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, countertop…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 has 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 to 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 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..
This is the oldest and traditional of 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
It 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 the temperature by 25°F/15ºC when operating with convection ovens. It 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 simultaneously. 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
When 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. The retention of nutrients is also better. These ovens come in 3 types.
These can only be used to steam foods like vegetables and fish. They cannot brown foods effectively.
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 are that it is very hard to maintain, as you need to keep the water system used to generate steam, free from bacteria and mold. It is very pricey.
Microwave ovens have revolutionized the concept of cooking. Almost every house in developing countries has a microwave oven. These ovens use electromagnetic radio waves to cook food very quickly and evenly. It comes with a turntable, 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
Microwave convection 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 turntable, which means you can bake only in pans which can rotate on the turntable.
Roasting pans, rectangular pans that we place on racks in the usual oven cannot be used. These ovens work well for the 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.
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 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.
Convection toaster ovens
Convection toaster ovens are the regular toaster ovens with a fan function to rotate the hot air evenly inside the oven chamber. They cook foods faster as the heat is the same throughout the oven.
7) Halogen ovens
It is one of the cutest see-through ovens out there. It uses a halogen lamp to heat up the oven. This halogen lamp generates infrared waves that heat up the oven chamber pretty quickly using a fan that circulates hot air evenly throughout.
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 countertop.
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.
Air -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 that 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.
9)Air-fryer toaster ovens
The Air fryer toaster oven is the newest oven in the market. As the name suggests it is a toaster oven with a built-in air fryer. It comes in 2 sizes- large and medium.
The basic version can bake, broil, toast, reheat, and air fry. But there are also ones that can dehydrate, and slow cook as well.
It is a boon in the kitchen as it combines the functionality of two equipments into one and can very well serve a family of four. This can be a better buy than the air fryer and is reasonably priced.
Depending on the placement of the oven, it can be either counter-top, built-in or built-under.
Are those which can be conveniently placed on the countertop
These ovens are built into kitchen units.
Built- under ovens
These ovens are designed to fit under the kitchen worktop.
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 minimize the much-despised cleanup chore.
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 until the process is over. Pyrolytic 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 a 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.
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 a 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-in 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 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 a 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 manufacturer’s instructions on usage. Of course, that’s when you buy a new one. If you are provided one, like we were, then you won’t have any instructions to help. When you are starting out, follow the recipe instructions on the 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 discrepancies. If you are fully satisfied with the final product, then that’s 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 170°C as I found that the crust of cakes was 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 troubleshooting 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 is 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 dishwasher. 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, radiation can leak out and affect 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 storeroom. 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, it’s 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 the 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 nonstick coating in the basket, I put it on the back burner.
Then I came across this assurance on the Phillips website. From my knowledge, nonstick pans should not be heated to a temperature where they start emitting fumes which isn’t good for us.
The Phillips air fryer never emitted any fumes even when heated to a temperature of 200° C. So I was convinced and started using it, though not on a daily basis. Click here to head on to my air fryer recipes.
To be on the safer side I never cross 180ºC even if the recipe recommends more than that. Also, never use rough scrubbers to clean the basket.
These days there are air fryers with stainless steel air fryer basket like Maximatic or ceramic coated ones too. You can opt for those if you are worried about the non-stick coating.
Hope I could provide some insights into the types of ovens available in the market.
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