Can you put a price on perfectly cooked food? Dacor thinks so, with high-end ovens that promise incredible performance -- and which cost thousands of dollars.
So, just how incredible are we talking about with regard to the Dacor Renaissance 30-inch Double Wall Oven? With a price tag of $4,999 I was immediately skeptical -- after all, that's twice as much as what you'll pay for the impressive Samsung Flex Duo, and even costlier than comparable high-end double ovens from Bosch, Electrolux, and Viking.
But try cooking with the Renaissance -- or, to be more specific, try eating the food that comes out of it -- and you'll quickly realize that this oven is in a class all its own. After weeks of taste tests, each and every one of us at CNET Appliances ranks the Renaissance as the top performer on our test floor. It isn't even close. If money is no object, and you're looking for a powerful performance upgrade in your kitchen, then it's hard to imagine doing much better than this.
Designed to perform
The Renaissance sports a clean, elegant design that borders on minimalism. Rather than trying to reinvent the way your oven is supposed to look, Dacor chose to keep things simple. While I think that the result is an attractive appliance, I can't say that it's one that pushes product design forward very far. But again, that isn't Dacor's aim here. For what it's worth, the Renaissance comes in a variety of finishes, including a model with black tempered glass down each side, so if you're looking for a more distinctive design, you've got some options.
This isn't an oven with flashy smart functionality or overt design flourishes. The most unique feature it can claim is that the convection fans pull air in rather than blowing it out. Compared to Dacor's own Discovery IQ smart oven, along with innovative and feature-rich competing models like the well-reviewed (not to mention significantly less-expensive) GE Profile Convection Wall Oven, the Renaissance might seem downright unambitious at first glance.
But Dacor's design is focused solely on quality, and you can feel it in the Renaissance's sturdy construction. Some ovens tend to rattle just a bit when you close the door too hard, but the Renaissance feels snug and durable. You'll also notice that there are no knobs whatsoever on the Renaissance. Dacor chose instead to go with capacitive glass touch controls along the top of the machine, which I found responsive and intuitive. Using them to prepare separate meals in the two chambers using entirely different cooking methods wasn't confusing at all.
Aside from the standard Bake and Broil settings, the Renaissance offers Convection Bake, Convection Broil, Convection Roast, and pure Convection settings with both chambers, along with a self-cleaning mode. There's also a dedicated "Proof" setting in the bottom chamber -- aside from preparing homemade bread, you'll be able to use it for dehydrating things like candied fruit and homemade beef jerky.
The upper chamber features a built-in temperature probe. Just plug the probe into the oven wall, stick the business end into whatever meat you're making, and tell the Renaissance what temperature to cook it to. Once your dish is at temperature, the oven will automatically switch into a 150 degree "Hold" mode to help avoid overcooking.
In my tests, I found that the Renaissance probe registered noticeably hotter temperatures than our calibrated thermocouples, making it less accurate than the temperature probe on the GE Profile convection oven. It's still a usable feature, but I'd definitely recommend keeping a meat thermometer handy for double checking. As for my auto-Hold test, the Renaissance switched over right on schedule, but the temperature didn't exactly plummet. Still, it might be useful as a backup, especially for large cuts of meat that offer a little more wiggle room on the cooking time.
Inside each of the Renaissance's 4.8-cubic-foot chambers you get three electric heating elements: the baking element at the bottom of the oven, the broiling element in the ceiling, and the convection fan in the middle of the back wall. The baking and broiling elements are hidden behind metal panels -- an especially nice touch with the bottom baking element, as it prevents any spills or drips from landing on hard-to-clean coils.
Something else that you'll find inside the Renaissance are GlideRacks. With clever construction using ball bearings, these racks slide smoothly in and out of the oven, even if there's a heavy pot sitting on top. You'll get four of them, along with two standard chrome racks, and you'll be able to slide them in on any of the seven rack positions in each oven. That's a lot of flexibility for anyone looking to whip up a multidish feast.
My only complaint with the GlideRacks is that it's a little tricky to take them completely out of of the oven and then put them back in, which can get more than a little annoying if you tend to rearrange your racks a lot. You'll also need to take them out if you're running a self-clean cycle. We've seen other models, like the GE Profile double oven, that will let you leave the racks in during cleaning, so this was slightly disappointing.
Focus on the food
There's roast chicken, there's good roast chicken, and then there's Dacor Renaissance roast chicken. That chicken pictured above was cooked in the Renaissance, and I can't even begin to describe how stunningly good it tasted. Mind you, this came after I had already tasted chicken after chicken after chicken cooked in the other ovens we've tested, all of them to the exact same specifications. I thought that many of those chickens tasted great -- but the Dacor birds bested them all, hands down.
It wasn't just chicken, either. Through weeks of testing, the Renaissance churned out one perfectly cooked dish after another, from broiled ham to toasty bread and fresh-baked biscuits. In blind taste tests against the rest of the ovens on our test floor, the Renaissance was a consistent winner. As far as performance is concerned, it's an unquestionable 10 on a 10 scale.
So what's so special about the Renaissance that allows it to perform this well? Aside from the obvious high-quality construction, the only unique cooking feature it can claim is the "Four-Part Pure Convection System." Unlike the convection fans in most ovens, which blow hot air out over your food, the fan in each Renaissance oven pulls air in. Dacor claims that this method provides superior heat distribution, which is essential for successful convection cooking.