A Buyer’s Guide to Countertop
One of the hottest appliances on the market today is the countertop convection oven. This smaller version of a standard oven has many attractive benefits including the size, the ability to cook foods quicker, being more energy efficient, and allowing foods to be cooked healthier without sacrificing taste.
For some people, a countertop convection oven is the only oven that they can or will own. For others, it’s a complimentary item to their kitchen that gives them flexibility and versatility. Regardless of the reason, there are many different types and styles of countertop convection ovens that meet a wide variety of personal needs. Read on for more information about the evolution of the countertop convection oven, some of the features found in a variety of models, and some tips for using and maintaining your own oven.
History of the Oven
Ovens have been around much longer than most people think, albeit in a different form than the modern day version. Early ovens date back to about 29,000 BC and were primarily located in Central Europe. These ovens were used to roast and boil mammoth inside yurts. As ovens progressed and evolved, they became more versatile to where they could be used to cook food or to cook bricks for building.
The Evolution of the Oven
Since the time of the mammoths, ovens have evolved and improved significantly. Front- loading bread ovens were originally developed and improved in ancient Greece. During the Middle Ages, a system similar to today’s Dutch Oven was used for cooking. In the early 1800’s, cast iron coal ovens were invented and used most commonly. The first gas stove was patented in 1826 and rose in popularity as gas lines were routed to more homes.
Electric ovens were invented in the late 1800’s. They have improved significantly since to include the creation of the microwave oven in 1946. The main focus of developing oven technology today is to create more energy efficient ovens that cook food more quickly and at a variety of settings while providing a type of heat that cooks meat in a more healthy way for the user.
The Rise in use of the Countertop Convection Oven
As countertop convection ovens have been developed and improved, their use has increased along the way. This is primarily because of the many benefits to using a countertop convection oven. Meats and foods cooked in a countertop convection oven are cooked more quickly using very hot air that is circulated over the item being cooked. Cook times average 25-30% less than in a conventional oven. This results in more tender and juicier meats, less oil and fats in dishes and fewer nutrients destroyed by a long cooking process.
Countertop convection ovens cook foods in a wide variety of ways. They can be used to warm, bake, roast, sear and broil foods to name just a few. In doing so, countertop convection ovens use much less energy to accomplish the task than does a conventional oven.
Countertop Convection Oven Impacts on Health and Quality of Life
The method countertop convection ovens use to cook foods intrinsically results in healthier, safer foods. A convection oven uses an internal fan to circulate evenly heated air across the entire cooking surface inside the oven. This results in evenly and quickly cooked foods.
Standard ovens can often cook foods unevenly, resulting in patches within a dish where the food may not be fully cooked. This is because of the lack of circulation. In a traditional oven, the heat generally is applied from the bottom or the top with the understanding that heat will rise. But the coils and/ or heat vents aren’t evenly spaced and the same amount of heat isn’t applied to the top. It’s not uncommon to pull a dish out of a conventional oven that is burned on the bottom, but barely cooked on the top.
In contrast, the moving and heated air in a convection oven reaches all sides of the item or the dish and evenly cooks the outside and towards the inside of the item. This same principle gives healthier, tastier foods. The circulated air in a convection oven sears meats on the outside, trapping the juices and moisture inside the cut of meat. Breads, pastries, cookies and other items are tastier because liquids in the butters steam out quickly and the air cooks all items equally for consistent taste in the entire batch.
Structural Basics of the Countertop Convection Oven
When countertop convection ovens first came on the market, almost all looked like a large toaster oven or a smaller version of a microwave oven. While many still maintain that general appearance, that style oven isn’t always the case. Here is a bit about the styles of convection oven and the structural basics to help inform consumer’s decisions when shopping for an oven to meet their needs.
The most common style countertop convection oven is still the toaster oven style countertop convection oven. These typically have a glass door for easy viewing of the dish being cooked and a door that hinges downward to easily get items in and out of the oven.
There are a few items to be aware of when choosing from this style of oven. First, how large are the cooking dimensions? A good gauge is the diameter of pizza that can be cooked in the oven or how many slices of bread can go on the rack. Next, can the oven accommodate more than one rack to cook more than one item at a time? Another consideration that should go into the buying process is whether the top of the unit heats up when in use or not. In short, some ovens do and some ovens don’t. If you know you need the room for storage and it should not get hot, be sure to consider this when shopping for your oven.
There are a wide variety of display types as well. Some are digital LCD displays with easy preprogrammed cooking settings. Others are very simple and sleek with temperature and time toggles. Be sure when shopping for your countertop convection oven that you have a clear idea how you would like to use the oven and be sure that they oven you choose can do that task, whether it’s broil meat, bake bread, warm leftovers, or something else.
Another countertop oven style that is gaining popularity is the heavy glass cooking dish with an efficient cooking unit that fits atop the glass oven. These are an excellent way to cook meats in a way that is tasty and very healthy. They’re also very easy to operate, maintain, and keep clean. They look very sleek and contemporary and for a modern kitchen and a modern chef, this type of countertop convection oven could be a great choice.
Cleaning, Maintaining and Using Your Oven for Maximum Efficiency
When selecting your countertop convection oven, be sure to look at the maintenance and cleaning instructions to see if it will meet your needs. Some ovens come with racks and pans that cannot be put in the dishwasher but must be handwashed. Some ovens come with a self- cleaning feature and an easy to remove crumb pan. Others have a crumb pan that must be emptied from the back of the oven. Make sure to look at the cleaning instructions and consider how the oven will work in your kitchen.
Glass bowl convection ovens are the easiest to clean. They have a self- cleaning setting that runs for a preset time. Owners then simply wipe the glass bowl and put any other implements in the dishwasher.
Many of the front door style countertop convection ovens have a similar self- cleaning setting that require the oven to run a certain amount of time, then just require a wipe down and any racks or pans to be washed separately.
A countertop convection oven can be a great addition to any kitchen as it adds versatility, extra cooking space, an energy efficient cooking option or just a healthier way to cook everyday meals. With a little research and consideration into the various features and extras on some of the top countertop convection ovens, you can soon select the right oven to suit your needs