In this article, we discuss the many different types of ovens that are used in homes and in restaurants as part of the meal preparation process.
We discuss the different heating sources, distribution methods, placement options, and specialty features of ovens.
A conventional oven is a more traditional oven typically used to bake or roast food. The oven consists of an insulated chamber with a heating element located at the bottom of the oven.
The heat generated by the element radiates upward, cooking the food. This is why these ovens are also known as "radiant" ovens.
Most ovens also have a broiler, which is a separate heating element located at the top of the oven. This allows the user to brown or crisp food by direct exposure to heat.
Conventional ovens typically have racks that can be moved to different positions, depending on the type of dish being cooked.
An issue with conventional ovens vs convection ovens is that conventional ovens don't always cook evenly due to a convection fan not evenly distributing heat. This can also result in longer cooking times with a conventional oven.
Conventional gas ovens are powered by gas - you can also get an electrically powered conventional oven.
Convection ovens are types of ovens that use convection to circulate heat more evenly than standard ovens. This circulation is accomplished with a fan, which circulates the hot air around the food. As a result, convection ovens cook food more quickly and evenly than standard ovens. They'll also get up to your desired temperature more quickly - meaning that the preheat time is significantly reduced.
Using a convection oven
Additionally, convection ovens reduce the amount of moisture with the oven. This can help the food to brown properly while at the same time retaining moisture within the food.
When you want to enable the convection feature, it is usually just a matter of selecting a switch or knob on the outside of the oven.
If you're used to cooking with a conventional oven, you'll want to keep a very close eye on your food when using convection cooking. Most recipes are written with a conventional oven in mind. Look for the convection oven directions if they're provided.
If convection oven directions aren't provided, you'll want to do earlier and more frequent temperature checks while your food is baking (or cooking).
What is True Convection?
True convection is a bit different from what we know as typical convection heating. There is an additional heating element that is in close proximity to the fan. This provides an even more consistent temperature within your oven.
Many oven models have true convection as an option. True convection can further reduce overall cooking time when compared to conventional convection ovens.
Gas ovens are a popular choice for home cooks because they offer a number of advantages over electric ovens.
Burners above a gas oven
Heat up Fast
A gas stove will heat up more quickly than electric ovens, so you can start cooking sooner. Newer electric ovens are closing the gap, with many ovens heating up as fast as their gas oven counterparts.
Better at Retaining Moisture than Electric Ovens
The process of burning natural gas releases some moisture into the oven. This has the effect of keeping your food moist. This is a big advantage for dishes (especially meat - like roasts) that you'd like to keep moist. It can be a bit of a drawback compared to electric ovens if you're trying to brown or crisp what you're baking.
Not all homes - and especially apartments - are able to support gas oven heating. You'll need to make sure that your kitchen has access to a natural gas line to use a gas oven.
Drawback: Hot Spots
Many gas ovens have hot spots. Some areas may get more heat than other areas which causes "hot spots" with uneven heating. You can actually check for gas oven hot spots in your oven using slices of bread.
Electric ovens can be either standard or convection ovens. An electric oven is relatively inexpensive when compared to purchasing a gas or a steam oven.
Removing food from an electric oven
Since an electric oven runs on electricity, these types of ovens are a bit more simple to install in a kitchen. You can fairly easily find an appropriate electrical outlet for an electric oven in your kitchen. Gas ovens require a gas hookup - and some (very few) steam ovens require a water supply.
Electric ovens also usually take a bit longer to heat up than gas ovens.
Unlike a conventional oven, a steam oven uses - you guessed it - steam to cook food. Steam ovens are used for baking and roasting. They're becoming more and more popular with people who are trying to cook healthier meals.
Bosch Combi Steam Oven Overview
Water in the oven is heated until it reaches its boiling point and becomes steam that is able to quickly and efficiently cook food. In most cases, the oven will have a canister that you manually fill with water prior to cooking. Some models can be hooked up to a waterline, but this is the exception.
One advantage of using a steam oven is that it helps to retain water and moisture in food. This can help to improve the flavor and texture of dishes - especially vegetables and fish.
