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Electric oven - heat from above, below, or both?

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I just bought a small electric oven, and it has the option of setting it to heat from above, below, or both. Which option should I choose for what?

I baked cupcakes yesterday and selected "below," because I thought that's where the heat came from when I baked in a normal oven (although I'm not sure because I've never thought to pay attention), and they turned out ok.

What if I want to make roasted potato wedges? Steak? Lasagna?

Thanks, and sorry if this is a stupid question!

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  1. I'm assuming here you oven isn't convection, but I could be wrong.

    Heating from below should generally make the heat in the oven more even - you'll get more air movement as hot air rises. It will also focus heat a little more on the bottom side of foods, which is often the more insulated side (due to the cooking vessel) for more even heating. Most recipes are written assuming that an oven is heated from below.

    Heating from above will generally create more browning to the top side of foods, which can be good in some circumstances. It can be a nice way to finish off a casserole or anything else you want a little crispier on top.

    Also keep in mind that this mainly matters when the element is on. Once the oven is fully preheated to whatever temperature you set, the element usually turns off, and then just turns on periodically to keep the temperature steady.

    There's no real right or wrong way to use this feature. It might take a little experimentation, and where you place your food in the oven will also change the results a bit.

    For potato wedges, I'd try using both elements. Lasagna - probably bottom element and maybe use the top just at the finish if you want a little more crispiness or want to melt a bit more cheese on it. Steak - depends on how you cook it. If you pan roast (brown a thick steak on the stove top and then put the pan in the oven to finish cooking), you could probably use either. To broil it, just use the top element and put the steaks right under it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee

      Thanks! I saw hidden in the instructions that it does say "convection." Does that make a difference?

      I'm just used to the "normal" big kitchen ovens.

      1. re: musicalchef

        Convection blows air around in the oven, making for more even heating and faster cooking times. If you use the convection function, you might have to adjust some recipes for the shorter cooking times. Usually you can turn convection on and off, but I don't know your oven to say for sure.

        It doesn't change too much though. Use the top element when you want extra/faster browning on top or if you find things cooking too quickly on the bottom for some reason.