Kitchen Products Review: Wall OvensWall ovens go high-tech for tastier cooking with ease.

  • By Linda C. Lentz
  • Source: BUILDING PRODUCTS Magazine
  • Publication date: 2007-09-11

Built-in ovens have been in operation for centuries. Think wood-fire brick hearths of ancient Rome.

However, it wasn't until 1947 that the folks at Thermador brought the concept into modern homes as the first built-in wall oven. Self-cleaning followed 16 years later, then black glass in 1965. It's been a steady progression ever since with microwave, convection, and combinations thereof hitting their stride in the 1980s and '90s.

Today, wall ovens continue to offer an ever-wider breadth of technological advances, from speed cooking to steam to colored, multilingual LCD displays that provide for tastier, often healthier cooking—often in far less time. But like the concurrent PC and consumer electronics industries, from which appliance manufacturers draw much of their inspiration and innovation, there are learning curves. So the latest units not only focus on the technology itself, but on making those features easier to understand and use.

BETTER, FASTER, COOKING

Many of the features showing up in residential wall ovens are trickling down from the commercial sector, driven by demand from high-end home buyers who want the same functionality, quality, and style as the pros use.

For TurboChef's Speedcook, a proven microwave-assisted air-speed technology adopted by the likes of Charlie Trotter for his famed Chicago eatery, consumer interest preceded its development. "Whenever we would do cooking demonstrations for corporate buyers, restaurant owners, and chefs, eight out of 10 people would say, 'I really wish you had a residential model,'" says TurboChef branding officer Steve Beshara.

Sue Bailey, manager of product development at Viking, says, "Customers like to know they've got the newest available technology as long as it works—and that they will use it." And as long as it's fast. "The one thing nobody has, no matter how much money they have, is time," notes Charleston, S.C.-based builder Kevin Kalman. For this reason, his clients are always interested in anything that can save them a half hour here or there.

"I get a lot of clients that are going to single wall ovens," says Lincolnshire, Ill.-based builder and certified kitchen designer David Heigl. "Then for their second oven they're using a microwave convection oven."

At Viking this need for speed was duly noted with the introduction of its Professional high-speed convection oven. "It's got 2,200 watts of cooking power," says Bailey. "That's more wattage than most regular convection/microwaves have. But what gives us the speed is the rate that we're actually moving the air in combination with 1,000 watts of microwave power. So you could cook nutritious meals in a fifth of the time that it takes in a regular convection oven."

That being said, she admits, while this multifunctional unit is ideal for small family meals, it is meant to be an auxiliary to the company's larger conventional ovens and ranges. Likewise, Electrolux High-Speed 1.1-cubic-foot built-in ovens combine microwave and convection modes with forced super-heated air to halve the cooking time. Meanwhile, the Whirlpool 30-inch SpeedCook built-in combination oven features an innovative top unit that combines microwave and convection with a mix of quartz and halogen light.

Other features simply make cooking more enjoyable. Technologically advanced upgrades include faster preheats and self-clean cycles, larger re-engineered oven cavities, and programming perks such as the ability to control brightness, LCD hues, and ring tones.

Küppersbusch's 35 1/2-inch EEB 9800.0 features a special catalytic converter that captures fat, odors, and food particles released into the hot air during cooking. This transforms them into carbon dioxide and water, resulting in a cleaner, grease-free kitchen.

LEARNING CURVE

No matter how advanced or downright cool an oven is, however, the features won't do much good if the homeowner can't figure them out. Sophisticated, user-friendly technologies are fast becoming the new standard. Ariston, Bosch, GE, Thermador, and Wolf, for example, have all incorporated easy-to-use electronic controls into their latest built-in ovens.

"The whole idea of Miele's MasterChef is to take the guesswork out," says company spokesperson Lori Dolnik. For instance, if a user wants to cook a turkey or roast beef, all they need to do is input weight and level of doneness into the system. The oven does the rest.

TurboChef's Speedcook wall ovens have an iPod feel, an interface proving to be compatible across multiple generations. "We put a focus on the interface because we learned through our research that no American wants to read the manual," says Beshara. "So we charged the design team that people must be able to work this oven without opening the manual. And I like to say we've achieved that. It's as easy to use as an ATM that gives you screen prompts. You simply make selections."

Similarly, the new Siemens avantGarde iSlideconvection oven and Gaggenau's new 24- to 30-inch convection ovens take design cues from the ubiquitous music player.