Steam ovens aren't ideal for browning or crisping dishes. Browning and crisping may be somewhat inhibited by the moisture that the steam brings to the table. For the most versatility, you can get an oven that has both convection and steam capabilities.
As you might expect, the oven in your kitchen is significantly different than the oven you might find in a restaurant.
Commercial ovens are bigger and more powerful than residential ovens. They are designed for restaurants and other professional kitchens.
Commercial ovens are significantly more durable than residential ones. They need to be able to withstand constant use, so they're typically made with higher-quality materials. They must also adhere to more stringent code requirements. The requirements are more demanding with respect to the construction of the oven and the ventilation requirements.
Commercial ovens also tend to be more powerful than home models. They typically have more powerful heating elements which allow them to reach higher temperatures more quickly.
Finally, commercial ovens are often designed for speed and efficiency. They tend to have much larger capacity. Many come with multiple racks that can be used simultaneously. This allows for multiple dishes to be cooked at the same time - an important consideration in a busy professional kitchen.
The most popular type of oven choice among consumers is the freestanding oven. The big box stores carry about 5 times as many models of freestanding ovens vs slide-in ovens based on consumer demand.
Their popularity is due to their affordability as well as their relatively easy installation. They can be installed just about anywhere in your kithcen. Unlike a slide-in oven, the finished sides of a freestanding oven allow you to install the oven just about anywhere in your kitchen.
Freestanding ovens have backsplash controls for all of the oven's functions. This differs from slide-in ovens where the controls are on the front of the oven.
A slide-in oven is a type of oven that is able to fit seamlessly between cabinets in your kitchen. A slide-in oven is typically more expensive than freestanding ovens and has a much more modern look.
Since the slide-in range is meant to fit between kitchen counter cabinets, the sides are unfinished. The controls for slide-in ovens are also on the front of the range which provides easy access for cooking - and you won't have to reach across a red-hot range to change cooking temperatures or turn the oven off.
A slide-in oven typically doesn't have a backsplash, and they may require a silicone counter strip to fill any gaps between your oven and countertops.
Wall ovens are types of ovens that are mounted into the wall of a kitchen as opposed to being placed on the floor of your kitchen. From an ergonomic standpoint, wall-mounted ovens can be a bit easier on the back as you won't have to be hunched over while accessing the oven.
While wall-mounted ovens can be a space saver and free up under the counter kitchen space, you'll still need to have a place in your kitchen for your cooktop.
Single vs. Double Wall Ovens
Wall mounted single ovens generally have less available cooking space than an oven installed on the floor, which is why many consumers opt for a double wall oven. A double oven consists of two ovens stacked vertically, and it gives you twice the cooking area to work with.
A double oven is also extremely helpful if you're cooking multiple dishes with different time and temperature requirements.
Wall Oven / Microwave Combination
Similar to the look of a double oven, some oven manufacturers offer a microwave wall oven combo that can be mounted in your kitchen. These look stylish, consistent, and modern.
A wall oven with a microwave
A warming drawer is a warming compartment built into some ovens or as a stand-alone appliance. Its primary purpose is to keep food warm until it is ready to be served.
It typically has multiple settings that allow the user to adjust the temperature, depending on the food being warmed. Warming drawers are one of those "nice to have features" that can be extremely handy, but you'll pay for the convenience. The stand-alone varieties tend to be very expensive.
Most self-cleaning ovens have a self-clean cycle that uses high temperatures to clean the oven interior. This cycle should not be used to clean up spills or large loose debris. You'll want to do a quick wipe down of the oven prior to starting the self-cleaning process.
Then, set the self-clean cycle and close the door. The cycle typically takes two to four hours to complete, during which time the oven will heat itself to a very high temperature. When the cycle is done, open the door and wipe away any residue that may have burned onto the surfaces. Note that self-cleaning ovens can produce a lot of smoke and odor, so be sure to open a window or turn on a fan to allow proper ventilation.
A self cleaning oven offers convenience, but it doesn't absolve you of all cleaning responsibilities. You'll still want to periodically wipe down the inside of your oven - especially after spills.
