What Features Do You Need in Your New Oven?

imageReader Ruth Kilner, interviewed here, broke her oven while cleaning it. She asked me to help her shop for a new one, by advising her what features are useful. Before writing I asked my friend Miriam F., whom I consider an expert on kitchen equipment. She said that a feature she recommends has become more common in the last few years: a “true” convection.

Ovens have gas or electric heating elements on the top and bottom. The problem is that when you place items on more than one rack, the top of the upper item and the bottom of the lower item get brown while the middle doesn’t. This is the case with my electric Electra brand. I need to set the timer for approximately half the cooking time, then switch the trays. I do have a fan that is supposed to circulate the heat, but because it is placed in the back of the oven where there is no heating element, it doesn’t make much difference.

 

You can identify a “true convection” (real “turbo”) because it has a heating element surrounding the fan.

Before you shop, make sure that your old oven can’t be repaired. The technology of ovens has not improved much and as with all appliances, parts tend to be more shoddy than in earlier years.

Here are more features to consider for when buying an oven. Many apply to the purchase of any major electrical appliance. Thanks to Cooking Manager fans on Facebook for their input into this question.

  • Gas or electric? This depends on the cost and availability of gas in your area. Also, know whether you want a built-in oven that fits into a cabinet, or a stand-alone model that may have a cooking range on top.
  • Heating settings. For standard baking, ovens heat from the top and bottom. For broiling, the upper element only is used.  My oven has a “pita” setting that heats only from the bottom, which would probably work for pizza too. There may be other settings. Check that any fan has a heating element surrounding it to distribute heat evenly.
  • Size. This is one of the most important decisions. Do you want one large compartment or two smaller ones? Heating up a smaller oven is more efficient for one item, but if you bake a lot or need space for a turkey or a special baking pan you will want a big compartment. And be sure to measure your available space and pans before going to the store.
  • Service and parts. Is this a brand that is common in your area, or will you have to send away for parts? Poll your friends and neighbors regarding service on a particular brand. How long is the warranty? Tip: Long-term service contracts are almost never worth the price, and they generally don’t cover parts. Better to put the money aside to pay for repairs when necessary. Chances are you will come out way ahead.
  • Cleaning. I’ve written about the self-cleaning feature in the context of cleaning appliances. The self-cleaning element heats the oven to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, charring any grease or residue. It often breaks, especially if it hasn’t been used in a while. The oven should be impossible to open during the self-cleaning cycle. Whether or not you get a self-cleaning oven, check for hard-to-clean seams or cracks.
  • Timers, clocks, and other features. I’ve had my oven for 6 years and I’m still not sure I know how to use the automatic settings. Chances are the salesperson won’t either, so if this feature is important to you take time to read the instructions. I know that mine will turn off automatically. I can also place food in the oven and set it to turn on, then off again, at a later point.  Note: Many ovens have a safety feature that turns off the oven after two hours.
  • Racks. Ovens usually come with baking trays and racks. Be sure that you can get as many as you need. Can you adjust the racks within the oven or are you stuck with one arrangement?
  • Safety and accessibility. If you have small children, consider how easy it would be for them open the oven. Some ovens have safety locks that disable operation.  Oven doors are often extremely hot on the outside, so exercise caution when children are around.
  • Glass window. Some ovens come with a glass window so that you can check the food while cooking, but this may make them harder to clean, and they can sometimes break. See note below about Smeg.
  • Finish. Stainless steel finishes are neutral and timeless, but require a little more maintenance to keep off fingerprints. They also tend to cost more. Colors can look dated after a while, and may not match if you move or renovate. White is usually a good choice if you’re not sure.

Note: Miriam mentioned a problem she had with the Smeg gas oven, and I am putting it out here for general knowledge. When she replace the glass in the door, it imploded during the self-cleaning cycle. It turned out that only one side of the glass was treated to withstand the heat of the self-cleaning. The repairman hadn’t realized this, because most oven manufacturers treat both sides.

