What is the difference between broiling, baking and convection baking?

by | May 15, 2009 08:00 AM ET

You Asked:

What is the difference between broiling, baking and convection baking? --- Bill, Freeport, Ill.

Marshall Answered:

Let's start with a normal, conventional oven. An oven is a box that contains hot air. The hot air surrounds the food and cooks it. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

A convection oven is like a normal oven, but it also contains a fan that blows the air in the oven around. In the same way that wind on a cold day creates wind chill, the wind in a convection oven causes food to cook faster by getting more hot air in contact with the food faster.

A broiler is a set of coils at the top of the oven. You usually leave the oven door open and put the food you want to broil near the burner (within a few inches). In this case, infrared radiation from the burner shines down and cooks the food (usually a piece of meat). This is essentially a grill turned upside down.

While we're at it, let's talk about a microwave oven. A microwave oven generates radio waves that happen to excite fat and water molecules in food. When the radio waves hit food, they directly excite (heat up) the water and fat molecules. Only the food heats up, making a microwave a lot more efficient in terms of energy use. It also heats the food very quickly.

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