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Hot New Ovens: It’s Not Your Mother’s Kitchen Anymore

Peter Lemos, DreamMaker Designer

The simple, dumb oven that can only cook food at a single predetermined temperature (or close enough, if you’re lucky) is quickly being replaced by a new generation of advanced, computerized gizmos.  These new, smart appliances may look like your mother’s oven, but most can do the work of your mom, your dad, and a couple of professional chefs combined.  Using new heating technologies, which can be applied individually or in combination, and a handy array of computerized cooking programs, they can quickly deliver food that is prepared with precise temperature, humidity, browning and crispness.  Add electric temperature probes and WiFi interactivity and you have a whole new culinary world at your fingertips.

A word of warning: many of these new kitchen toys are expensive, with steep price tags attached.  Some also come with a steep learning curve.  But as the category has grown, these factors have started to flatten out.  While you can still spend up to $16,000 on a Viking TurboChef Speedcook  double oven that uses ultra-fast technology formerly found only in commercial kitchens, you can now also get a Bosch Speed Oven for under $1,500.  Considering that this appliance can be used as a conventional convection oven, a microwave oven or a combination oven that uses both technologies it is a bargain, particularly for anyone concerned about space and budget.  You can install a speed oven in a double-oven cabinet with a standard convection oven below and avoid the expense and bother of adding a microwave oven.  With this one appliance you’re getting three ovens in one.  Plus, the many ways these ovens can cook food and the degree of precision they offer will take the sting out of the hefty cost.

Generally, these new appliances, which are now mostly available only as wall ovens, can be divided into three categories:

Speed Ovens – This category actually got started years ago with the GE Advantium which replaced standard electric heating elements with halogen heating lamps, decreasing cooking times by up to 50%.  Today’s speed ovens, like the affordable Bosch shown here, combine microwave power with either halogen or traditional thermal elements and convection fans to deliver even more amazing cooking speeds.  Using programmable cooking modes, which allow them to switch automatically between heat sources and temperatures as needed over the course of a preset cooking time, these ovens also add incredible precision to the speed factor.  The new top-of-the-line Viking Turbo chef Speed Cook oven takes this concept to even greater levels, circulating heated air at up to 60 mph, allowing it to cook a 12-pound turkey in 42 minutes instead of four hours.

Steam Ovens – The great new feature these ovens bring to the game is moisture, in the form of steam heat.  Although this technology has also been around for a while,  it is now much more widespread and is being combined with computer controlled broiler and roasting elements and a convection fan, which allows these ovens to cook meat, vegetables, potatoes and breads to complete done-ness without drying them out.  The many cooking modes available on steam ovens like this one from Wolf,  also allow the computer to decide when to add browning broiler heat to create just the right amount of crust or crispness when appropriate.  Steam ovens are particularly good at reheating foods, especially vegetables, which tend to get over-cooked in a conventional oven or turned to rubber in a microwave.

Programmed Convection Ovens – Even without steam or speed capabilities many of today’s standard electric convection ovens are being supercharged with programable cooking modes that can adjust the temperature and direction of the heat over the course of the scheduled cooking time.  Some offer dual fan convection, which allows even faster cooking times, and/or wi-fi connectivity to gives you the ability to monitor or even change the cooking settings remotely from your smart phone.