The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Fan oven or no fan oven

  • Pin It
Martyn's picture
Martyn

Fan oven or no fan oven

When I first started making bread a month ago I almost burnt the crust on my bread, the loaves seemed to cook far quicker than the recipes suggested. I have now realised that we have a very modern fan assisted oven so this would account for the rapid bake times. I have reduced the temparatures to compensate for the fan assistance, but have now discovered that I can turn off the fan (instruction books are wonderful things).


My question is this; is there any benefit to be had for baking bread in a fan assisted against a none fan assisted oven?

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

What you have is a convection oven.  ' Lucky you'.  They are wonderful and also more expensive than a regular oven.  Be sure and read your directions and practice using your convection setting often for baking and roasting..it's easy and you'll soon adjust to baking.  You can bake items on 3 shelves and they all bake and brown nicely.  All convection oven brands usually work and give different results.  Learn to use it and you will see how evenly it browns and does cook things faster.  It's usually about 15 degrees hotter than when your oven is set on no fan or convection off.  I use mine for almost all baking though I have double ovens the top being the convection with the choice of non-convection cooking 'the fan will be off'.  The bottom oven is a regular oven and comes in handy if doing a big load of baking. 


Sylvia

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

My experience might be different from yours because I'm in UK.


The instructions I got with my oven said that I should bake (or cook) at 10 C less than the recipe said. That could be about 15 F, for some temperatures.. 


The point is that such ovens do get hotter than  other ovens and we must be aware of that and make allowances.


I bake bread at 10 C less than the recipes and it's fine.

Thomas Mc's picture
Thomas Mc

I use the fan all the time in my oven, as it eliminates hot/cold spots, everything cooks and browns evenly, and it also helps to distribute steam.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I bake pan bread, boules, and batards with my oven's convection mode on with no problem.


However, when I baked baguettes I was having a problem that I couldn't diagnose.


I bake three baguettes at a time, arranged with their long axis parallel to the back of the oven, i.e. the longest oven dimension. The rearmost baguette always was a little mishapen. It might be slightly curled upward on both ends, or slightly thinner in the center of the loaf. When I was baking baguettes with 65-67% hydration I shrugged my shoulders and blamed the curl, or thinning on my shaping and slashing skills (or lack thereof).


Recently, I've been making 72% hydration baguettes whose dough is very extensible due to long (18 to 21 hours) retarded bulk fermentation ala Anis Bouabsa. The slight curl and slight thinning is gone, replaced by extraordinary oven spring beneath the end slashes, and practically no oven spring in the center of the rearmost baguette. Huh?


A light came on! The 8" convection fan in my seven-year-old oven is in the center of the oven's back wall, and blows directly onto my baking stone. The fan is blowing all the steam away from the center of the rearmost baguette, and drying out the loaf's skin in its center. Ergo, candidates for the ugliest loaf contest.


I baked a second group of three from the same dough batch with the oven's convection mode off. A hat trick: three nearly identical, reasonably shaped and sprung loaves.


I don't think the fan is effecting my sourdough loaves, but to be certain my next SD bake will be in the conventional oven mode.


David G.

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

that I do like making bread in my fan assisted oven because I can load it with lots of loaves of any size and there are very few hot spots, they all bake evenly with no problems, I don't have to change their positions every tend minutes!

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

David clearly figured out what to do with his, and there may be other features on different brands that require some thought as to how to bake bread with them.


I have more experience with commercial-sized convection ovens (preferably steam-injected) than with home models.  If you want good oven kick and a nice crust with them, you can turn off the fan for a few minutes at the beginning of the bake right after you load the oven with steam.  That permits the moisture to condense a bit on the surface of the loaves, allows them to stretch properly during oven spring, and gels the starches for a nicely browned crust toward the end of the bake.


