A good oven and stovetop is the foundation of a functional kitchen, and moving into a new home is a great excuse to invest in some new appliances. There are some exciting new options available, so be sure to do a little research before hitting the stores.
First things first
The first thing to consider is whether you are in the market for a separate oven and cook top, or a complete range that includes both. This will largely depend on your new kitchen’s design, as will the choice between electric, gas or duel-fuel.
Other features to consider include:
- Oven capacity: Lots of space might be a must if you do a tremendous amount of cooking, but it will also take more energy to heat
- Cleaning system: No need to make cleaning the oven any more difficult than necessary!
- Cook top surface: While aesthetics are certainly an important factor, be sure to also take your lifestyle into account as some materials are more durable than others.
- Burner size: Larger burners are helpful if you cook large volumes of food at a time, but like increased oven capacity they will require increased energy output
Conventional ovens cook food using radiant heat. While this is the method of cooking that we are all most familiar with, there are some considerable downsides.
The most noticeable is uneven heating, where food browns (or burns) unevenly depending on how close it is to the primary heat source (usually the top or bottom of the oven). Radiant heat is also affected by colour, so darker foods or foods in dark pans will brown more quickly.
You may have noticed the effects of uneven heating if you are roasting a turkey and have to keep turning it around so it doesn’t burn on one side, or if you’re baking cookies and notice that cookies on the bottom rack cook much more quickly than those on the top rack.
Convection ovens offer a whole new way to bake, roast and warm. They employ powerful fans to rapidly circulate hot air around food during cooking, which results in faster searing and more balanced temperatures. Chemical reactions occur more quickly, and that means flakier pie crusts, crispier roasted potatoes and juicier golden brown meats. It also means that food will cook more quickly, and often at lower temperatures.
Convection ovens are more expensive than conventional ovens, but they are worthy investments for avid home chefs. Some manufacturers are even offering ovens that do it all, allowing you to choose between convection and conventional heating at whim.
Separating the best from the rest
If you think convention ovens are right for you and are ready to start shopping, keep in mind that not all convection ovens are created equal. The best convection ovens have a third heating element (in addition to elements on the top and bottom) that warms the air to a consistent temperature before the fan blows it throughout the oven. These are normally called “true convection,” “third-element convection,” or “European convection” ovens.
Countertop convection ovens are gaining popularity and they do allow you to enjoy some of the benefits of convection cooking without investing in a full-sized oven. That said, size constraints will interfere with air circulation and their generally inferior construction mean that your results may not be quite as spectacular as what you can achieve with a full-sized convection oven.
Making the switch
The best way to figure out how your new convection oven works best is to get in the kitchen and start experimenting with a few of your favourite recipes. There are, however, a few rules of thumb to help you find your way. Reduce the temperature you would normally heat your oven to (or the temperature recommended in recipes) by 25 degrees and reducing the total cooking time by about a quarter.