appliances 101: ovens

It’s hard to pick a favourite appliance, but when you consider what comes out of ovens—delectable cookies, cakes, and pies; succulent roasts; towering soufflés—it's difficult to imagine life without them.

Join us as we take a deep dive into ovens (figuratively, of course) to explain some of the different features available, as well as give you some tips on how to get the most of your gas or electric oven.

Do I need a range, cooktop, or oven?

If you’ve shopped for a new cooking appliance or renovated a kitchen, you will have come across these three terms and probably wondered what the difference is.

Range – A range is an all-in-one, stand-alone appliance that has a cooking surface on top and an oven below. Ranges are available in gas, electric, or dual-fuel, and as freestanding or slide-in units.

Cooktop – Imagine taking the cooking surface off the top of your range and building it into your countertop—that’s a cooktop. Cooktops are available with electric (coil or smooth-top), induction, or gas burners.

Oven – Sold without a cooktop, a wall oven can be built into your kitchen wall, or mounted in the cabinet space of a kitchen island. Wall ovens are available as single or double units, or in combination with a microwave.

Which is better—gas or electric?

When it comes to ovens, it really comes down to what you’ll be cooking the most. While gas ovens come up to temperature quickly, electric ovens tend to produce more consistent heat. For most roasting and heating, either will work to get the job done. If you bake a lot of cakes or quick breads, however, you may want to go with the gentler, more even heat of an electric oven.

For people who want the best of both worlds, there are a couple options. The first is a dual-fuel range—a gas cooktop combined with an electric oven—or you can forgo the all-in-one range altogether and opt for a separate gas cooktop and electric wall oven.

Later in this article, we’ll give you some great tips for getting the most of your gas or electric oven, so keep reading!

Is one oven enough or should I get a double/dual oven?

If you have ever cooked for a crowd or tried to make several dishes at once, you’ve probably wished for a dual oven. One benefit is simply more space—you can load up your ovens without overcrowding and have all of your dishes hit the table at the same time without precooking, staging, and reheating.

Dual ovens also give you the flexibility of cooking two different things at the same time without transferring flavours or affecting the finished product. Imagine if you tried to cook a turkey and a batch of cupcakes at the same time in your single oven? Well, with a double oven, it’s not an issue. You can cook two or more foods at the same time at different temperatures or use your second oven as a warming oven for foods you cooked on the stovetop while the roast finishes up.

Most dual oven ranges (and some wall ovens) have two oven compartments of different heights, giving you the option to cook in a smaller capacity oven to save energy. Keep in mind, though, dual convection ovens will usually only have ONE convection unit and it will almost always be the larger oven.

Combination wall ovens offer one more variation on the theme and give you the flexibility of different modes of cooking by combining a traditional oven with a fast cooking microwave, all in one sleek unit to free up space elsewhere in the kitchen.

Conventional vs Convection—what's the difference?

A conventional oven, like the one above, is the one most of us are familiar with—two heating elements, one at the top and one at the bottom. The heating element at the bottom of the oven is used for most cooking and baking, while the heating element at the top is mostly used for broiling.

In a fan convection oven, you have the same heating elements as the conventional oven, plus one or more fans to circulate the hot air for faster, more even roasting and baking. Because the hot air is constantly moving throughout the oven, hot and cool spots are virtually eliminated.

The true convection oven adds a third element, placed near the fan on the back wall. This extra element helps cook food even more uniformly than simple fan convection because the heat is coming from all angles. In fact, the heat is so even you don’t even have to rotate your baking trays.

In addition to cutting down cooking time and producing more even results, convection ovens cook food in a dryer environment. This can be both a positive and a negative. It’s great for foods that you want to have a crisp exterior, or things like stews and braises that can cook covered to trap in moisture, but no-so-great for moist or delicate foods like cakes, cupcakes, muffins, quick breads, and soufflés. We recommend turning off the convection fans for these types of baked goods.

Because convection ovens cook faster, it’s necessary to adjust your recipe’s recommended oven temperature and/or bake time, unless otherwise noted. (Most recipes are tested in conventional ovens.) If you’re using the convection setting in a recipe that doesn’t specifically call for it, set the temperature 25°F lower. You will also want to check for doneness earlier, starting at two-thirds of the way through the recommended baking time.

Some convection ovens, like the Whirlpool True Convection above, have a built-in convection conversion feature that takes the guesswork out of convection cooking. When using the convection conversion mode, just enter the recipe’s recommended cook time and temp and let the oven do the calculations for you.