STILL ADVANCING

"When you develop an oven, it's really difficult to see what will be going on in five years—what the consumer will want and what will be on the market," says Gaggenau product manager Gudren Berger. "So [a manufacturer] has to think ahead in regard to what the trends will be, then develop something based on this."

Accordingly, Gaggenau created its Lift Oven to meet the needs of a marketplace increasingly aware of energy usage and ergonomics. This model has a glass ceramic base that lowers and rises for easy access. Plus, Berger explains, "Heat rises. So whenever the base lowers the heat stays in the oven."

TMIO also is addressing the environment with the NASA-developed thermal ceramic insulation in its Connect Io Intelligent Oven. This non-toxic material improves cooking efficiency by keeping the heat in the oven and reduces the self-clean cycle down to less than two hours.

Available with or without built-in refrigeration, this "super-smart" full-scale single or double convection oven offers remote access to cooking prompts via Internet or telephone. This allows users to keep prepared foods cold before a programmed cooking time is scheduled to begin, cancel or change that time, and even switch back to refrigeration after cooking and cooling down.

Are homeowners ready for such a state-of-the-art appliance? Builder Heigl thinks the timing may be a bit premature. "I haven't had a customer even ask about that," he says in reference to the Connect Io.

"But I think it's coming. People are going to start to appreciate what these things do."

Steam Heat

"Some people embrace anything that's new," says New York-based certified kitchen designer Susan Serra. "In recent years I've had clients put in separate steam ovens because of the healthier cooking you could get."

Outfitted with steam generators, this relatively new appliance group seems to be generating lots of interest. Miele's two steam-only MasterChef models, which measure 60 centimeters (about 24 inches), walk users through the process. "The programming is really fabulous because nobody knows how to cook with steam," says company spokesperson Lori Dolnick. To simplify installation neither unit is plumbed.

Likewise, Ariston's 24-inch steam and Viking's Combi steam/convect ovens come with removable water tanks instead of having to connect to plumbing. "All the guesswork has been taken out," says Viking manager of product development Sue Bailey. "The unit even tells you when to de-scale it."

Gaggenau has two versions: a 24-inch CombiSteam oven that connects to a water line and a 30-inch model with water tank that can even be installed under a counter, due to what product manager Gudren Berger dubs "cool door" technology.

Finally, KitchenAid's Architect Series II full-size convection wall oven with Steam-Assist technology mimics commercial models used in restaurants to produce crisply browned breads, succulently seared roasts, and delicate desserts. In addition to pre-programmed auto steam settings, the unit's EasyConvect time and temperature conversion automatically converts conventional time and temperatures.

-- BUILDING PRODUCTS

Designed to beintegrated or stand alone, individual 24-inch steam and convection ovens offer optimum versatility in a small area when stacked. The steam oven is not plumbed, so there are no special installation requirements. The convection unit features a unique touch-through stainless steel activation pad on the control panel that keeps the glass fingerprint-free.

Ariston

Ariston. Designed to beintegrated or stand alone, individual 24-inch steam and convection ovens offer optimum versatility in a small area when stacked. The steam oven is not plumbed, so there are no special installation requirements. The convection unit features a unique touch-through stainless steel activation pad on the control panel that keeps the glass fingerprint-free. 800-356-0766. www.aristonappliances.us.

Stacked to offer myriad options, the 30-inch SpeedCook built-in combination oven features a top unit that combines microwave and convection modes with a mix of quartz and halogen light to grill, brown, broil, and bake in a fraction of traditional times. A lower convection oven takes care of business as usual. A well-organized touchpanel facilitates operation.

Whirlpool

Whirlpool. Stacked to offer myriad options, the 30-inch SpeedCook built-in combination oven features a top unit that combines microwave and convection modes with a mix of quartz and halogen light to grill, brown, broil, and bake in a fraction of traditional times. A lower convection oven takes care of business as usual. A well-organized touchpanel facilitates operation. 800-446-2574. www.whirlpool.com.

Available with 27-, 30-, and 36-inch stainless steel trim kits for numerous built-in configurations, Professional and Designer Combi Steam/Convect ovens offer the benefits of steaming and convection in tandem or on their own. A multilingual electronic display guides users through functions and settings and recommends appropriate temperature settings.

Viking

Viking. Available with 27-, 30-, and 36-inch stainless steel trim kits for numerous built-in configurations, Professional and Designer Combi Steam/Convect ovens offer the benefits of steaming and convection in tandem or on their own. A multilingual electronic display guides users through functions and settings and recommends appropriate temperature settings. 888-845-4641. www.vikingrange.com.