With the relatively recent popularity of stand-alone air fryers, more and more oven manufacturers are including air frying capabilities integrated into their oven offerings.
There are two major advantages to having an oven with air frying capabilities over buying an air fryer:
Increased Cooking Capacity
Many air fryers have extremely limited space for cooking. While you can fairly easily cook for one person, it may be a problem to cook two servings, and with most air fryers, it just isn't possible to put together a meal for an entire family.
An oven with air frying capabilities solves this space constraint problem and allows you to cook larger meals when you have a lot of hungry mouths to feed.
One Less Gadget / More Counter Space
Having an oven with onboard air fry capabilities means that you don't have to buy a separate device to do your air frying. This means you don't need to worry about an air fryer taking up space on your counter or in your kitchen storage spaces.
Ovens are becoming more and more high-tech, and wifi-enabled ovens are at the forefront of this trend. These smart ovens can be controlled with a phone or other mobile device, giving users the ability to start cooking from anywhere.
In addition, wifi-enabled ovens can be programmed to cook food at specific times or temperatures, making it easy to create perfectly cooked meals with little effort.
Have you ever pre-heated your oven, walked away, and forgotten about the pre-heating process for longer than you had intended?
I sure have.
A wifi-enabled oven can notify you when the pre-heating has been completed so you can load the food in the oven and start the baking process.
Whether you're a busy professional or a busy parent, a wifi-enabled oven can help you to make the most of your time in the kitchen.
Toaster ovens are countertop electric ovens. Toaster ovens typically have a door in the front that opens to allow food to be placed on a rack in the heating chamber. Larger toaster ovens come with multiple racks to accommodate different food items, more food, and/or different levels of toasting.
The controls are either electronic or are knobs / dials positioned on the front of the toaster oven - usually on the right side of the toaster oven (probably since most people are right-handed).
They're great for baking or toasting small quantities of food without expending the energy (and additional time) of using your regular kitchen oven.
Just like with their larger cousins, some toaster ovens come with a convection setting for more even heating. A fan will more evenly distribute the air within the toaster oven. This can enhance browning (and toasting) and cook the food a bit more quickly. Convection toaster ovens also reduce the humidity of the air within the toaster oven.
Microwave ovens use microwave radiation to heat food. This type of radiation is a form of energy that travels through the air and is absorbed by water molecules in food. The energy from microwave radiation causes the water molecules to vibrate and generate heat. This process is what heats up the food in a microwave oven.
Microwave ovens have a turntable that helps to evenly distribute the microwave radiation and cook the food more evenly. The microwave radiation is produced by an electrical coil called a magnetron. The magnetron is located inside the oven behind a metal screen. The metal screen helps to keep the microwaves inside the oven.
Microwaves are extremely effective at quickly heating up food. They're also very good at defrosting food.
One of the downsides to microwaves is that they can sometimes create hotspots in food, which can lead to uneven cooking. Another downside is that microwaves can sometimes make food rubbery or tough.
Convection Oven Microwaves
A microwave convection oven works like a conventional microwave, but they also have a mode that utilizes a fan to evenly distribute the hot air within the microwave to help cook the food. This opens up the possibility to do some baking and browning within your convection microwave oven.
When it comes to oven colors, you'll see many of the same colors that are available for other appliances (like refrigerators). It makes sense that the color options would be similar. Typical oven color and finishes include the following:
Oven/range colors seem to be more limited than other big appliance color and finish options (like refrigerators). Perhaps this is because ovens will almost always go in the kitchen, whereas refrigerators can also go in a garage, basement or man cave. Sometimes people like to customize their fridge - not so much with ovens.
There's nothing quite like a pizza made in a brick oven for pizza lovers. Pizza ovens are able to bake pizza extremely quickly with temps maxing out at over 800 degrees. This is significantly hotter than a conventional oven which typically tops out at 550 degrees Fahrenheit.
The high temperatures and intense heat of the brick walls create a crispy crust that is impossible to replicate in a conventional oven. You can have a stand-alone pizza oven installed in your backyard as part of an outdoor kitchen.