What's the hottest new oven feature?

One relatively new oven feature that has been tops on everyone’s list since it was introduced is the built-in air fryer, found in both the Frigidaire Gallery range above and the LG below.

Air frying is a method of cooking that uses your oven’s convection fans, along with special, ventilated cooking trays. This cooks the food faster and creates a crispy, fried layer with even-browning on all sides, but uses little to no oil, making it a lighter alternative to traditional deep frying.

In addition to the usual favourites, like chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings, you can use your air fryer to prepare oven-ready appetizers and get that satisfying, crispy crunch on vegetables—with or without a light breading.

What are some time-saving oven features?

Wi-Fi Connectivity: Wi-Fi-enabled ovens, like the LG above, let you control oven functions, or check on the progress of dinner from virtually anywhere via smartphone app. In a hurry? Preheat your oven on the way home from work or soccer practice and it will be ready to go when you walk in the door.

Rapid Pre-Heat: The Maytag True Convection range (above) uses both the broil and bake elements along with the convection fan to cut down on the time you spend waiting for the oven to heat up. With rapid pre-heat, you can get the oven up to baking temperature in eight minutes or less.

Frozen-Bake: Skip the preheating step and cook frozen convenience foods faster with Whirlpool’s Frozen Bake™ technology that uses preprogrammed settings to automatically adjust cooking times for you.

Are there features to help with clean-up?

Everyone who has used an oven knows—spills happen. To ensure little messes don’t turn into baked-on or smoky messes, it’s best to make oven cleaning part of your regular routine. Thankfully, oven manufacturers are making our jobs easier by making it easier to tackle those everyday spills (and spatters and drips).

Easy Clean/Steam Cleaning: Depending on the brand, “easy clean” can mean a stain-releasing coating on the oven walls, like the Amana on the left, or a no-chemical, low heat, 10–30 minute cleaning cycle that uses plain water to generate soil-busting steam, like the LG on the right.

LG’s EasyClean® oven-cleaning cycle, for example, helps you keep things tidy in just 10 minutes—just a quick steam followed by a wipe down. This type of cleaning works best on very light soil, so should be performed regularly to keep grease and food from building up.  

Self-Cleaning: Once a luxury, self-cleaning ovens can be found at nearly all price points. The Frigidaire Self-cleaning range (above) has cleaning cycles of two, three and four hours to suit your schedule and a delay clean feature that allows you to set the oven to clean itself at the desired time.

One word of caution: Because they use high heat (500 to 900 degrees!), self-cleaning ovens can produce some smoke and odor as they burn off spills and spatters. But, for safety, don’t be tempted to leave your oven unattended until the cycle is complete. To cut down on the smell, clean up small messes as they happen.

How to Get the Most from Your Electric Oven

  1. Give your electric oven plenty of time to pre-heat. To save time, use your oven’s rapid pre-heat or FrozenBake feature.
  2. Unless your recipe says otherwise, bake your foods as close to the centre of the oven as possible, as this is the spot with the most even heat. Rotate your pans for best results or, if you can, try to bake one batch at a time instead of juggling multiple pans.
  3. Electric ovens tend to be dry, so introduce a little moisture when baking breads and yeasted pizza crusts. You can do this by setting a shallow pan of water at the bottom of the oven, or spritzing water into the oven with a spray bottle during the bake.
  4. Get to know your bakeware. Metal pans will produce darker edges and bottoms, while silicone and glass will decrease browning.

Tips for Cooking with Gas

  1. Gas ovens tend to fluctuate by several degrees, so it’s a good idea to use an oven thermometer to more accurately read the temperature.
  2. For more even results in a non-convection gas oven, get into the habit of rotating your pans to make up for any hot and/or cool spots. Pans should be turned by 90-degrees at least once and, if you are using more than one rack, switch the top and bottom pans as well.
  3. Gas ovens are generally more humid, so use your convection fan or turn the heat up 25-degrees for crisper results.
  4. Avoid using dark metal bakewear, which can result in over-browned or burned bottoms. Instead, choose light-coloured metal, ceramic, ceramic-coated, or glass.

We hope we’ve demystified ovens for you, but please reach out to the appliance experts at your local Dufresne store with any questions you have. Also, make sure you are subscribed to our emails and watch for a future article that breaks down the different types of cooktops available.