Built-in ovens save counter space by fitting inside base cabinets or special vertical storage units. With separate ovens, as with cooktops, you have several choices: conventional radiant heat, convection, or microwave.
Teaming a conventional oven with a microwave or energy-saving convection oven is a popular choice. Double ovens can be installed one above the other or side by side below the countertop (some cooks find this a convenient use of space, while others find it frustrating). You can also purchase combination or multi-mode units that allow you to switch between functions, but they're pricey.
Your oven's interior may be "you-clean" (old-fashioned elbow grease required), continuous cleaning (a steady, slow process with a result that may never look clean), or self-cleaning (pyrolytic)―the most effective method.
Conven-tional radiant-heat ovens are available as single or double units. Built-in ovens are sized to fit standard, 24-inch-deep cabinet cavities; deeper units are also available. The most common width is 27 inches, though many space-efficient European imports are 24 inches; recently, the 30-inch-wide oven has caught on.
So-called "built-under" ovens provide a range effect without interrupting the countertop; add the low-clearance cooktop of your choice.
You can choose to include built-in warmer shelves, rotisseries, attached meat thermometers, variable-speed broilers, multiple-rack systems, pizza inserts, and digital timing devices.
Both gas and electric convection ovens use a fan to circulate hot air around the oven cavity. More energy-efficient than radiant-heat ovens, they can cut cooking time by 30 percent and use reduced temperatures. So-called "true-convection" models have isolated heating elements and fans to provide more even results.
Convection is excellent for roast-ing and baking (it first caught on in commercial bakeries) but is lesseffective for foods cooked in deep or covered dishes (cakes, stews, casseroles). Some cooks complain that convection heat dries out certain foods.
Foods cook quickly with high-frequency microwaves, but they don't brown. Some models offer a separate browning element; other built-ins combine microwave with radiant and/or convection cooking. Microwave models range from subcompacts (about .5 cubic foot) up to full size (1 cubic foot or bigger). Most units are hinged on the left.
Microwaves can be placed on a counter, built into cabinetry, or pur-chased as part of a double wall oven or double oven range. You might even consider two microwaves -- one small, portable unit near the refrigerator or breakfast nook for quick warming, the second in a bank of wall ovens. When possible, mount the microwave so its bottom is 24 to 48 inches off the floor.
Some models, specially designed to be installed above a range (under-neath wall cabinets), incorporate a vent and cooking lights; these are wider (30 inches) and shallower (13 to 17 inches deep). Some designers frown on over-the-cooktop placement because it's potentially hazardous when burners below are in use.
Microwave features include memory bank, programmable cooking, timers, temperature probe, rotisserie, and electronic sensors (these auto-matically calculate cooking time and power levels). However, if you use a microwave primarily to heat coffee or convenience foods, you can probably bypass these bells and whistles.
Ideas for Great Kitchens