some gas ovens I have baked in, rack position 2 provided better results so this is definitely a case of knowing your oven. Remember even if you can’t find the oven User Guide, it will most likely be available online and most manufacturers have YouTube videos as well. When pies are baked in the traditional Bake mode the recipe temperature will be in the 375-400F range. However, when baking in convection it is advisable to reduce the recipe temperature by 25 degrees to avoid overcooking the edge of the pastry. If the edge of the pie begins to get very dark that is an indication that the heat is too high. So keep in mind pie recipes have been around for ages and the basic pie dough and filling recipe is probably perfect. However, adapting to the cooking to benefit from the features of your modern convection oven will provide the best results. Here it is mid-October and the stores are already laden with baking and cooking supplies for our big November holiday, Thanksgiving. Convection ovens are amazing tools that can really simplify the preparation of a large feast, so if you would like to learn how to take the stress out of your holiday cooking I would encourage you to review our popular series of turkey videos: How to Roast a Turkey in Convection, How to Roast a Spatchock Turkey in Convection, How to Roast A Heritage Turkey in in Convection and How to Slow Roast Turkey Pieces in Convection. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • Convection Cooking: The Secret to Juicy and Tender Stuffed Pork Shoulder

    There are many different ways to cook a pork shoulder roast, they all take time but the results are so worth the effort. Pork shoulder can be braised in liquid and shredded for pulled pork or for enchiladas, or it can be slowly roasted and cut into melt-in-your mouth slices that can be enjoyed as a meal or in a sandwich. When cut into blade steaks pork shoulder is delicious broiled in the oven or cooked on the grill. Stuffing a pork shoulder and slowly roasting it until fork tender is another great option and is ideal when you are looking for a more elegant presentation. The Easy Steps to Prepare a Stuffed Pork Shoulder Roast Pork shoulder roasts come in varying sizes, a 4 lbs. roast will serve 8 people and a 5 - 6 lbs. roast will easily serve 10 people. The shoulder cut is ideal for stuffing as it holds up well when sliced. Because the meat has already been de-boned it may be rolled and tied to hold it together, with a small roast you may have to cut it so that it opens like a book. When you open up the roast one side will be meatier than the other; I find that pounding the meatier side to even it out makes it easier to roll the roast and tie it together. Once the pork has been prepared and seasoned it can be spread with the stuffing, rolled and cooked or refrigerated overnight. If storing the prepared roast overnight be sure the stuffing has totally cooled before rolling the roast. Before rolling the roast cut several lengths of butchers twine long enough to encircle the roast so you have them handy for tying the roast. Insert a few metal skewers into the meat in order to keep the roast stable while tying it. Convection Mode and Temperature for Roasting a Stuffed Pork Shoulder Roast When roasting large tender cuts of meat in convection the circulating heated air can significantly reduce the cooking time. However, tougher cuts of meat such as pork shoulder still need to be cooked for longer periods of time at a moderate temperature to tenderize the meat. Cooking the roast in a convection mode is still a good choice because the circulating heat helps preserve moisture and cooks the food more evenly. An additional bonus is that you can bake a casserole at the same time. For best results, either the Convection Roast or Convection Bake mode can be used and be sure to place the roast on a rack in a shallow pan to help keep the meat nice and juicy. Onions and a coarsely chopped carrot can be added to the pan to create a flavorful pan sauce from the rendered drippings. A short burst of high heat, 350°F for 30 minutes then a lower oven temperature of 325°F for another hour and half is ideal for a smaller roast whereas a larger roast may need 2 and half to 3 hours. Always be sure to factor in 15 minutes of resting time before slicing the meat. Can I Use the Oven Meat Probe When Roasting Pork Shoulder? An oven meat probe that you can program to the exact internal temperature you want a cut of meat to reach is ideal with many roasts. However it is really important that the probe is property inserted into the meat in order to register the temperature. This can be very tricky with a stuffed roast because if the tip of the probe is in the stuffing it will not register the correct internal temperature. The desired result with a stuffed pork shoulder roast is tenderness and this can only be achieved with long slow cooking. If you want to determine if the meat has reached a specific temperature then it can be checked with an instant read thermometer when you remove it from the oven. Remember the internal temperature of meat will continue to rise when it is resting outside of the oven. If the meat is tender after two to three hours of cooking it’s safe to say it has safely cooked through. Fall is a great time for baking pies so if you love baking pies then check out my next post to understand how Convection can help you achieve great results. Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast

  • The Secret to Perfectly Crispy Crust: Convection Cooking for 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

  • Slow Roasted Juicy Tomatoes: Maximizing Flavor with Convection Mode

    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

  • Maximizing Your Steam Oven: Tips for Crafting Delicious 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

  • The Secret to Perfectly Succulent Chicken Wings: Slow Roasting Method

    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

  • How to Make Delicious Socca Garbanzo Bean Flatbread Using Convection Cooking

    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

  • "Exploring the Health Benefits of Zucchini Noodles in 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

  • "How to Create a Flavorful 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

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