While speaking with Ken Pieper, residential designer, Ken Pieper & Associates in Denver, the conversation became focused on appliances and their roles in kitchen design. We agreed on several counts, the main two being: 1) Interviewing clients for lifestyle issues and appliance use was the No. 1 priority, and; 2) A designer cannot complete a kitchen without finalizing No. 1.

Through studies of average-size households, we have discovered that 75 percent of cooking is on the top of the range/cooktop and 25 percent is in the oven. Features in today’s ovens, therefore, need to address how homeowners will use them.


Today’s standard range is economical, whether it’s residential-style or professional, by combining the cooking surface and oven into one unit. As obvious as that sounds, these units typically are loaded with more features than some built-in or stand-alone ovens.

Oven Features

Following is a list of oven features that address healthy cooking, better results, worry-free baking/roasting and easy cleanup:

  • Hidden Bake Element. Whether it’s a ribbon radiant element or calrod element on the oven floor, this provides easier cleanup especially in the case of a spillover.
  • Glass-covered Broiler Element. It could be infrared (like you see on outdoor rotisserie grills or some indoor grills) or a calrod element with six to eight loops.
  • Electrical Element. This could surround the convection fan, and sometimes is referred to as true convection. This increases the flow of hot air around food for even cooking results.
  • Full-extension Shelf Glides. These are on ball bearings for easier removal of heavy pans and foods.
  • Temperature Probes. Built-in probes replace old-fashioned meat thermometers.
  • Porcelain Rack Guides or Shelves. No need to be removed in self-clean mode.
  • Better Lighting. Whether it be halogen or LED lighting devices, these are being paired with bigger door windows for better vision.
  • Precise Temperature Control. Advanced technology and digital readouts provide the ability to better control temperatures at lower levels. The addition of convection fans to the preheat mode has some brands boasting “No preheat time.”
  • Porcelain Interiors. High-quality blue porcelain interiors prevent food from sticking, as well as enhance aesthetics.
  • Steam-Assist. Units with this feature provide a hotter cavity, and allow moisture to help refresh leftovers. It also creates crustier breads.
  • Touch-Screen Control Panels. Some can be hidden when not in use. These touch screens can store up to 220 recipes to be retrieved at one’s fingertips. A help button on several ovens gives tips to users.

Specialty Ovens

Microwave ovens can be picked up for less than $100. However, an entirely new category combines a basic microwave with convection/thermal capabilities or steam.

Speed ovens, as we call them, truly are the answer to today’s lifestyle challenges. Taking it a step further, the jet-direct oven involves high-speed air cooking. Some manufacturers combine the oven with a microwave and warming drawer all in one large chassis.

Side-hinged ovens for the aging-in-place crowd are an ergonomic convenience. French-door ovens are hitting store shelves as well. One oven unit houses two to four individual ovens that can cook at different temperatures.
Warming drawers are considered ovens, and allow for more moisture to be kept in prepared food. They’re also good for warming plates, while some include cooking modes.

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