All about Ovens

My ovens

Confused about which oven to buy? Read on..

Ovens come in a variety of types and sizes. Convection, Electric, OTG, Gas oven, Microwaves, Microwave cum convection, Double Oven, Single, Built-in, counter top…Too many choices out there. But which one will be the most apt one for you?

Seriously, 5 years back I knew nothing  about all these, as  baking  was not part of our  food curriculum. Back in India, we had quite a few bakeries all over and  were satisfied with what they had to offer.

Breads were bought only when someone was unwell.  For a long time in my family the only baked products that we were exposed to were the sliced cream frosted cakes and vegetable puffs, which mom used to get for us on salary day. And we used to wait eagerly for that day 😆 .

But now with easy access to the web lots of people have started venturing into baking. Awareness about the various food additives used by the baking industry, which do a lot of harm to our systems have also got some people interested in baking.

Here in Qatar, normally all furnished accommodations are provided with built in Indesit/LG  Ovens, but most Indians are still reluctant to use it. One reason might be due the fact that the ovens are very old, with literally no markings on them.

My first baking experience was with an indesit convection oven with no markings whatsoever. I managed to note it down from a friend’s house who had it partially. Back then I never knew that the fan circulating inside meant it was a convection oven. 😀 .

And the general rule for  us Indians who did bake, was to turn both the temperature knob as well as the  heating element knob at an angle of ∠180° , which meant that the temperature was set at 180°C  with both heating elements on. Be it rolls, cakes, cookies we followed the same and the oven rack was always set to middle.

Still we managed to bake some wonderful cakes and cookies. When we were next transferred to the Company accommodation, we noticed that there wasn’t a fan in the ovens there. But we did not bother to research and ended up with cookies burnt at the bottom following the same ∠180° rule   😀 .

When baking started to become a nightmare, I began researching and managed to locate an online manual for that “antique” model. I came to know that this was a convention oven and the angle of inclination for keeping both the heating elements on was ∠135° , and the one that we followed meant only bottom rod was on.

When that was settled, we got back to our baking. In the present house, I have been provided with an LG gas oven, which is in a very bad shape. So I have bought a sharp 42 ltrs electric oven, which works well for my baking needs. I still never cross 180°C, even if the recipe calls for, and my most preferred heating is with both rods on . That was my baking Odyssey!  Now to the ovens..

1)Conventional Ovens

Image of a built-in convention ovenThis is the oldest  and traditional of  the modern ovens. Most households in the western world have this oven. They can function using wood, gas or electricity for power.

They normally have a heating element on the floor of the oven. The food is cooked by  the hot air which is radiated from the heating element and the walls of the oven.  As the heat radiated is not even, hot spots may be found in the cooked food.

To handle this food needs to be rotated at regular intervals. There are also fan assisted conventional ovens, which are not the same as convection ovens.

They do not have an additional heating element around the fan, but just distribute the heat already created by the heating elements. This is not very effective as in convection ovens as the fan blown air tends to bring down the temperature in the oven, which is not desirable.

2) Convection Oven

Convection oven imageIt differs from the conventional oven as it has a fan with an additional heating element , which rotates hot  air evenly all over the oven. As a result of this food is cooked evenly.

The general rule is to reduce temperature by 25°F  when operating with convection ovens. This oven brings down the cooking time and saves some electricity too.  There is no need to keep rotating food as in the convention oven.

All three racks can be used effectively and simultaneusly. But not every food comes out well in this oven. Soft delicate foods like cakes and souffles do not work  well ,as the hot air blows over the top part  to one side or the top gets browned faster while the inside is still undercooked.

3) Steam Ovens

Steam ovensWhen health consciousness increases, people start looking for better, healthier options in everything. In that way steam ovens have caught the attention of quite a number of people.

Steam ovens come with a reservoir or a canister which is filled with water. The water is injected into the boiler through a pump and the heat from the oven turns the water into steam.

Cooking with steam is a healthier alternative as the food retains moisture and does not tend to dry out as in the normal ovens. Retention of nutrients is also better.These  ovens come in 3 types.

  • Steam only

          These can only be used to steam foods like vegetables and fish. They cannot   brown foods effectively.

  • Combi-steam ovens

These offer the functionality of both steam as  well as convection ovens.

  • Standard oven with moisture function

These inject steam into the oven at regular intervals to retain moisture.

The downsides of this type of oven is that it is very hard to maintain, as you need to keep the water system used to generate steam, free from bacteria and mould. It is very pricey.

4)Microwave Ovens

Image of a modern day microwave ovenMicrowave ovens have  revolutionised the concept of cooking. Almost every house in the developing countries has a microwave oven.  These ovens  use  electromagnetic radio waves to cook food very quickly and evenly. It comes with a turn table, which keeps rotating  for effective cooking.