Developed for accessibility and energy efficiency, the 24-inch Lift Oven features a heated glass ceramic base that can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button. Since heat rises, it remains in the oven. Loaded with 11 cooking modes including convection, this appliance mounts on racks from the wall or under a cabinet.

Gaggenau

Gaggenau. Developed for accessibility and energy efficiency, the 24-inch Lift Oven features a heated glass ceramic base that can be raised and lowered at the touch of a button. Since heat rises, it remains in the oven. Loaded with 11 cooking modes including convection, this appliance mounts on racks from the wall or under a cabinet. 800-828-9165. www.gaggenau.com.

The Connect Io Intelligent Oven lineup features single and double versions with or without built-in refrigeration; the units with refrigeration keep food cold before pre-programmed cooking and can be controlled via the Web or cell phone. The units' thermal ceramic insulation, developed by NASA, shortens the self-clean cycle and is said to be non-toxic and environmentally friendly.

TMIO

TMIO. The Connect Io Intelligent Oven lineup features single and double versions with or without built-in refrigeration; the units with refrigeration keep food cold before pre-programmed cooking and can be controlled via the Web or cell phone. The units' thermal ceramic insulation, developed by NASA, shortens the self-clean cycle and is said to be non-toxic and environmentally friendly. 800-881-8646. www.tmio.com.

Engineered to be time and space efficient as well as intelligent, the latest single and double 27- and 30-inch Profile convection wall ovens are among the largest available due to a newly designed flat convection cover, hidden bake element, and raised broiler. Glass touch controls come with a choice of eight LCD colors and three languages and have a proximity sensor to illuminate them when a user approaches.

GE

GE. Engineered to be time and space efficient as well as intelligent, the latest single and double 27- and 30-inch Profile convection wall ovens are among the largest available due to a newly designed flat convection cover, hidden bake element, and raised broiler. Glass touch controls come with a choice of eight LCD colors and three languages and have a proximity sensor to illuminate them when a user approaches. 800-626-2000. www.geappliances.com.

 Measuring approximately 35 1/2 inches wide, the EEB 9800.0 runs on 15 amps and features such cutting-edge technologies as an Ökotherm catalytic converter. Similar to its automotive equivalent, this platinum-coated stainless steel wire mesh, positioned at the back of the oven near the convection fan, captures fat, odors, and food particles released into the hot air during cooking and transforms them into carbon dioxide and water.

Küppersbusch

Küppersbusch. Measuring approximately 35 1/2 inches wide, the EEB 9800.0 runs on 15 amps and features such cutting-edge technologies as an Ökotherm catalytic converter. Similar to its automotive equivalent, this platinum-coated stainless steel wire mesh, positioned at the back of the oven near the convection fan, captures fat, odors, and food particles released into the hot air during cooking and transforms them into carbon dioxide and water. 800-459-0844. www.kuppersbuschusa.com.

 Taking design cues from Apple's iPod music player, 30-inch single and double avantGarde iSlide convection ovens allow users to scroll around the circular grooved control to select or adjust temperatures. Pre-programmed with 16 cooking modes, the 4.7-cubic-foot oven has a third heating element ringing the convection fan and a directional air system to ensure even air circulation around the food.

Siemens

Siemens. Taking design cues from Apple's iPod music player, 30-inch single and double avantGarde iSlide convection ovens allow users to scroll around the circular grooved control to select or adjust temperatures. Pre-programmed with 16 cooking modes, the 4.7-cubic-foot oven has a third heating element ringing the convection fan and a directional air system to ensure even air circulation around the food. 888-474-3636. www.siemens-home.com.

Single and double 30-inch E series wall ovens come in classic stainless steel and in framed and unframed door styles. Features include a dual convection single and upper unit of the double oven, an LCD control panel with easy-touch pads, three levels of light intensity, a choice of oven timer tones, a 12- or 24-hour clock, and five language options.

Wolf

Wolf.Single and double 30-inch E series wall ovens come in classic stainless steel and in framed and unframed door styles. Features include a dual convection single and upper unit of the double oven, an LCD control panel with easy-touch pads, three levels of light intensity, a choice of oven timer tones, a 12- or 24-hour clock, and five language options. 800-532-7820. www.wolfappliance.com.

