KitchenAid KFDD500ESS review: Versatility outweighs uneven performance for this double oven
Appliance manufacturers want their customers to have it all when it comes to the higher-end range models. With ovens in the $1,500-and-up category, there are a growing number of models with upgrades like dual-fuel power (a gas stovetop with an electric oven); a split oven cavity to create a smaller version of the versatile double-wall oven; and a wide array of cooking modes. KitchenAid packs all of these options into the $2,599 KFDD500ESS, a 30-inch dual-fuel range with a double oven.
The range is loaded with flexible options and decent performance. Each oven cavity operates independently so you can simultaneously cook two dishes at different temperatures. Smells stay contained within each oven -- no need to worry that the bacon you cook in the lower oven will make the sugar cookies in the top taste like pork. Additionally, there are options such as a steam-bake mode and an easy-convection conversion feature that will automatically convert traditional recipes to account for faster convection cooking times. The convection fan also roasts a great chicken.
But the range falls short with its details and cook times. It's a convoluted process to activate the ironically named easy-convection feature. And once I did get that feature figured out, the biscuits I prepared barely browned after nine minutes of baking. Equally disappointing were the slow broil times.
Overall, the KitchenAid KFDD500ESS's flexibility makes up for its slow cooking. This range is a worthwhile investment for busy cooks who often multitask at mealtime. But what if you don't have a $2,599 budget? First, don't feel bad: this is indeed an expensive oven. The Samsung NE59J7850WS Flex Duo , an electric range with an insert that enables double-oven cooking, is a good alternative for under $2,000. And if a double-oven isn't a must-have, go for the above-average KitchenAid KGRS306BSS gas range which sells for about $1,200.
Simple, modern design makes range stand out
Like other KitchenAid ranges , the KFDD500ESS makes use of a compact, minimalist design with an emphasis on straight lines. The front and top of the range are covered in ubiquitous stainless steel. The two cast-iron grates that cover the burners fit together to create a continuous cooktop that makes it easy to slide a pan from one burner to another. There are five burners on the cooktop; with the middle, oblong burner intended for use with the included cast-iron griddle. The control panel on the back of the range contains a digital display and a touchpad that controls the oven.
The five burner knobs are located on the front of the oven. The KitchenAid's knobs don't have handles to grip, a feature we often see on gas ranges like the Kenmore 95073 . This could make it difficult for folks with big hands to adjust the burners. The illustrations that show which burner each knob controls are on the top of the range's edge, which makes it easy to see the controls.
The utilitarian design continues to the KitchenAid's oven. As mentioned above, the oven on this model is actually two discrete ovens that you can control independently from one another, so you can (for instance) roast a chicken in the lower oven cavity at 450 degrees while you bake macaroni and cheese in the upper cavity at 350 degrees. This increases the flexibility of the entire unit, but there are also small sacrifices with the double-oven design. Specifically, you lose a storage drawer that's often located at the bottom of the oven, and neither oven has as much capacity as a single-oven design (2.5 cubic feet in the upper oven, 4.2 cubic feet in the lower oven). And be prepared to squat down low to remove a dish from the lower cavity. The convection fan is located on the back wall of the lower oven. There's an additional heating element around the fan for so-called "true convection," a feature that's often included in high-end ovens such as the Dacor Renaissance ER30DSCH .
The KFDD500ESS also comes with some nice cooking additions, such as the aforementioned griddle and a roll-out rack that slides like a drawer for easy food removal. There's also a steam rack, a small trough that hooks beneath one of the traditional oven racks. You can fill the steam rack with water to add moisture to your baking.
Cooking tests offer mixed results
Overall, the KFDD500ESS's cooking performance ranged from barely adequate to excellent. The gas cooktop boiled 112 ounces of water in an average of 14.23 minutes, a time that landed the range's performance in the middle of the gas cooktop pack.
The KFDD500ESS had a similar behavior as other gas ranges when it came to keeping tomato soup warm over a long period of time. I brought the soup to 165 degrees on medium heat, then switched the burner to low for 20 minutes. Even after I turned down the temperature, the soup's temperature spiked before it eventually decreased and began to climb again. The KFDD500ESS did cool off a few degrees more than the Dacor gas ranges I've tested.
Roasting a chicken reveals a lot about an oven's cooking behavior with a familiar dish. Can the oven cook an odd-shaped piece of meat evenly? Is it hot enough to create a crisp skin but gentle enough to keep the meat juicy? And, most importantly, how does it taste?
The KitchenAid's convection roast mode uses heating elements at the top and bottom of the lower oven cavity and the convection fan to circulate hot air around the food you're roasting. In the case of my roast chicken test, the evenness of the oven's heat was evidence in the uniform golden-brown skin that covered the chicken. Usually, there's at least one dark patch of skin on top of the chicken breast, the highest point on the chicken that receives the most heat. That extra-crisp piece of skin was missing from the KitchenAid's roast chicken, and the skin was better for it. And the meat was super juicy and tender.
The biscuit tests is another good way to learn about how evenly an oven bakes in convection mode. When it was time for this test on the KFDD500ESS, my frustrations began when I tried to use the easy convection conversion tool. The oven's user guide recommends you preheat the oven on the regular bake setting, turn the oven all the way off, then use the Easy Convect button to enable that feature. That's a lot of steps for lackluster results. For the most part, the oven baked all of the biscuits evenly across each sheet. But the bottom rack was often very pale and appeared under-baked.
The results of my broiling tests were a little more complicated than the roasted chicken results. When you use an oven's broiler, the heating element at the top of the oven cavity reaches a high temperature to cook food that you place on a rack right beneath the broiler. It's a good cooking method if you don't have access to an outdoor grill but want your meat to have a smoky char. Broiling is also good for adding a crisp crust to foods or toasting bread.
Though KitchenAid's traditional coil broiler reached 550 degrees, it took a slow and steady approach to cooking. Usually, broiled burger patties we've have a crisp sear on the outside with a medium-well center, depending on how long you cook it. In the KitchenAid, the patties never got the char I've seen with other burgers. And this broiler was a slacker when you compare it to other electric ovens. It took an average of 17.75 minutes to cook six hamburger patties. However, the patties stayed juicy, a nice surprise when you consider that long cook times often result in dried-out meat.
The KitchenAid KFDD500ESS contains a lot in just 30 inches. There are two independent ovens, a decent cooktop and cooking modes to adapt to a wide variety of home chefs. It's cooking performance lagged during some tests, but the versatility that the KFDD500ESS offers makes the range a worthwhile investment, especially if you do a lot of heavy baking.