It saves a lot of energy as it cooks up really fast. Some nutrients which get destroyed by long cooking times are retained while cooking in a microwave .

Mostly people use it for reheating and defrosting  food though it can be used to cook normal routine food also. It is seen as a boon for people with busy schedules who have absolutely no time for cooking. The microwave with grill feature, enables grilling of food too.

Basic microwave ovens are not for baking as  it does not brown food and  cakes get burnt coz of the high energy. But mug cakes for immediate consumption can be made pretty quickly in the microwave oven.

5)Microwave convection ovens

These ovens are the rage now, as they can conveniently shift between microwave as well as convection modes as per need. Unlike basic microwave ovens these can bake just like a normal convection oven. But they still need to be used with the turn table, which means you can bake only in pans which can rotate on the turntable.

Roasting pans, rectangular pans which we place on racks in the usual oven cannot be used. These ovens work well for baking needs of a small family. But if you have a big family or bake a lot then buying a separate OTG or convectional ovens will be better.

6)OTG

OTG stands for Oven Toaster Grill. Seriously I could not find any differences between these and the electric countertop ovens, except that it comes in smaller sizes. As the name suggests these ovens can be used as an Oven, Toaster and griller.

It is a very simple equipment using electricity for power. The heat is radiated by the visible heating elements placed at the top as well as the bottom of the oven compartment.

They are not pricey compared to their counterparts and are affordable. The only downsides are that it is a bit slow  and can dry up foods at higher temperatures.

In India there are lots of varieties  of OTG’s  with top brand names to choose from. Here in Qatar, they come as electric ovens and very few brands are available.

7) Halogen ovens

It is one of the cutest  see – through ovens out there. It uses halogen lamp to heat up the oven . This halogen lamp generates infra red waves which heat up the oven chamber pretty quickly using a fan which circulates hot air evenly thoroughout.

It comes with a glass compartment which is the main oven chamber. The heating elements are all fitted with the lid. Though its basically a convection type of oven,  its speed is close to a  microwave oven.

It can steam vegetables, grill, toast, bake, roast, cook curries & casseroles. Wow ! That seems like an all-in one gadget. It is considered healthier too as it does not need any fat to cook and all the fat in the food drips to the bottom of the pan.

The only downsides that I could gather, was that it heats up the room and that the lid being very hot cannot be kept anywhere at will. If you do not exercise caution then you may end up burning your hand or scorching your counter top.

I have come across ikon halogen oven in the hypermarkets here and it seemed pretty heavy, but they are reasonably priced. So before planning to buy one you may have to assign some space to it.

8)Air-fryers

AirfryerAir -fryers can be considered as  mini sized convection ovens, which has made me include it in the list of ovens. Air fryers have become  very popular these days, as more and more people are turning to healthy living.

It cooks food by circulating hot air around the food, using a mechanical fan similar to the convection ovens. The heating element is placed pretty close to the food.

The fan circulates the heat radiated all over the chamber, so that uniform temperature is maintained and food is constantly heated. So the food comes out crispier  using very little oil.

It comes with a removable basket and temperature and time controls.  There is an exhaust system which makes it possible for odorless cooking.  The major downside of this equipment is that it is very pricey for the limited quantity of food that can be cooked at one go.

Depending on the placement of the oven , it can be either counter-top, built -in or built-under.

Counter-top ovens 

   Are those which can be conveniently placed on the counter top

Built-in ovens         

   These ovens are built into kitchen units .

Built- under ovens 

  These ovens are designed to fit under the kitchen work top.

There are also options for a double oven for people baking in large quantities. These can be built-in, built- under or simply stand alone.

Nowadays self cleaning ovens are also available. These minimise the much despised clean up chore.

  • Pyrolytic Ovens 

These self cleaning ovens have an automatic cleaning function, which reduces grimes and spills to ash, by heating up the oven cavity to a very high temperature of 500°C. It is designed to stay locked till the process is over. These ovens are better insulated than normal ovens.

  • Catalytic ovens or continuous cleaning ovens

These ovens are fitted  with catalytic liners which are porous ceramic layers coated with highly absorbent chemical. These surfaces absorb splashes and spills and clean by breaking them down  as and when  the oven is heated to a temperature of more than 200°C. But as these liners are not all around the oven, it may not be as effective as a pyrolytic oven.

  • Steam cleaning ovens

These ovens use water with lower temperatures to clean the oven.

  • Enamel cleaning ovens

          These ovens  come with a wipe clean enamel option.

For more insights on buying an oven visit this site.

My thoughts

Now those were the details on the different types of ovens available. Before I put down my views, let me tell you that I am not an everyday baker, as my South Indian cuisine does not involve baking.

But I do bake once or twice a week, as I love baking. I rely on my sharp 42ltrs electric oven as well as my Phillps air fryer for all my bakes.

