LG Smart ThinQ 6.3 Cu. Ft. Capacity Electric Single Oven Range with Infrared Grill LRE3027ST review: This LG oven is smart, but not smart enough

Screenshot by Steve Conaway/CNET

At least LG's app is a free download on both iOS and Android. Once you've labored through establishing a connection, the app functionality is very limited. It does offer customer support videos and diagnostics, using either Wi-Fi or a set of audible tones. The rest of the app's functions aspire to make your cooking easier, but they're not really that compelling or time-saving.

One example is the timer function that lets you set or monitor the oven's timer from your app. A cumbersome interface makes it a pain to use, and it was much faster to just use my phone's standard timer widget.

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Another hiccup comes from the Smart Range recipe section, arguably the core of the oven app. Her you can select a recipe and "send it" to the range. All this means, however, is that the range will queue up the preheat temperature -- you still have to walk up to the oven to actually turn preheating on. In fact, you must press start within 30 seconds of sending the recipe, meaning you must be in the same room. Given what a process it is to access a recipe, the app doesn't save you any time here, either.

If you do queue up a recipe, you'll find these also need polish. In every example I read, the recipe directions were out of order. For instance, the last instruction on the recipe for banana pancakes is "use an offset spatula to turn the pancakes and finish cooking on the second side, another 2-3 minutes." Fair enough, but three points prior it says that you should "serve the pancakes at once dusted with powdered sugar and blueberry maple syrup."

Granted most cooks will know not to serve pancake batter. And I appreciate that the app will communicate with other LG Smart ThinQ appliance apps. If you want to cook a Smart Range recipe, you can run an search of the ingredients you currently have in your refrigerator. Still, the issues far outweigh the positives, and LG's Smart Thinq app simply needs more attention, from QA to its basic functionality.

Screenshot by Steve Conaway/CNET

Performance
We designed our tests to asses what we considered to be primary oven uses, such as roasting, broiling, and baking with both convection and nonconvection settings. We also put the stovetop through its paces with boil and simmer tests. We will add more comparison units, and focus on price-appropriate comparisons as we expand our inventory of oven reviews. For now, we're comparing two of the first ovens we received here in our review facility, the $1,399 LG and the considerably more expensive Samsung NE58F9710WS Electric Range.

Many ranges and cooktops now claim to have turbo-boil or rapid-boil capabilities, usually in the form of a large, adjustable front burner. This LG is no exception, and you trigger fast boiling by selecting both the inner and outer elements on the large dual-element burner. The LG boiled a large pot of water in 12 minutes and 10 seconds, compared with the 14 minutes and 32 seconds required by the Samsung. When we performed the test with a smaller burner though, the LG needed 15 minutes and 6 seconds to bring water to a boil, whereas the Samsung only needed 11 minutes and 53 seconds. We were surprised to find such variation between the units. Plan any high-heat multipot cooking scenarios accordingly.

To test the range's ability to simmer food, we made white rice. The temperatures shown in the graph began after we brought the water and the rice to a boil and set the rice to simmer, as per each manufacturer's instruction (2.2 in the LG's case and Low for the Samsung). The temperature on the Samsung's burner began to drop about halfway through. The LG's heat output didn't really budge. That's problematic, but at least with our rice, the LG didn't scorch the pan, and it only came out with a slight yellow tinge. It could have been worse.

In a less formal test, I also reduced some balsamic vinegar on the LG, using both the larger and smaller burners. I found that the burners ran much hotter than expected, and my first batch burned. This heat isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I would note that you should use care when cooking on the LG the first few times, as it will run hotter than you are likely accustomed to and you'll likely need to make adjustments.

It wasn't just the stovetop that ran hotter than expected. The LG's infrared broiler also heated to a higher-than-expected temperature, which yielded some interesting results in our broiling tests. This broiler heats ceramic plates located on the top of the oven cavity. The idea is that they will heat more intensely and more evenly than traditional broilers in order to sear your food and cook it faster. In the case of a ham steak, the searing definitely happened, though perhaps too much.

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Looking at the chart, you'll also see that it took nearly a minute longer for the ham to reach the food-safe 148 degrees than it did in the Samsung broiler. The Samsung broiler heated the ham steak evenly, without burning the fat or meat in the process. You might want that sear on some meats, but not on more delicate foods.

