Once limited to high-end ranges, convection functions are now built in to most new ovens. I use convection almost exclusively at home, because it cooks faster and more evenly than regular settings.
Here's why: It has a built-in fan that helps heat the oven faster, eliminates hot spots and enables even cooking on all racks. No more fussing with rotating pans! Plus, ovens with convection also have a vent that draws out excess steam. The drier air helps foods cook and caramelize sooner—just what you're looking for when roasting chicken or vegetables.
When to use the convection setting:
It's almost always a better choice because it's more efficient.
The only time to skip it:
When baking something with a light batter like cakes or soufflés that might get jostled by the fan.
How to use the convection setting:
If you have more than one convection setting, choose the one indicated in your recipe—bake, roast or broil—or the mode closest to your type of cooking. Because convection cooks food faster, common advice is to reduce the temperature by 25°F and expect foods to be done about 25 percent sooner. Depending on your oven, it may default to a lower temperature when using convection, but you can override that function. At my house, I don't reduce the temperature, I just check for doneness about two-thirds of the way through the recommended cooking time.
So, if you've been hesitant to use convection, just give it a try. It takes some experimenting—every oven is a bit different—but the efficient and delicious results are worth the effort.
Watch: How to Make Roast Chicken & Sweet Potatoes