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KitchenAid KSEG950ESS review: Downdraft vent, quick cooking make for an impressive KitchenAid oven

KitchenAid continues its streak of producing impressive but expensive ranges with the KSEG950ESS, an electric range with a built-in ventilation system.

Ashlee Clark Thompson Associate Editor
Ashlee spent time as a newspaper reporter, AmeriCorps VISTA and an employee at a healthcare company before she landed at CNET. She loves to eat, write and watch "Golden Girls" (preferably all three at the same time). The first two hobbies help her out as an appliance reviewer. The last one makes her an asset to trivia teams. Ashlee also created the blog, AshleeEats.com, where she writes about casual dining in Louisville, Kentucky.
Ashlee Clark Thompson
7 min read

Forget about those stand mixers on every home baker's Pinterest board. KitchenAid has become a formidable presence in the large appliance arena as the manufacturer continues to produce versatile ranges with features that compete with those of luxury brands, such as Thermador and Jenn-Air. This is especially true with the KitchenAid KSEG950ESS, an electric slide-in range that includes a downdraft ventilation system that eliminates smoke or steam from stovetop cooking. This design feature shows that KitchenAid has its eyes on improving the entire cooking experience, along with producing good food.


KitchenAid KSEG950ESS

The Good

The KitchenAid KSEG950ESS slide-in electric oven includes a built-in downdraft ventilation system that helps eliminate smoke from stovetop cooking. The oven also excels when it comes to fast cooking.

The Bad

The downdraft system isn't perfect, as evidenced by the smoke that still hovered in the air while I cooked a double batch of bacon. The oven's convection fan failed to evenly brown two racks of biscuits during my bake tests.

The Bottom Line

Imperfections aside, the KitchenAid KSEG950ESS is a strong performer overall that would be a good investment for folks without a ventilation system in their kitchen. Just be prepared to shell out $3,149.

The downdraft system isn't perfect. Neither was the KitchenAid oven's performance during my double-rack convection baking tests. But the KSEG950ESS's stellar boil and broil times, along with the vent's noticeable reduction in smoke, make this range a worthwhile contender for a place in your kitchen, especially if you don't have an overhead vent or fan. Unfortunately, the ventilation, slide-in design and stainless steel finish come at a hefty cost of $3,149, a cost that will put this range out of reach for many consumers. If you fall into this bucket, consider the Samsung NE59J730SB electric range, a similarly fast but flawed appliance that costs less than $1,000.

Downdraft vent system clears the air (pictures)

See all photos

Vent interferes with KitchenAid's minimalist design

KitchenAid designs its ovens with simplicity in mind. The brand's ranges usually have clear controls, straight lines and stainless steel that provide a profile that would fit well into most home kitchens. The same features are present with the KSEG950ESS, but the downdraft ventilation system does introduce a challenge on the stovetop.

In the built-in downdraft ventilation system, a fan sucks cooking fumes such as smoke or steam through a vent grate and a filter located in the middle of the cooktop. The system then expels those fumes through ductwork that leads outside. If you don't have any type of ventilation system already in your kitchen, you'll need to bring in someone who knows their way around HVAC systems to install the oven and proper ductwork to use this oven's ventilation method to its full potential. This also might mean some renovation to accommodate the KSEG950ESS, a much bigger pain than just rolling an oven into your house and plugging it in. Once we did hook up the ventilation system in the test kitchen, the vent sucked lots of smoke as it rolled off the bacon I cooked on the stovetop. But when I had a double batch of bacon going, there was enough smoke in the air to warrant turning on the overhead vent in the test kitchen. The downdraft ventilation is a step in the right direction if your kitchen already has a ventilation system, but you don't like large hoods looming in your kitchen. However, the installation of this system could create more problems than it's worth if you have to start from scratch with the ductwork required to exhaust fumes outside.

The downdraft vent is located right in the middle of the cooktop, a logical but inconvenient location. Its location eliminates room for a fifth burner or space for a spoon rest, salt and pepper shakers and other items that find their way to the stovetop.

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The vent grate and filter are removable, so you can clean the parts when they get covered in grease and food splatters. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The problems with the cooktop continue to the burners, which provide 1,200-3,200 watts of power. The ceramic glass cooktop is black with a slightly textured diamond design. KitchenAid marks the location of the burners with black circles with four dots located around the perimeter. There's not a huge difference between the appearance of the burners and the rest of the cooktop, so I often had to readjust pots and pans after I turned on a burner and could see the heating element for a more precise position.

The touchpad that controls the oven and downdraft fan is located at the front edge of the cooktop. The keys were very sensitive: I accidentally turned on the oven several times if I leaned too closely over the touchpad to check a pot of food cooking on one of the back burners. The eight cooking options for the oven include traditional and convection baking, roasting and broiling. There is also a steam bake option, a feature we've seen in other KitchenAid models that allows you to include a tray of water under a specially made oven rack to add steam to your cooking.

