The latest ovens aim to maximize cooking space and productivity, so you’ll have more time for enjoying meals and hosting guests.
When it’s time to buy a new oven, the choices can seem infinite. Today’s models boast a new generation of convenient, time-saving features, along with striking good looks. “When you’re walking around the appliance showroom, you may be tempted to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over appearance and forget you have to live with this appliance for 10 to 15 years,” says Susan M. Reid, cookbook author and editor of “The Baking Sheet” newsletter at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont.
“Focus on features that will make your life easier, such as practical considerations like how easy it is to adjust racks.” Whether you’re replacing an existing range or remodeling your entire kitchen, here’s what to consider before you shop.
“There’s really no difference in terms of quality or how evenly a gas oven versus an electric oven cooks food,” says David Zabrowski, senior project manager with the Food Service Technology Center, a food-service industry energy-efficiency consultancy in San Ramon, California. And when it comes to energy savings, unfortunately there’s no straightforward answer either.
While you can easily determine how much a certain refrigerator will cost to operate by referring to the Energy Guide sticker and ENERGY STAR ratings, there’s currently no such program for residential ovens because the difference in efficiency between models is minimal. In addition to that, energy costs vary widely across the country.
“Your decision should be based more on what you’re comfortable with and what fuel type is most readily available where you live,” Zabrowski says.
Double ovens top most cooks’ wish lists. This configuration allows you to bake items at two different temperatures at the same time. “If your kitchen is large enough to accommodate two ovens, they offer flexibility in a busy kitchen,” says Sara Ann Busby, CKD, in Elk Rapids, Michigan. “Double ovens also increase productivity if you entertain large groups regularly or do lots of baking.”
For kitchens that don’t have space for two separate ovens, a few manufacturers, such as Maytag and Jenn-Air, offer double-oven ranges, which have two ovens stacked within the base of a traditional 30-inch freestanding range. While the second oven is small, it’s typically large enough for a pie, casserole, or pizza.
Also consider ranges equipped with warming drawers. In most configurations, the warming drawer, which holds foods at 200° F, takes the place of the storage drawer on the bottom of the range.
Many manufacturers offer professional-style ranges in widths of up to 60 inches, which accommodate two side-by-side ovens (usually, one is at least 36 inches wide with an adjacent smaller second oven.)
However, these pro-style ranges can easily cost $10,000 or more. Budget provides an important reality check. “Installing a second oven can double your cost, which may not be justified if you’re using it only once or twice a year,” Karas says.
Single wall ovens start at about $450, and double wall ovens are priced from $900 for the most basic models. Freestanding ranges can be found for as low as $260.
“While spending more doesn’t necessarily guarantee better performance, you will get higher end features such as preprogrammed cooking options and heavy-duty construction on parts like door handles,” Reid says. “Inexpensive ovens work fine, but investing a little more may give you features that make your time in the kitchen more efficient.”
•Convection cooking: This method uses a fan or multiple fans that circulate hot air throughout the oven, reducing cooking time and hot spots. There are two types: those with heating elements on top and bottom, and those with a concealed rear heating element.
Quick tip: The hot circulated air in a convection oven cooks foods faster than conventional radiant heat. Check foods 10 to 15 minutes sooner than you would in a regular oven. Most higher-end convection ovens have preprogrammed options to make the necessary time and temperature calculations for you.
• Halogen lighting: Bright halogen bulbs illuminate the oven’s interior more clearly, giving the cook a better view of foods.
• Shorter self-cleaning cycles: New technology obtains the same results in two hours -- half the time of traditional cleaning cycles -- so you’ll use less energy.
• Full-extension racks on ball bearings: These glide out smoothly and easily as you’re pulling a turkey or heavy casserole out of the oven.
• Built-in warming drawers: Keep dishes at the correct temperature before serving; new options also offer a low-temperature feature that functions as a slow cooker.
• Hidden or sealed element: Makes cleanups easier because elements are recessed in the top of the oven or concealed in the bottom.