Pro convection ovens sometimes have no steam, and these particular models aren't usually good for getting a nice crust or decent oven spring.  The intense dry heat of the oven coupled with the mechanically-generated wind causes a dry skin to form almost immediately after loading the loaves.  That hinders expansion during oven-spring, and so little gelatinization of the starches takes place that there isn't much sugar available for caramelization of the crust.  A dull, light-light-tan color results because the loaf won't brown much, and the crust isn't interesting at all.


As for what to do with a home model, I'd recommend setting your oven temp the way the user manuals advise you.  If making hearth loaves like baguettes, you can still use a pre-heated stone, and load the chamber with steam as you would for bread in a conventional oven.  Assuming the oven was pre-heated, I would just turn off the fan for the first 5 to 10 minutes of baking, and then resume using the fan if you like.  As I said before, my experience with home convection ovens is limited, so there may be factors here I can't forsee, but the principles of baking with convection currents is more or less the same as for commercial baking.


Bottom line, as usual, is that you'll make some good calls -- and a few bad ones -- as you get your arms around how to work with your particular model.  In just a few tries you'll be fine.


--Dan DiMuzio


 

davidg618's picture
davidg618

...offers an even better solution than the one I chose. I don't have a direct fan control available, but I can easily switch between modes (conventional, convection) in a matter of seconds. I like the convection mode's even heat distribution, especially for browning. I hadn't thought of switching modes following the early minutes wherein oven spring happens (or, at least, we hope it will).


Next time, when I remove the steam source, and uncover the oven vent, I'll also switch to the convection mode.


Thanks and regards,


David G

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

"Assuming the oven was pre-heated, I would just turn off the fan for the first 5 to 10 minutes of baking, and then resume using the fan if you like." 


Can an oven fan be turned off? Mine can't, the heat of the element determines when the fan is going. If it could be turned off the element might burn out - think car engine fan and what happens when that fails :-)



davidg618's picture
davidg618

...and use it to your best advantage.


Martyn, in the post that started this thread, stated his/her oven's fan can be turned off, and cited the stove's instruction manual. Presumedly, that implied the fan can be turned off when the oven is in the convection mode. I think that's what Dan was replying to.


Niether your nor my oven has a manual fan control, but I can change modes, in seconds, regardless of the oven's temperature. It's likely yours can also. That's for you to check out.


My oven also has a seperate air cooling fan, somewhere in it's internal structure that comes on automatically. It is not the rear wall convection fan. It's obviously there for safety, because it operates mostly after the oven has been turned off, and during the "self-clean" cycle. I've also heard it cycle on and off when I've pre-heated to the maximum allowable temperature (550°F).


David G.

dghdctr's picture
dghdctr

I don't know enough about anyone's oven in particular to give you unquestionable advice.  I do know that, absent any steam at the beginning of a bake cycle, that the intense air movement induced by a fan can be -- in some ways -- at least a temporary liability.  Your loaf can get a leathery, inflexible skin before the yeast inside have even died, so there will be considerable CO2 pressure and no easy way to accomodate it when the skin stops stretching too soon.


And since I don't know your oven, I can't say with certainty that this would always happen -- just that it may well happen, and the explanation above would be a likely culprit if it does happen.


I've also used a technique at the beginning of a convection bake where I load the oven, steam the load after closing the door, and then completely turn off all power to the oven immediately -- for maybe 3-5 minutes.  Yes -- this will delay the recovery of heat by a few minutes, but especially with convection, the recovery after resuming power should happen fairly quickly.  This technique allows for good expansion of the loaves under moist conditions, and after the dry segment of the bake the level of caramelization was very good. 


These are just ideas I'm throwing out.  If you have worries about how steam or "no fan" might affect your oven, then by all means don't try these ideas.


--Dan DiMuzio

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Yes as stated above it is best to learn how your oven operates.  My oven switches modes and heating elements automatically depending on which mode is selected.  Baking, broil hi-low, convection baking, convection roasting, probe, proof, ect..there are coils below covered, above and there is a coil behind the fan.


Mary is right about your fan heating coil burning out faster if your fan is in the off position and the coil is still heating.


Sylvia