What features are important to you in your oven? Is there a particular brand you recommend, or a model that turned out to be a lemon?

You may also enjoy:

The Best Techniques for Knowing When Food Is Cooked

Getting the Most Out of Your Conventional Oven

How Thermostats Work, or Why Not to Bake when the Air Conditioner Is On

Photo: _JohnMuir

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Comments

  1. In America I treated myself (when we renovated) to a Maytag Gemini, which has two distinct oven compartments, both self-cleaning. Normally I kept the top for dairy and the bottom for meat. I loved that oven.

    In Israel because everything is so much smaller, I passed on the 2 compartment oven. I find that sometimes I have turn things around during baking or cooking because the back of the oven is (presumably) hotter than the front, where heat escapes through the glass and the door.

    In my ideal kitchen I will have two big wall ovens, but when it comes down to it I’m a spoiled brat when it comes to kitchen equipment. (My real problem with one oven is that it’s just too much advanced planning. Not my strong suit.)
    Kate recently posted..In which Laura Ingalls Wilder gives me pauseMy Profile

  2. Besides the Smeg that Miriam mentioned, are there any other self-cleaning ovens available here? Are these “true” self cleaning, like the ones from the States?

  3. 4daughters says:

    I have a 60 cm oven which is small when I have guests for holidays. When we build our new house I will buy a 90 cm oven which can fit a lot of food. It also has an extra flame on the range which can be very useful.

    My current oven has a turbo setting which I use to cook and bake almost everything. It blows heat out of the fan and distributes it to the whole compartment. I just figured out that I can even put cooking on the floor of the oven and it won’t burn on the bottom since the heat is coming from the back of the oven.

    I use an oversized toaster oven as a dairy oven.

  4. I was very happy with the long term insurance (7 years). I bought a lemon of an oven and it broke within a year- the glass, the heating system, even the knobs fell off. Everything was fixed through the insurance so it was more than worth the money I put into it.

  5. can you tell us what foods are best to cook with our w/o convection? I know bread is best with, but some things can dry out or get overcooked quickly.
    Yosefa recently posted..Passover Brownies Gluten-freeMy Profile

  6. Ms. Krieger says:

    Consider purchasing an oven with a self-cleaning cycle, even if you plan to never use the self-cleaning feature. The reason: self-cleaning ovens are usually better insulated than non-self cleaning ovens, and so expend less energy. (I forget where I learned this…perhaps the US publication Consumer Reports.)

  7. I had a service contract on an oven I bought years ago and it was well worth it. That thing was junk. The repairman actually asked if I “used it often.” Hello? It’s my _oven_. I use it every day! It was an electric oven and I got rid of it after only a few years because it constantly needed repair and I was starting to experience electrical shocks all too often.

    Then I bought an oven recommended on the Star-K website for the shabbos friendly features. I really loved that.

    I don’t know if that oven had true convection, but I found that on convection mode everything seemed to take twice as long to cook.

    A feature I would love to see is a self-cleaning stove top though I can’t imagine how you’d design that. I’m a mess when I cook and not too fastidious about cleaning spills when they happen.

  8. My de Detrich is a “true self cleaning”. I clean it 2-3 times a year, including Pesach and it’s great. It’s been a very dependable oven (tfu tfu) over the last 10 years.

  9. I have an oven with a warming drawer, which I love, but now that same model comes with a second oven instead of the warming drawer, which is even better.
    I also have three racks, but I always taking the third out because I need the space for deep pans or for rising challah. I can’t remember the last time I used all three shelves. Things bake better when they aren’t crowded into the oven. Saving time by shoving in too much isn’t worth it.
    Another thing to think about regarding convection is that the fan sometimes reduces the interior space–sometimes the same model without convection has more interior space than the model with convection. Sometimes not. You have to measure.
    Laura recently posted..Yom HazikaronMy Profile

  10. Did I miss this: another appealing feature is sealed burners.

  11. Good point. When I’ve bought an oven it’s been an oven-stovetop so that’s what I was thinking of in terms of important features.

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