By Kyle D. Mirka, Owner and Sales Manager
Whether you have a built-in wall oven, or a range that houses your oven and cooking surface together, you have an oven cavity that is either heated by electricity or some type of petroleum like natural gas or liquid propane. While it is quite common to find entire markets that are almost all electric because of the lack of natural gas, the greater Anchorage area is very much a gas market. With that said, it doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Let’s talk for a minute about the difference in performance and then we’ll discuss the products that are available to fit your preference.
Electric ovens use metal heating elements capable of high temperatures that cause the element to glow red-hot. One element is generally found either on the floor of the oven or underneath the floor of the oven, in the case of a ‘hidden’ bake element. Secondly there is one on the top of the oven, commonly called the ‘broil’ element. And lastly, if in true a convection oven, a third element, which is circular and housed around the fan at the back of the oven cavity.
Electric ovens provide a tighter variance of temperature fluctuations because the heating element holds a great deal of heat even when no wattage is given to it. Therefore, when the oven calls for heat again to maintain the desired temperature, the element reaches its potential temp extremely fast. It also means that it can be turned off by the oven more quickly which maintains that tighter variance.
Gas ovens use a tube burner that is ignited by either a spark igniter or a small electric glow bar that gets hot just like the above-mentioned electric elements and ignites the gas when it reaches that intense heat. Those tubes exist under the floor of the oven for your bake functions. Your broil burner is typically a tube style burner as well, but in higher-end products, the broil elements are infrared burners where flames are distributed over a metal mesh or ceramic type mesh. This broiler style is very intense and covers a large area providing amazing results.
Gas ovens will have a greater variance of temperature fluctuations because the burner is either on or off – it’s not going to hold on to heat in between. The heat that a burner produces is also naturally convective, which simply means the heat is flowing around the oven, increasing it’s potential for hot and cold spots.
But don’t let me paint an all-bad picture of the gas oven – it’s actually what I own personally. Gas has its pluses too. The byproduct of igniting gas is moisture – it occurs naturally and can be great for baking. And while temperature variance is greater than electric, there is not a night & day difference in results. Great food is produced from gas ovens all over the United States everyday!
So now we’ve come to the part about products. Can you have the best of both worlds? Yep – the dual fuel range has an electric oven for baking and broiling, and a gas top for cooking. Another way to have the best of both worlds is to purchase a gas cooktop and then a separate electric wall oven.
A fun fact is that gas wall ovens are rare, with mainstream manufacturers only producing them in tiny sizes to replace old makes produced many decades ago, and a couple of less common brands who currently produce high end gas wall ovens. Other than those couple exceptions, wall ovens are most often electric.
No matter what your choice is, or what you inherit from the previous homeowner – I feel confident you’ll be able to produce the culinary masterpiece that is on the cover of your favorite cookbook, or just brown the frozen pizza from Costco – whichever sounds more appealing.