This convection cooker was a winner in our test kitchen.
We've seen all sorts of kitchen cookers, from a countertop pressure oven to a $5,000 Dacor double oven fit for a master chef. None of them have have earned our Editors' Choice yet, but the $1,249 Whirlpool Gold range (model WFE720H0AS) left me impressed just the same.
At first glance, that might come as a bit of a surprise. This oven doesn't have any particularly flashy features, and the stainless-steel design, while modern and attractive, isn't much different from the multitude of other ovens that look just like it. Still, the $1,249 Whirlpool Gold gets the little things right, and it's hard to find much fault with it. If you're looking for a solid cooking appliance for your kitchen, and you don't need a lot of bells or whistles, then you'll want to give it your full consideration.
Design-wise, the Whirlpool Gold is a bit of a conformist, checking off all of the usual boxes for contemporary styling. You've got stainless-steel trim, a dark, minimalist smooth cooktop, and touchpad oven controls. It all looks fine, but it isn't anything terribly special, either. You won't catch this oven going out of its way to try and impress you.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing, though. Take the Electrolux EI30EF35JS , for instance, which puts form over function with poorly-thought-out "IQ-Touch" controls for the burners. I'll take the boring knobs of the Whirlpool Gold over a cluttered design that tries too hard any day.
Like that Electrolux model (which retails for $300 more), the Whirlpool Gold's smooth cooktop has five burners, one of which is dedicated solely to keeping dishes warm. Both ranges also feature a burner capable of amping up the power in order to boil water faster. There are also burners on both ranges with adjustable sizes -- the Electrolux has three of them, while the Whirlpool has one.
The burner controls also feature one of those aforementioned "little things" that I think Whirlpool gets right. A red light on the left side of the rear-mounted display will light up whenever a burner is turned on, but a second red light on the right side of the display will light up whenever a burner is hot -- even after the burner is turned off. That's a great detail that might stop you from accidentally burning yourself.
As for the oven, the Whirlpool Gold boasts a 6.2-cubic-foot capacity -- the same as the comparably priced KitchenAid Architect Series II , and slightly larger than what you'll get from Electrolux. Inside, you'll find a convection fan and three adjustable metal racks. They aren't ball-bearing-mounted glide racks, like the ones that Electrolux provides, but you do get one with a removable section, making it easier to make room for multiple dishes and for tall, awkwardly-sized pots and pans.
Like most ovens in this price range, the Whirlpool Gold features a hidden bake element, which simply means that the bottom of the oven is a flat, recessed surface. If you spill anything, it won't land directly on the coils, which makes cleanup a lot easier.
This recessed bottom also allows you to use water for makeshift steam cleaning at low temperatures. Like the KitchenAid Architect II, the Whirlpool Gold features a dedicated "AquaLift" mode designed to do exactly that. If gunk starts to accumulate in your oven, rest assured that this cycle will help you get it cleaned up with minimal odor.
|Electrolux EI30EF35JS||Whirlpool WFE720H0AS|
|Standard preheat time (400 F)||12:50||13:33|
|Fast preheat time (400 F)||8:35||11:00|
|Standard boil time (212 F)||8:30||6:50|
|Fast boil time (212 F)||4:45||4:40|
The other nice feature this oven offers is a fast preheat mode that promises to shave a few minutes off your food prep. Like the fast boil, this is an identical feature to one on the Electrolux model, so I decided to test the two out in a side-by-side race to 400 degrees.
The Electrolux was the winner, getting there in about 8 and a half minutes compared to 11 minutes for Whirlpool. Still, the Whirlpool's fast preheat time was down 20 percent from the normal time of 13.5 minutes, so I have to call the feature a success -- just not quite as much of a success as Electrolux, which sped things up by about 30 percent and won the race with time to spare.
As for the Whirlpool's cooking chops, it proved to be a dependable performer in our test kitchen. We ran it through the usual barrage of tests -- everything from roasted chicken to broiled toast -- and never caught it acting abnormally. Everything cooked evenly and as expected, whether we were baking or broiling. Even in difficult tests, like baking two racks of biscuits at the same time, the Whirlpool rose to the occasion.
Still, it wasn't a perfect performer. As we monitored the oven's average temperature throughout a cooking cycle, we found a greater range of fluctuation than we saw with either the Electrolux or the KitchenAid models. On average, the Whirlpool hit the mark, but it did so by overshooting the target temperature, then over-cooling to compensate, then repeating.
This was the most evident during our chicken tests. That red line in the graph above is the Whirlpool's average temperature as it cooks a chicken at 375 degrees. Compared with the Electrolux (blue) and the KitchenAid (green), the cooking performance is clearly less precise.
The Electrolux did the best of three, staying within roughly five degrees of the target temperature for the majority of the cooking time. KitchenAid was also steady, although it was about 25 degrees too cold. The Whirlpool was able to hit the target, but it definitely wasn't able to stay there.
This didn't translate to much of a difference in the quality of the chicken. The Electrolux and Whirlpool birds both tasted about the same to our taste testers -- decent, but not mind-blowing. The difference came in the cooking time. Since it couldn't hold steady at 375 like the Electrolux could, the Whirlpool took an extra 15 minutes to cook to temperature. This wasn't as slow as the KitchenAid chicken, which needed an extra 40 minutes to cook.
Still, since it's a steadier performer, the KitchenAid Architect II might actually be the easier oven to cook with. All you'd need to do is remember to bump the temperature up by 25 degrees. With the Whirlpool's wider temperature fluctuations, it'd be harder to compensate, and more difficult to hit precise cooking times.
Also of note: Like the one in the KitchenAid oven, the Whirlpool's broiler element isn't as wide as you'll find in the Electrolux. In our toast tests, we saw this translate to slightly more even broiling performance from Electrolux, which might be the ideal approach for something that's spread out, like a tray of French fries. It's a minor difference, but one you should be aware of.
All in all, I came away pleased with the performance I got out of the Whirlpool, whether I was cooking roast chicken, frozen pizza, M&M cookies, or fudge brownies. None of the oven's imperfections were ever serious enough to compromise a recipe, which is the most important thing of all.
The Whirlpool Gold isn't an exciting range. Its list of features is short and succinct, and those that it does have aren't all that unique. Compared to ranges like the Samsung Flex Duo , I have to say that the WFE720H0AS is downright boring.
But still, this Whirlpool is good where it counts. It cooks decent food, it's easy to use, and it doesn't suffer from over-design like the comparably equipped Electrolux EI30EF35JS , which costs $300 more. If you want an appliance with lots of bells and whistles, look elsewhere, but if all you need is a steady new kitchen companion, this is a range you can count on.