  • The most important factors that you would want to consider before buying an oven are need, cost and space. The needs of a daily baker will definitely be very different compared to someone who bakes at will.
  • If you are an everyday baker, the regular oven with convection setting would be the best choice, so that you can conveniently shift between both. There are also ovens that automatically converts the conventionally set temperature to convection mode. Depending on the availability of space you can choose built- ins or  built under.
  • For people who do not bake regularly, the electric oven or the OTG is the best choice. Some  of them come with a reheat and keep warm  options also, apart from the regular toasting, baking and grilling functions. They also have a rotisserie function. Most of these ovens are fan forced and are very affordable. These ovens are very popular in India.
  • If you are okay with microwaves, buying a microwave oven with convection function will be one good option.
  • But whatever oven you choose to buy , just keep in mind that every oven is different. You will get the hang of it by only by experience. Follow the manufacturers instructions on usage. Of course thats when you buy a new one. If you are provided one, like we were, then you wont have any instructions to help.  When you are starting out, follow the recipe instructions on temperature, timings, pan size and rack placement. You may want to half the recipe if you are unsure.
  • Once the product is out of the oven, look out for any discrepencies. If you are fully satisfied with the final product, then thats the way to go about for this oven, when baking that particular item. If you find shortcomings, jot that down and learn to correct it in your next baking venture. For instance, I have reduced my baking temperature  for cakes from 180°C to 160°C as I found that the crust of cakes were browning up pretty fast and turning tough by the time the interior of the cake cooked.
  • Visit my baking basics page for more info on trouble shooting or google it up.
  • When it comes to cleaning an oven, I would always recommend placing the oven at eye level so that cleaning is hassle free. As much as possible clean the oven after every one or two times of use so that stubborn stains do not form.
  • You may opt for self cleaning ovens too, if you are a regular baker. The downsides to it are that it comes with a big price tag, takes around three hours to complete a cycle and consumes quite a bit of power. There are concerns that pyrolytic ovens emit carbon monoxide which are extremely toxic to humans and animals. To avoid this, you are anyways advised to clear the oven of hard particles as we do for our dish washer. Heating up to such high temperatures may damage oven parts, and the cost of repair is usually very high.   Other than this I did not find any serious health or safety issues with pyrolytic ovens anywhere on the net.

And now to my note on microwave ovens.

People who regularly use microwave ovens are all for it , whereas some people are against using it. I have come across reports for, as well as against microwave usage.

The ‘for’ people contend that the electromagnetic waves emitted by the microwaves, are very weak to cause any issues for us. Also they say most nutrients are intact when cooked in a microwave.

And above all its so quick and convenient and an absolute must for today’s needs. Read here to know what people ‘for using microwave ovens’ have got to say.

The people who are against say that food is cooked by radiation and is not healthy. If not used carefully, radiations can leak out and effect you.

And that at some point in history microwaves were banned in Russia, which also now they say is fake news. Read here to know the views of the people against using microwave ovens.

But till now there has not been any conclusive study, report or proof to really suggest that microwaves are indeed causing the diseases that they are purported to be causing.

After meeting up with a number of people using microwave ovens, I have come to the general conclusion that almost all of them use it to reheat food. Though there are very few people who use it effectively.

My take on the subject is that,  I am not really convinced to use a microwave. I can reheat my food using other alternatives that I have been using so long, and I can definitely do without mug cakes 🙂 .

The microwave ovens provided to me in my accommodation always find their way to the store room. I do not feel the need for a microwave in my kitchen,  as I am happy and satisfied with the way I have been without them.

That said, if tomorrow some report comes out saying that refrigerators are the cause of all our health issues, will I give up using the refrigerator? Definitely not, coz its one of the must haves in my kitchen which I can’t do without. So guys its all up to  you to decide if you can or can’t  do without it.

Another point worth noting here is that advancement in technology and sophistication always comes with a price . What that price is, only future can tell. Or maybe,  like we have been made to believe that most unhealthy products out there in the market are the best for us, most negatives may never make it to us, thanks to the lobbyists.

If we embrace technology in every single form, while we enjoy its benefits, we should be ready to face its consequences too. So ultimately, the decision rests with us.

Over to air fryers

I was so impressed by the claims made on the outer box of the new Phillips air fryer that I bought it immediately. It was way back in 2013 and was very costly.

I used it once or twice, then suddenly being concerned about the non stick coating in the basket, I put it in the back burner.

Then I came across this assurance  in the Phillips website. From my  knowledge, non stick pans should not be heated to  a temperature where they start emitting fumes which aren’t good for us.

The Phillips air fryer never emitted any fumes even when heated to temperature of 200° C.  So I was convinced and starting using it, though not on a daily basis. Click here to head on to my air fryer recipes.

Hope I could  provide some insights into the types of ovens available in the market.

Cheers!!!

 

 

 

 

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