“When you walk into your kitchen you want your heart to pitter-patter,” said Sanchez, the owner of luxury appliance store HomeWerks. “You want to want be in there cooking for your loved ones, cooking for your friends.”
Sanchez has spent the past 30 years equipping San Antonio homes with state-of-the-art ovens. For much of that time, it came down to a simple choice: gas or electric. Today, oven options include steam, convection, warming drawers, integrated microwaves and more.
And that’s not even counting aesthetics — sleek and modern, mid-century cool, 20th century French farmhouse. If you can dream it up, chances are good there’s an oven on the market to match it.
“You really have to do some homework,” Sanchez said. “Shop around. Get exposed to what’s out there. There are just so many options.”
If you’re planning on upgrading your oven before the holidays, you’ll almost certainly stumble across a glossary of newfangled terminology and designs when it comes time to pick an oven. Here’s your guide to ovens, to help take some of the heat out of the decision.
Give convection a whirl: In a hurry, but you still want the kind of golden brown deliciousness that can only come out of a hot oven? Say hello to convection technology.
Perhaps the most commonplace advancement to modern ovens is the addition of an internal fan and exhaust system, transforming a conventional radiant-heat device into one capable of convection cooking. They cook about 25 percent faster and are very effective at evenly browning food. This combination means perfect crispy skin and extra moisture in your chicken thanks to a shorter cooking time.
Not all convection is created equal. Most conventional ovens have a heating element above and below the racks. So-called convection ovens add a fan to help circulate air. A true convection oven, frequently billed as a “European-style” convection oven, has a third heat element behind that fan, resulting in more even temperature regulation.
Steam-powered supper: For the health-conscious cook who’s also in a hurry, a steam oven may be just the thing.
True steam ovens deliver heat exclusively via steam generated in a boiler, fed either from a fillable reservoir or plumbed water line. The high-temperature water vapor is very effective at transferring heat, resulting in super quick cook times. This also protects food from the withering effects of a hot and arid conventional oven.
And bonus, the extra moisture also means no need to douse meats and veggies in a bath of oil or butter before baking. Some can even mimic the low temperature properties of a sous vide water circulator.
The downside is a steam-only oven can’t produce golden brown results. That’s why many steam ovens designed for home use also include convection capabilities. If you’re a bread baker, that means steam will help keep the loaf’s exterior supple as the crumb expands, resulting in a thin crust. The convection heat then crisps that into shattery perfection.
The modern microwave: If you’re a staunch never microwaver, it might be time to reconsider your position. Today’s most advanced microwaves are versatile multicookers, combining convection heat, a broiling element, steam and microwave technology. The main incentive here is adding a caramelized and crispy finish to the ultra-fast cook times microwaves were already capable of. Quick breads like cookies and muffins and smaller cuts of meat excel here.
Most homeowners probably will want to treat these high octane microwaves as a supplement to a more robust conventional oven in a stacked double oven wall-mounted configuration, but they also can be installed as above-the-range units or as a stand-alone countertop device.
Just looking: Are you the kind of homeowner who insists their kitchen not only function well, but look great while doing it? Ovens with oodles of modern technology can be found packed inside a shell that will fit your personal aesthetic.
Some manufacturers, such as Meile and Smeg, specialize in space-age style with sleek lines, minimalist digital touch panels and other flourishes. Others, like Wolf and Bluestar, make the home feel like a restaurant with a utilitarian industrial look. And then things get cool. Check out Big Chill for a retro 1950s look perfect for that midcentury ranch renovation, or get even more old school with the antique inspired lines from Aga, Ilve and La Cornue.
Bells and whistles: Depending on your exact needs, a whole slew of other features can help narrow down your choice. For example, if you have limited space to swing open a normal oven door, a few brands have introduced side-opening French doors.
If you’re the set-it-and-forget-it type, look for an oven with menu-driven programmable settings, often smartphone controlled, that allow you to dial in very precise times and temperatures based on food type. There’s even a Sabbath mode on many ovens, a setting that brings the oven’s electronics into compliance with Jewish religious laws. Love to bake? Then go for an oven with a built-in, temperature-controlled baking stone.
On the range: Don’t fret if a full remodel is out of the question and you’re stuck with your home’s original 30-inch space for an all-in-one oven and range combo — but keep your expectations in check.
Snazzy double oven ranges exist but come with some limitations. Models that have two fully insulated cooking chambers may not have enough room for a Thanksgiving turkey unless the bottom storage drawer has been sacrificed for extra baking space. Others, with clever double doors that open to the a baking chamber divided by a removable panel, won’t provide the kind of temperature control of a true double oven.
Paul Stephen is a staff writer in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @pjbites | Instagram: @pjstephen
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