The best-performing kitchen appliance we've seen yet costs $5,000 -- is it worth it?
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.
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.
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.
To put this claim to the test, we baked two racks of biscuits in the Renaissance, one just above the other. In your average, non-convection oven, the biscuits on the bottom would almost certainly suffer from the non-ideal positioning. A convection fan would help by circulating additional hot air down their way, but you'd still probably see a slightly uneven bake, with the top biscuits browning up more than the bottom ones. This is what we've seen whenever we've run this test in convection ovens -- even high-scoring models like the GE Profile Double Oven, shown above on the left.
Now look at the ones on the right Those are biscuits that we convection baked in the Renaissance using the exact same time and temperature settings. The two racks are almost perfectly indistinguishable from one another. It's a shockingly impressive result -- and one that no other oven we've tested has even come close to matching.
Apply this to the oven's convection roast setting, and you can start to understand how that chicken came out so perfectly cooked. With more uniform heat distribution, things cook more evenly. The skin turns a perfectly crisp golden brown, as opposed to the more sporadic browning we've seen with other ovens. We got similarly successful results when we broiled ham in the Renaissance. There's a difference with Dacor that you can plainly see.
Dacor isn't just passing the eye test here, either. Our data also shows strong support for the idea that the Renaissance is a highly superior convection oven. During the biscuit test, we planted eight separate thermocouples throughout the oven's cavity, then recorded the temperature of each one of them once every 30 seconds.
Oven temperatures aren't perfectly uniform -- different sections of the interior will hold different temperatures at different times as the heat gradually cycles on and off. Ideally, the temperature of those sections will average out to your desired hotness, with each section hitting peak temperature at some point during the cooking cycle. With the thermocouples, we can test to see how well an oven meets this standard.
In most of the ovens that we've tested, at least a few of the thermocouples failed to hit the expected peak temperature -- not a damning result, but not a terribly impressive one, either. The best result we had seen was from the Samsung Flex Duo, which saw seven out of eight thermocouples hit the mark. Then we tested the Renaissance. Test after test, it consistently brought all eight of our thermocouples up to the expected peak temperature, which is as good a result as we could hope for. The numbers don't lie -- Dacor's claims of designing a more effective convection system hold up.
Dacor also claims that its convection system will prevent flavors from one oven from leeching over into the other, even going so far as to promise that cookies baked in one chamber while simultaneously roasting garlic in the other will come out tasting perfectly fine.
This sounded like another good test to us (and a good excuse to bake cookies), so I ran to the store and picked up some cookie dough and a bag of garlic cloves. Following this rather entertaining recipe, I set the garlic to convection roast in the bottom chamber of the Renaissance and then, just as things were starting to get wonderfully pungent, started convection baking my batch of sugar cookies in the upper chamber. For a control, I baked a separate batch of sugar cookies in a separate, garlic-free oven.
Twenty minutes later, my co-workers were happily munching on both batches of cookies. I didn't tell them which batch was which, but asked them if either batch tasted...off. Fortunately for their taste buds, no one detected anything funky about the flavor of either one. Point Dacor.
The Dacor Renaissance requires a dedicated 240 V, 60 Hz circuit. At 29 7/8 inches wide (75.9 cm) by 49 7/8 inches tall (126.7 cm), you'll also want to make sure that you have space for it in your kitchen. Dacor recommends having the Renaissance installed into a cabinet cutout with a minimum width of 28 1/2 inches (72.4 cm), a minimum height of 49 1/8 inches (124.8 cm), and a minimum interior depth of 24 inches (61 cm).
If your Renaissance ever starts accumulating grime on the inside (ours certainly did after we'd gone through all of the ham and chicken testing), you can run a two-and-a-half hour self-clean at 850 degrees Fahrenheit to help incinerate the mess into a wipeable ash. I tested this out when the oven was at its grimiest and found that it worked exceedingly well. For less extreme messes, you can simply pour a little bit of water into the impression on the floor of the oven, then run a brief, low-temperature steam cycle to help loosen things up.
Dacor ovens come with a one-year warranty on parts and labor. For a purchase this luxurious, I certainly wished they offered a little more.
The Dacor Renaissance 30-inch Double Wall Oven is tremendously expensive, but it gets away with it by offering tremendous cooking power. I can't fault anyone for wanting one in their kitchen, and if you can afford it, I can't fault you for going ahead and pulling the trigger on a purchase, either. Just promise to invite me over at Thanksgiving.
If you want an oven upgrade loaded with unique smart features, you'll want to look elsewhere, or perhaps wait a while -- I can't say that any smart oven has really won us over yet. If the Renaissance double oven appeals to you but sits far beyond your price range, keep in mind that the single-oven model, while still quite expensive, costs $2,000 less, and presumably offers the same cooking power (if not the same level of flexibility). You might also consider the $2,499 Samsung Flex Duo , which performed well in our tests, and which offers an excellent dual-oven feature.
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