Flippers and developers use what’s worked successfully in the past. People who renovate their own homes love looking for new cool things. If you’re like me, using the same item twice is almost lazy. The only pieces I’ve used before in my latest renovation are a Bosch dishwasher (they’re just good) and a Grohe Ladylux kitchen faucet (For the record, no, I don’t feel like a lady – lux or otherwise – when I use it).
There are always new cool things to use and live with. Sometimes we renovators see new things that leave us scratching our heads. Sometimes those scratches turn to “Eureka!” and sometimes to “What the *#%*?”
Eureka! Neff Slide & Hide Oven Doors
One of the main features I love about Gaggenau ovens is the side-swing doors (now available on Bosch ovens in the USA). Gaggenau sister brand Neff (available in Europe; especially in the UK) has created “Slide & Hide” oven doors. The oven door can open normally but if the handle is lifted, the hinge disengages to allow the door to lay flat and be tucked away into a cavity under the oven. The hinge is a smooth glide a little like soft close drawers on today’s cabinetry.
At first I thought this was odd and sort of useless. But as was pointed out in a previous column, thinking of the handicapped made me reevaluate. Tucking the door completely away allows access from both sides of the oven as well as directly in front of the oven cavity. This can be handy for people in wheelchairs or those that require two sets of hands to pull that turkey out of the oven.
The only downside I see is temperature control. With the whole door removed, heat loss has to be pretty significant. I’m not sure how much more it is versus a traditional door, but it’s something to factor into a recipe.
Oh, another downside is that, for now, this innovation is not available in the US market.
What the *#%*? Gaggenau Lift Oven / Siemens Liftmatic
Back in 2007, the world saw the Gaggenau Lift Oven and in Europe the Siemens Liftmatic (FYI: Gaggenau and Siemens are part of the same appliance consortium along with Bosch, Thermador, Neff and others). With an elevator built into an oven, it looks very Jetsons, but my instant reaction was “What the *#%*?” Even factoring in potential handicapped use, I still don’t get it. Like the answer to a question no one asked, this is the oven for people who don’t cook. But it sure looks cool, right?
From an engineering perspective, it’s got a lot going for it. Heat rises. When the oven floor lowers, heat is maintained in the oven. The example given by Siemens stated that if a traditional oven door is opened for 15 seconds, the temperature of a 400-degree oven nearly drops in half (it’s quickly recovered by heat stored in oven walls). Conversely, when the Lift Oven is opened for 15 seconds, temperatures drop just 75-degrees.
In 2009, the oven got a facelift with sleeker controls. But is also received a substantial price hike – rarely a winning strategy for a slow-moving product. The oven was discontinued a few short years later. Steeply discounted examples of the Gaggenau version can still be found occasionally on eBay (the Siemens version was never sold in the US).
What the *#%*? Caple C5100 Lift Oven / Fulgor Hidden Oven
Another pair of sister companies, Italians Caple and Fulgor, were united by Fulgor’s acquisition by Italian cooking maker Meneghetti (TMI?). Cross pollination ensued resulting in these futuristic lift ovens.
Italians are known for doing things stylishly and differently, in this case whereas the Germans built an oven that drops down to the kitchen counter, the Italians thought elevating up from within the counter was the answer (to that same unasked question).
With its glass shelves, allowing viewing throughout the oven, it really does have the WOW-factor all locked up. However, practically it doesn’t work for me. Cooks can’t view the food without raising the oven. Also, opening the oven has to bleed off considerable heat from the cavity.
Design aside, it’s a pretty normal oven with 12 cooking functions, touchscreens and grilling and broiler functions. But I’d never buy it as an oven. I’d install it in an island and use it as the sexiest warming drawer for party appetizers to WOW the guests. At around $2,200, it’s a relatively inexpensive statement piece…oh, and you’d need to have it shipped from Europe.
What the *#%*? Siemens iQ500
This is a pretty plain-Jane oven – except for that drawer-like door. It’s a Euro-small 24” wide oven with a touchscreen display, self-cleaning and all the typical bells and whistles found in a medium-priced $2,000 oven (€1,754.00). But that door? What’s up with that? I have no idea what the point is. How having the door remain vertical when open seems a recipe for burning the cook. As near as I can tell, this is only available in Europe, but I don’t think it will take very long for it to join the Liftmatic on the scrap heap.
Eureka-maybe? French Door Wall Ovens
Just as swing-door ovens allow unencumbered access to the oven cavity, these French Door models promise the same. Also, because the oven door is split in half, marketing departments claim it’s a solution for tighter spaces. However, I don’t think this is completely accurate.
A swing-door oven allows unencumbered access from the front and side of the oven. With a French Door oven, the cook can only access the oven cavity straight-on. This may negate the space saving aspect. You’d need the space from the outer edge of the oven cavity to the end of the open door (15” -ish) … plus the depth of the oven’s telescoping racks … plus the width of the cook standing in front. I make that to be about 50” from the oven cabinet … not exactly a tight space. Compare that to swing-doors that need 30” if the cook is standing to the side of the oven opening. Even a traditional bottom hinge oven door allows side access to the oven meaning it also needs only about 30” of space in front of it at bare minimum.
I think this is another instance where makers bring something new to market just to have something new. It plays into the “professional chef” movement that posits that home cooks would have better results with professional tools. In decades past, home chefs were saddled with inferior home equipment (Julia Child helped change that). This is not the case today.
French Door ovens have been in professional kitchens for decades by companies like Blodgett. But an oven is essentially a box that maintains a stable temperature for long periods. Door configurations have little impact on this basic concept.
Eureka-Future! Electrolux Sous Vide cooking system
Sous Vide is another French term meaning “under vacuum.” It’s a method of cooking foods in airtight plastic bags for longer periods with ovens set at serving temperature (say 130-140 degrees). When cooking at serving temperature, foods can’t be over cooked. Foods also won’t dry out because of their airtight containers and heats less than boiling points. Foods can either be heated in water baths or steam ovens (sorta like poaching). Originally “invented” in 1799 by British physicist Benjamin Thompson it was lost/ignored until the mid-1960s when American and French chefs rediscovered the method.
For the past several years, companies like Electrolux and others have been attempting to move the technology out of the professional kitchen (where it’s used more extensively than you’d think) and into the home. The reasons are obvious. Novice cooks can make a perfect meal every time. Food manufacturers can create restaurant quality meals precooked in sealed plastic bags sold in supermarkets.
The Electrolux model (available in Europe) includes the steam oven and a vacuum sealer so that accomplished home cooks can package their creations for later. Many other makers, including Gaggenau, Wolf, Miele and Thermador offer steam ovens in the US. If sous vide is like induction cooking, it may take a decade or more to become mainstream in the USA. For some reason, we’re kinda slow to catch on.
The “What the *#%@?” of “What the *#%@?”: CDA Designer Built-in Ovens
Alligator-clad oven? How about leather-clad? No? Maybe snakeskin? UK maker CDA has shown them as part of their custom range.
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