The burner knobs are located on the front of the oven with the burner key located on the top edge of the stovetop. Three of the burners have multiple functions that add versatility but are confusing to get the hang of. For example, the front right burner is a "dual zone" cooking element that can combine an outer burner with an inner burner for larger cookware. However, the knob is split in half to control either the single or dual burners, which makes it confusing to figure out how much firepower you're using with this burner. This is similar to the clutter Rapid Boil burner knob on the Samsung NE59J7630SB electric range .

The KitchenAid KSEG950ESS's oven provides an impressive 6.4 cubic feet of space that makes this the largest single-cavity oven we've seen on an electric range (the LG LRE3021ST comes in second with a 6.3 cubic-foot capacity). KitchenAid also includes a recessed rack for baking large items like roast, a traditional rack that includes a slot for the steam bake insert and a gliding rack.

Traditional cooking overshadows convection fan's abilities

An oven's convection fan distributes hot air more evenly throughout the oven for more even cooking. This is a feature most manufacturers recommend you use for roasting meats, broiling thick cuts of meat or baking more than one rack of food. The KSEG950ESS's fan did not live up to the hype of convection baking. During my convection baking tests, I baked two sheets of biscuits (a dozen biscuits per sheet) for 9 minutes. Round after round, the top rack of biscuits came out much paler than the bottom rack of biscuits, which showed me that the heat from the hidden bake element at the bottom of the oven wasn't reaching the top rack very well, even with the help of the convection fan.

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The biscuits on the top rack (top photo) were lighter than the biscuits that baked beneath them (bottom photo), even with the convection fan in use. Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

The convection roast mode was also a bit of a letdown. I roasted a chicken for an hour and 20 minutes when it hit 165 degrees F (KitchenAid includes a separate meat probe with the KSEG950ESS), and the result was a bird that was golden, but a bit too dry for my tastes.

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The roast chicken was good, but not great after it cooked in the KitchenAid KSEG950ESS. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The KSEG950ESS does, however, earned an award for most improved performance when I started my baking and broiling tests that don't include using the convection fan. Without the convection fan, the oven baked one sheet of eight biscuits evenly during each of my three rounds of tests.

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The KSEG950ESS performed better in traditional baking mode. Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

The oven also performed well during my broil tests. It took an average of 13.6 minutes to bring six hamburger patties to 145 degrees F. The last KitchenAid electric oven I reviewed, the KFDD500ESS , took 17.75 minutes to cook the burgers, so it was good to see improvement in the broiling speed within the brand. However, there was a lot of smoke during the test. The downdraft fan came in handy, but I still needed to turn on the test kitchen's traditional hood to dissipate some of the smoke.

Hamburger Broiling Test (Electric Models)

Samsung NE59J7850WS 12.32KitchenAid KSEG950ESS 13.6Kenmore 41313 14.32LG LRE3021ST 14.75Samsung NE59J7630SB 15.08KitchenAid KFDD500ESS 17.75Frigidaire FGEF3030PF 18.18
Note: Time to achieve 145 degrees F, in minutes

Stovetop provides smooth, fast performance

The cooking times I saw during my cooktop tests tempered my initial frustrations with the KitchenAid KSEG950ESS's cooktop appearance. The burners perform their assigned tasks well.

The left rear burner has a melt setting that's designed for delicate foods that need to cook on low heat. I put 12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a sauce pan on the burner and let the melt setting do its thing. There's no need to worry about scorched cookware on this setting, which takes cooking low and slow very seriously. It took 33 minutes and 46 seconds to melt the chocolate while I occasionally stirred the chips and more than an hour when I didn't stir it.

On the other end of the spectrum, the rapid boil burner at the front right of the cooktop boiled 112 ounces of water in an average of 9.13 minutes. That makes the KSEG950ESS one of the best electric cooktop when it comes to bringing water to a rolling boil.

Large-Burner Boil Test (Electric Models)

Kenmore Elite 97723 8.68KitchenAid KSEG950ESS 9.13Samsung NE59J7630SB 9.33Kenmore 41313 9.4Maytag MET8720DS 9.7Frigidaire FGEF3030PF 11.92LG LRE3021ST 12.17
Note: Time to achieve rolling boil, in minutes

When I simmered cans of tomato soup, the temperature would waver when I transitioned the burner from medium to low, but it eventually evened out. However, the burner kept the soup hotter than other electric cooktops during the same test.

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The KitchenAid KSEG950ESS kept tomato soup hotter than other electric cooktops. Ashlee Clark Thompson/CNET

Final thoughts

The KitchenAid KSEG950ESS packs a lot into 30 inches of appliances, especially when you consider the range's downdraft ventilation system. Though the convection fan left much to be desired, and the downdraft ventilation is a lot of work to install, the appliance is a strong performer in traditional baking and broiling modes, and the stovetop is equipped to cook foods delicately or rapidly, depending on what you're in the mood for. The $3,149 is a steep price for a range, but it would be money well spent on the KitchenAid KSEG950ESS.


KitchenAid KSEG950ESS

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Usability 8Performance 7