To test the range's convection roasting ability, we butterflied a whole chicken along the back, removed the spine, and placed it on a rack inside a roasting pan. We preheated the oven to 350 degrees and cooked the chicken until the thermometer read FDA-recommended 165 degrees. The LG roasted the chicken, on average, in just under 70 minutes, compared with 52 minutes on the Samsung. This seemed odd because, as in our broiling test, the inside of the LG's oven cavity seemed to run at a higher temperature than the Samsung's. What matters most in these food tests, however, is the finished product. In this test, not only was the Samsung's chicken done more quickly, but it had crispier skin and better-tasting meat. The LG chicken's skin wasn't as crisp, and the meat wasn't cooked as evenly throughout. And it took 20 minutes longer to hit the desired temperature.

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While we only tested convection roasting, we tried both convection and conventional baking. Conventional baking relies on heat waves radiating from the heating element below the oven cavity floor and bouncing off the walls of the oven to cook and brown food. Looking at our performance chart, you'll see an abrupt temperature drop after the ovens claimed to have hit their preheated temperatures. The drop accounts for when we opened the oven door to insert the biscuits. From there, the temperatures gradually climbed back to the prescribed mark.

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Our numbers reflect the average oven temperature compiled from eight different thermocouples inside the unit. We're less concerned with the temperature accuracy than the end product, which is the result of temperature consistency. The Samsung's average temperatures, as you can see in our chart, were closer than those of the LG. The apparent result is the LG's uneven biscuits, which are much darker on the top rack and lighter on the bottom rack. The Samsung results weren't uniform, but they were closer, and were not approaching overdone like the biscuits on the LG's top rack.

Because it's more efficient, convection baking uses lower temperatures than traditional electric baking. For better or worse, these ovens handle that adjustment differently. Tell the LG oven to cook at 450 degrees in convection mode, and it will automatically dial down the setting to 425. The Samsung doesn't make that conversion for you. We adjusted those settings accordingly for testing.

Again, the steep drop on the chart represents our opening the door to put the biscuits in the oven. The LG demonstrated a less severe pattern of temperature inconsistency on this test, and the biscuits came out much more evenly. They still weren't as uniform as the Samsung's biscuits, but convection cooking seems to prove its value here in both units.

Steve Conaway/CNET

Testing further, I also tried the bread setting from the LG's favorites menu, which let me see how well it handled a single, large-volume item. I made dough for two loaves of gluten-free bread and baked one in the LG and the other in the Samsung. The Samsung doesn't have a bread-baking preset and so I followed the box's directions. Even though the LG does have a bread preset, I still had to manually input the 30-minute bake time.

Both ovens produced loaves that were well-cooked, though we enjoyed the texture of the Samsung's bread slightly more. Whereas the LG's conventional baking browned the top of the loaf evenly, the sides and bottom weren't as uniform. The Samsung seemed to circulate the heat more evenly around the bread for crisp sides in addition to a crisp top.

Maintenance, support, and service
The LG LRE3027ST defaults to a 4-hour self-cleaning cycle, but you can adjust it to light and heavy cleaning modes by cycling through a single button. Press start and the oven will automatically lock itself. The lock will release when the oven has cooled.

The LG comes with a one-year warranty for parts and labor, including in-home service, and a five-year limited warranty on the cooktop and radiant surface units. LG also provides a service page that allows you to schedule service or find a repair center, as well as register for the extended service plan, which extends the warranty by five years.

This service page also has an FAQ section, a section where you can order your own replacement parts, and a customer chat center. For diagnostics or quick reference, you can also access the section of the Smart Range app that contains both topics.

Conclusion
When so much of the landscape lacks connectivity, I thought it was an opportunity for LG to really wow me with its SmartThinQ features. As with their Smart ThinQ refrigerator, while the LRE3027ST range seems to be basically competent, the smart features lack any obvious usefulness. If you like the basic design and performance of this range, you can purchase the LRE3025ST, which is the same oven without the wireless connectivity. Serious bakers and anyone who uses a broiler regularly might look for another option outside of this line altogether.

Find out more about how we test ovens.

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