Designed to team with the company's corresponding wall oven series, the 1.1-cubic-foot built-in Professional high-speed oven can handle just about any daily cooking task. More than a microwave/convection, this version forces super-heated air around food at ultra-high speeds then uses microwaves to halve cooking time. To keep the technology discreet, Wave-Touch controls appear dormant until activated by the brush of a finger.

Electrolux

Electrolux. Designed to team with the company's corresponding wall oven series, the 1.1-cubic-foot built-in Professional high-speed oven can handle just about any daily cooking task. More than a microwave/convection, this version forces super-heated air around food at ultra-high speeds then uses microwaves to halve cooking time. To keep the technology discreet, Wave-Touch controls appear dormant until activated by the brush of a finger. 877-435-3287. www.electroluxusa.com.

At 4.7 cubic feet, the 30-inch 800 series wall oven is among the largest on the market. Available as a single or double, or paired with a microwave, this top-of-the-line model features an easy-to-operate glass touchpanel with 16 cooking modes, significantly faster pre-heat and self-clean times, and genuine European convection for faster, more even results.

Bosch

Bosch. At 4.7 cubic feet, the 30-inch 800 series wall oven is among the largest on the market. Available as a single or double, or paired with a microwave, this top-of-the-line model features an easy-to-operate glass touchpanel with 16 cooking modes, significantly faster pre-heat and self-clean times, and genuine European convection for faster, more even results. 800-921-9622. www.boschappliances.com.

Complete with 20 pre-programmed recipes that automatically set time and temperature, 27- and 30-inch Masterpiece convection ovens come in multiple single, double, and even triple configurations combining microwave, thermal, and warming capabilities. Features include a 4.7-cubic-foot capacity, speed preheat, self-cleaning, plus large full-text displays to control 16 cooking modes.

Thermador

Thermador. Complete with 20 pre-programmed recipes that automatically set time and temperature, 27- and 30-inch Masterpiece convection ovens come in multiple single, double, and even triple configurations combining microwave, thermal, and warming capabilities. Features include a 4.7-cubic-foot capacity, speed preheat, self-cleaning, plus large full-text displays to control 16 cooking modes. 800-656-9226. www.thermador.com.

Claiming to be just about idiot-proof, double and single MasterChef wall ovens are also installation-friendly due to the Precision stainless steel trim kit that makes for a smooth integration with the collection's built-in convection steam and speed ovens, as well as coffee systems. The convection steam oven features a food-driven menu system and requires no special plumbing. The speed oven utilizes microwave and convection cooking modes or combinations of the two to reduce cooking times by as much as two-thirds, the company says.

Miele

Miele. Claiming to be just about idiot-proof, double and single MasterChef wall ovens are also installation-friendly due to the Precision stainless steel trim kit that makes for a smooth integration with the collection's built-in convection steam and speed ovens, as well as coffee systems. The convection steam oven features a food-driven menu system and requires no special plumbing. The speed oven utilizes microwave and convection cooking modes or combinations of the two to reduce cooking times by as much as two-thirds, the company says. 800-843-7231. www.miele.com.

Architect Series II 30-inch wall ovens with steam-assist technology bring a cooking technique favored by professional chefs into the home. Functions include auto steam and convection modes as well as manual settings. An EasyConvect time and temperature conversion system converts traditional recipes to ease the transition.

KitchenAid

KitchenAid.Architect Series II 30-inch wall ovens with steam-assist technology bring a cooking technique favored by professional chefs into the home. Functions include auto steam and convection modes as well as manual settings. An EasyConvect time and temperature conversion system converts traditional recipes to ease the transition. 800-334-6889. www.kitchenaid.com.

Don't let the hearth-shaped retro profile and trendy finishes fool you; 30-inch double and single Speedcook wall ovens are as smart as they come. Said to cook up to 15 times faster than the norm via superheated Airspeed technology and microwaves, each model includes an intuitive CookWheel control with seven Speedcook modes, a Cook Navigator that allows users to select food type and portion size, and a simple LCD screen.

TurboChef

TurboChef. Don't let the hearth-shaped retro profile and trendy finishes fool you; 30-inch double and single Speedcook wall ovens are as smart as they come. Said to cook up to 15 times faster than the norm via superheated Airspeed technology and microwaves, each model includes an intuitive CookWheel control with seven Speedcook modes, a Cook Navigator that allows users to select food type and portion size, and a simple LCD screen. 866-543-6569. www.turbochef.com.