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

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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.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Usability 8
  • Performance 7

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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