While the basic idea of the oven’s design has remained the same since its most ancient inceptions — a large heat chamber — today’s models deliver that chamber in a variety of ways. Below, you will find descriptions of many of the modern technologies, configurations, and features that can allow an oven to help you make the best use of your kitchen.
Heat Source Technology
While the main energy sources for heating an oven are still natural gas and electricity, there have been many recent advances in heating, especially in the field of convection.
Gas is still the most economical source, but it does not heat the oven as evenly as does electricity. However, it does have the advantage that it is still generally flowing during a power outage. Most gas ovens are 24 inches wide, with a separate broiler, although Viking does have a 36 inch oven model. Gas ovens are not available, however, in double-oven or under-counter models.
Electric ovens heat more efficiently and evenly, but they do require a special, 220 Volt power line (a standard line is 120 Volts). Also, many features, such as accurate pre-heat indicators, are only available on electric ovens. Most electric ovens come in the widths 24 inches, 27 inches, or 30 inches, while some professional style manufactures make a 36" model.
Convection ovens are standard ovens which have the added feature of a pneumatic heating system that circulates heated air inside the oven. These ovens which have been standard equipment in restaurants and bakeries for years are now coming to residential kitchens. The even distribution of heat produce by the convection ovens shortens cooking time and bakes the food more even than standard thermal ovens. While some electric ovens claim to have convection elements (usually a fan that helps even out temperature), a true convection oven has a second heating element which heats the air as it blows thru the fan. One unique convection model is the “Trivection” from GE that combines electric heat, convection and microwave heat to dramatically decrease cooking times for almost all foods.
The most important configuration issue for ovens is the question of whether the appliance has one or two ovens — a “single” or “double” design. One of the advantages of a single oven is the choice to situate the oven underneath the counter. It is important to keep in mind, however, that under-counter models are only available with electric heating. Double ovens, on the other hand, are generally situated together in a vertical stack, recessed into a tall cabinet.
The other main configuration issues concern attached microwaves and warming drawers. Single ovens are often available with attached microwaves, some of which feature convection heating that makes them almost like a second oven. This microwave is situated above the oven. The prime option for the area below the oven, however, is to include a warming drawer, either on single- or double-oven models.
Stainless steel, black and white are the most common range colors, but most models are also available in bisque. More vivid colors like; blue, red and yellow are available in some pro-style product lines.
Knobs vs. Touch Pads
The oven’s controls panel consists of either knobs or an electronic touch pad. While touch pads often offer more features, knobs tend to last longer and are more economical to repair. The controls also impact a kitchen’s aesthetic, as a range with knobs evokes a more traditional design, while a touch pad has a more contemporary look.
Window Size While a larger window makes for less effective insulation, if it can save you from opening the door, it will save energy. Also, many windows are tinted or have painted screens, which help the oven retain its heat and operate efficiently.
While some basic ranges still require manual cleaning, most mid-to higher-end models include a self-cleaning feature. In self-cleaning mode the oven super-heats itself for several hours incinerating any food residues.
Many older ovens have an automatic pre-heating sensor however these older designs only measure the temperature at the side-mounted sensor, often leaving pockets of much cooler air in the middle of the oven. In today’s higher-end convection and electric ovens, the pre-heat feature alerts you only when the entire oven reaches the correct temperature.
Electric models often have timers that enable the user to set a time for the oven to turn on, as well as to turn off, instead of merely setting itself to turn off.
Child Safety Lock
Many models feature mechanisms that lock the oven door with a “child proof latch”.
Hidden Baking Element
The term “baking element” refers to the oven’s heat source, either gas flames or electric heat coils. Some designs cover the baking element with a plate that allows for more even cooking.
Automatic Oven Light
Many new models come with lights that automatically turn off and on when the oven closes and opens. Higher-end models often have been upgraded to a brighter halogen bulb.
Rack Settings and Features
For cooks who bake or roast a great deal a good selection of rack settings and features is essential to allot space for different dishes. In many mid- to higher-end models the racks are designed so instead of sliding on ledges they are mounted on sliding rollers. Rollers move smoothly and easily and eliminate the risk of tipping or jamming the rack at high temperatures.
Older broilers usually only had one temperature setting, but many new models have variable temperature settings for the broiler.