How big of an oven do you need? There is actually considerable variation on this front, and while most people will never run into an oven too small, as the standard 4.2 cu.ft. is generally enough for everyone, you may find you require a large capacity, or in fact might be able to save money by scaling down. If you're an avid baker who regularly cooks for large groups of friends, you may want to look into a larger size. Here's a rough breakdown on what your needs might be:
- One to two people: 2 to 3 cubic feet
- Three to four people: 3 to 4 cubic feet
- Four or more people: 4+ cubic feet
Freestanding Ranges are standalone units which don't require custom cabinetry or construction. A freestanding range will come with a back guard since they are intended to be operated without the need of being placed against a wall.
Slide-In Ranges have a protruding "lip" on each side of the cooktop, that extends past the width of the oven located below it. In this configuration the cooktop actually rests on the counter with the "lip" being placed on the top of both the left and right counters while the oven is freestanding
Drop-In Ranges are designed to have a cooktop that protrudes past the oven below (like a slide-in range), but the oven below is not freestanding (unlike a slide-in range). It must have custom cabinetry.
Wall Ovens are built into the wall in your kitchen saving you space and all the while being easy to clean. They are available in single and double oven units.
Now that we've gone through the basic types of range, let's go through, define, and discuss the various features you might run across in your search for the perfect cooking solution.
You should expect these; any oven that lacks them is probably a cheap bargain-basement model and you want nothing to do with it.
- Multiple racks - Standard ovens come with two or more cooking racks; this lets you take advantage of all that space in there more efficiently. Multiple rack arrangements are often adjustable, meaning you can remove and add and adjust the levels as needed.
- Lock - An oven lock is especially helpful if you have small children in the house who are prone, as kids are, to get into places they don't belong. An oven is a bad place for a child to be, so locking it is a great safety feature.
- Broil - Broiling is cooking by exposing food to direct radiant heat, such as an open flame, live coals, or an electric coil, at much higher temperatures than roasting.
- Convection Convection ovens attempt to solve the "hot and cold" problem that has always plagued ovens by the use of a fan to blow and circulate the air and heat around the cavity, distributing heat much more evenly than conventional ovens. This means faster, more even cooking across the board, because all the food will be receiving roughly the same heat at the same time. That means your oven is more reliable to get the job to done.
- Steam Ovens/Steamers - A steam oven uses water from an inbuilt reservoir to create a cloud of steam within the oven chamber. The end result is food that hasn't dried out, easy cleaning, the retention of more flavor and color in vegetables and of nutrients in everything. However, steam cannot brown the outer skin of meat, so you can't achieve the crispiness you normally get with a traditional steamer. Some manufacturers, however, use dry heat to brown the skin, and then release the steam for the bulk of the cooking
- Hidden Bake Element = This feature places the heating element beneath the oven floor rather than leaving it exposed. This allows for a seamless, easy-to-clean oven
- Self-Cleaning - Self-cleaning ovens don't wash themselves down with suds, but they do provide a valuable service. They will self-heat their interior to an ultra-high 1000 F, reducing any food particles to ash, which you can sweep out with ease. While additional cleaning product might be required, self-cleaning ovens very rarely require a good scrubdown, making them some of the easiest to maintain and upkeep.
- Sabbath Mode - Observant Jews are prohibited to engage in any creative work on the Sabbath, running from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. To make kitchen maintenance easier for these customer, some companies offer a sabbath mode, which keeps pre-cooked food warm until mealtime. Essentially sabbath mode deactivates automatic safety shutdown, allowing the Sabbath-observant to cook as needed without violating their religious obligations.
- Delayed Start - For the maximum in cooking control and flexibility, the delayed start feature allows you to pre-program cook times and temperatures. With this, you can program the oven to start cooking or begin preheating at a specific time. This is a great feature if you want the oven to be ready right when you get home from work.
- Broiling Drawer - Common in hidden bake configurations, a broil drawer is useful when the heating element isn't exposed, giving you access to broiling functionality without hindering the clean, seamless oven look. These function just like a regular broiler, and need to be monitored just as closely.
- Infrared Cooking - Like induction cooking in the cooktop category, infrared is a wild technology that promises to reinvent cooking by making it more direct. Similar to induction, infrared cooking removes the middle man. In traditional cooking, a heated element transfers heat to the air, which then transfers heat to the food. But infrared skips the air entirely, using a superheated element to emit infrared radiation -- which is entirely safe -- onto the food, heating it directly. This is the same way that the sun on your skin feels warm even when it's cold out; the infrared radiation of the sun is heating your skin itself, not the air.Infrared cooking reduces preheat time by 20%, and cooks dramatically faster, meaning the moisture has less time to cook off, leaving you with juicier food every time.