In the market for a new oven? Grab a dictionary. Manufacturers have introduced a host of options to the world of ovens, and selecting the right features for a new range is as daunting as shopping for a new car. "Do I need sealed burners? What about a warming zone? And what's a bridge?"
Review these 10 terms to figure out what features you want and need in your next oven purchase.
A bridge heats the area between two small burners, which creates a large, continuous cooking surface that's ideal for cooking with a griddle. You can find this feature on some midprice, smooth electric ovens such as the Frigidaire FPEF3077QF and the Samsung Flex-Duo. Before you use a bridge feature, be aware that the temperature can vary across the cook surface, even if you have all the elements on the same heat setting.
Ovens with a convection baking mode, such as this KitchenAid KGRS306BSS, have fans built into the oven's walls. These fans circulate hot air throughout the oven cavity during baking for more even heat distribution. This technology cooks food faster and more evenly than a conventional oven.
We took a closer look at convection cooking in our Appliance Science column and learned that convection cooking isn’t ideal for more delicate foods like souffles, cakes and even muffins. Find out more behind the science of convection here.
This is a feature you'll see on midpriced electric ovens with ceramic glass cooktops. At least one burner appears to have a double or triple ring. This means that the burner can accommodate two or more different sizes of cookware. The multiple heating elements can also work together to cook the contents of a large pot faster, a handy feature for boiling water. The Kenmore Elite 41313 and the Samsung NE58F9710WS have this feature on their cooktops.
Ovens with dual-fuel capability use gas to power the cooktop and electricity for the oven, a happy medium for folks who love the precision of gas stovetop cooking but want the more even results of electric baking. This feature is available on high-end ranges, such as this Dacor Discovery IQ line (pictured).
Freestanding ovens are what you think of when you visualize a conventional oven. Ranges with this type of design have a back panel with some sort of time display and knobs to control the stovetop and oven (freestanding units might have some controls might be on the front of the unit, too). You can put a freestanding oven anywhere in the kitchen independent of the countertops. The Frigidaire FPEF3077QF and the Maytag Gemini MET8720DS are two examples of this type of design.
We covered this cool cooking method in an Appliance Science column: "Induction cooktops use one of the odd quirks of electromagnetism: if you put certain materials into a rapidly alternating magnetic field, the material absorbs the energy and heats up. That's because the field creates electrical currents inside the material, and the resistance of the material converts this electrical energy into heat, which is transferred to the food inside the pan." Induction cooking is more efficient than other methods, but expect to pay at least $3,000 for models such as the Samsung Chef Collection Induction Range or the GE Profile PHS920SFSS. Read more about the science of induction here.
Gas stovetops with sealed burners have caps on top of each burner that divert the flame around the cap. The cap prevents food from spilling directly onto the flame and clogging the burner holes. Cooktops with sealed burners, such the Kenmore 74343, are easier to clean than appliances with capless burners, but food might not cook as fast as on a range with a direct flame. Learn more about sealed burners here.
Unlike freestanding units, slide-in ovens are designed to fit in seamlessly with surrounding countertops and backsplash by removing the back panel and placing all control screens, touchpads and knobs on the front of the unit. This type of design usually costs more than freestanding models because of the engineering behind putting all those controls in the front. Examples of slide-in ranges include the GE Profile PGS920SEFSS Gas Range and the Whirlpool WEG730H0DS.
Samsung has introduced an oven feature called the Flex Duo that allows home cooks to bake food at two different temperatures in the same oven cavity. A Flex Duo divider makes dual-temperature cooking possible. An oven with split-cavity capabilities won’t give you as much cooking space as traditional double ovens, but it provides enough versatility for bakers who only occasionally multitask andonly have enough space for a conventional oven.
Electric ovens with ceramic-glass cooktops may have a burner with a low wattage that's made just for keeping the contents of a pot or pan warm. The Frigidaire FPEF3077QF has a warming zone in the back rear of the stovetop.