Complete Guide To Ovens

Cooking succulent meats, casseroles and desserts to perfection is not an activity strictly limited to the traditional kitchen oven. Today’s cook can choose from a variety of eclectic ovens that meet an array of modern cooking needs. Some are brick, while others are metal. Some are beloved as slow cookers while others are praised for cooking speed. Some ovens double as room heaters while others are environmentally friendly and avoid the use of electricity and gas.

Microwave Oven

Since microwaves cook food 30 percent faster than traditional ovens, they are coveted by those who desire speedy, convenient and extemporaneous cooking. They have no physically hot hardware since actual fire and heating elements are replaced with radiation. This substitute makes the microwave a safer kitchen bet for children and teens that gravitate toward microwaves for morning and after-school snacks. Large, medium, and small offerings are available to meet the limits of any kitchen space. Buyers can choose a countertop microwave or a style known as a microhood, which mounts over a traditional oven and doubles as a hood. The last consideration is the range of power available, which typically spans from three to five power levels.

Convection Oven

Convection ovens can bake and broil like traditional kitchen ovens, only faster and in a smaller space. They can also grill and steam multiple foods at the same time, offering a way to cook whole meals in less time. These ovens use fans to circulate radiant heat around all sides of the food while still maintaining the natural oils and moisture in the food. Convection ovens are particularly useful in cooking meats and generally come with rotisserie options. If side dishes are placed alongside foods, flavors are not comingled. While convections ovens conveniently come in different sizes including a portable size, the inconveniences are that they are bulky, very hot to the touch, and need time to preheat. 

Microwave/Convection Oven Combination

A twin to the microwave oven, microwave/convection ovens also use radiation to cook meat and other foods. However, unlike their rival, they have the ability to not only cook fast but to broil, bake, roast, brown and faux fry meat – something microwaves cannot do. This is possible because convection ovens use fans to circulate heat around all sides of the food. Convection ovens offer a two-for-one deal: they come with the ability to act simply as microwaves without using the additional convection options. You’ll pay for this convenience however; Convection microwaves are much more expensive.

Dutch Oven

A Dutch oven is a large metal kettle which is used to cook over an open flame. They are usually made of cast iron, but can also be purchased in aluminum. While they can be used at campsites over a log fire or on the barbecue, many cooks simply use these ovens on their kitchen stoves. Most Dutch ovens come with a handle and lid. Some have lids with curved lips that are capable of holding charcoals. This large vat is mostly used for stews, soups, chilies, and beans, but can also cook casseroles and rice or noodle dishes.

Masonry Oven

Named after the ancient masonry practice of laying bricks and stones, a masonry oven is a brick- lined or stone-lined oven. These ovens, which also come in clay or concrete varieties, are built-in and fire-proof. The most familiar masonry oven is the old-fashioned pizza oven which one might see in a small, authentic Italian pizzeria. These ovens, which people often use for breads and pizza, are not just commercial. Many people are having them built into the home kitchens to serve as both fireplaces and cooking units. For those who don’t want the trouble of adding a chimney, there are also masonry ovens that can be constructed outside for recreational cooking.

Reflector Oven

A reflector oven is a relic of colonial days which many people reviving to use in contemporary outdoor settings. They are metal ovens similar to barrel barbecue pits that allow cooking over direct flame. These ovens, currently made mostly of aluminum, can fry, boil, and roast. The enclosed, small cooking chamber results in three types of heat being used simultaneously: convection, radiant, and direct. These ovens often come with a spit for skewering and roasting large meats and even whole pigs. Pans are generally kept under the meats to catch fat dripping that could fuel flare-ups.

Russian Oven
A Russian oven is a large brick or concrete built-in oven that doubles as a space and home heater. This appliance, which can often stretch the length of an entire room, first became popular in medieval times. These ovens may look like brick caves or simple masonry ovens from the outside, but inside is a unique labyrinthine design that traps heat allowing the oven to maintain steady temperature for a long period of time. They are often used for cooking desserts like pastries, pies, and cakes. However, meat, potpies, and other casserole-like dishes can be cooked inside. Contemporary Russian ovens are often custom-built in a convenient small size resembling a deep, square fireplace.

Solar Oven

A favorite of green energy enthusiasts, solar ovens use reflective panels to capture and reflect energy from the sun for cooking. Most solar ovens are built in a parabolic or box shape and use absolutely no gas or electricity. They do not cook food quickly but do cook food uniformly and can often match the cooking times of a traditional kitchen stove, as long as clouds don’t obscure the sun’s rays. Many cooks enjoy that solar-cooked food never burns – no matter how long you let it cook. The greatest caveats are that the oven is completely weather-dependent and must be used outdoors.

Wood-fired Oven

A wood-fired oven is any time of oven that allows a cook to heat food by using wood, such as red oak, hickory, or maple. Most people imagine the old cast-iron pot-belly stoves used in pioneer days and found in antique shops, however, there are up-to-date varieties. Wood-fired ovens are desirable because they allow the transfer of distinct wood flavors onto meats and other foods. These stoves, which use conduction and radiation to cook foods, can be installed in contemporary kitchens and double as a space or room heater. They are very popular in mountain and ski cabins or in places where people want a cost-efficient alternative to gas and electricity.

Regardless of the oven choice, the best style is the style that meets the cook’s most dire needs. In selecting an oven, one should consider kitchen space, time available for meals, and types of dishes that can be prepared with the oven. The type of fuel and whether that fuel is cost-effective and convenient should also be considered.

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