When buying a countertop convection oven, there are many things that go into the purchase and decision as to which unit to select. Whether you are on the fence as to whether or not to buy a countertop convection oven or if you have decided you’re ready to buy one, read on for a comprehensive guide to all of the considerations and things to look at when buying a countertop convection oven.
Why Buy a Countertop Convection Oven?
There has been a recent rise in interest in and sales of countertop convection ovens. In their earlier days, countertop convection ovens were often seen in small kitchens and apartments, but the quickly spread to households around the world big and small alike. This is because they’re incredibly versatile, have a wide variety of uses, and have myriad benefits.
Many countertop convection ovens cook foods in a variety of methods. They can warm, toast, bake, broil, steam and sear foods. In general, cook times tend to be 25-30% shorter than a typical oven, making meals quicker and saving users on energy both in terms of time used and the size of the oven that must be heated.
Because foods cook more quickly, foods can be cooked with fewer or no fats or oils. The ovens use convected heat to sear the outside of foods, trapping moisture within and cooking items from all sides. The convection piece circulates the heated air within the oven to heat foods on all sides evenly, resulting in an extremely even cooking pattern, eliminating cold spots and burn spots.
When cooking for larger crowds or when cooking more elaborate meals, some owners use a countertop convection oven as “overflow” cook space or even a place to keep dishes warm before serving. Some sharp, enterprising owners strategically seek out and purchase a countertop convection oven that has a top that warms when the unit is in use, effectively giving them another warming surface for a dish.
The increased use of countertop convection ovens has come about for a number of reasons, each personal to the owner. But the overall reason for the increased ownership and usage is the versatility of the countertop convection oven and its ability to satisfy a wide variety of needs.
Begin with the End in Mind
Once you’ve decided to purchase a countertop convection oven, there are many things to consider before rushing out to the store. First, give weighty consideration to where you intend to place the countertop convection oven. Is there a small nook you want to tuck the oven in on your counter? Do you want to set it in an open area? Will you be placing the oven on a counter space under cabinets? What type of material will be behind the countertop oven? What types of foods or meals to you intend to prepare the most? How else will you use the oven?
These all need careful consideration before selecting an oven because most of these factors will help narrow the field of ovens that will suit your needs. If you want to put your countertop convection oven in a covered nook with a door on it, you will want to think about a few factors including will an oven that heats the top of the unit work in that space? Also, you will want to think about how the crumb/ drip tray is cleaned. If the oven has a removable tray that can only be pulled out from the rear, this will likely not work well in a covered nook. Also, if you intend to use an oven to steam and it will reside under or within wood cabinets, the steam will cause damage to the wood cabinetry over time.
If you have low cabinets that the countertop convection oven will sit under, think about whether you intend to use a heated top of the oven as extra warming space. If so, will your cooking dishes fit between the oven and the bottom of the cabinets?
Thinking about how you will use the oven is critical as well. If you intend to buy a countertop convection oven to sear and broil meats, which many people do in lieu of grilling during the less inclement weather months, look at the surfaces the oven will be around. For example, having painted sheetrock or wallpaper behind the oven may not be good as the heat can cause damage over time. If the location you intend to place the oven already has a tiled backsplash, that might be a better material to hold up to the oven’s heat over time.
Look at your Daily Life to Inform the Choice
Think about the foods you intend to cook in your countertop convection oven most frequently also in terms of oven capacity. If you have a large family and want to be able to cook full- sized pizzas, know those internal dimensions that you minimally need before you go shopping. Better yet, if you have a really large family and need the capacity to cook two full sized pizzas at once on two racks, this narrows the possibilities even further. Know what your needs and dimensions for the internal cooking area before you go to the store.
Finally, think about the way you live. Do you cook casseroles? Do you enjoy baking? Do you hate hand washing dishes? These answers any many, many more should play into the selection of your countertop convection oven.
Some ovens have nice and deep cooking areas to accommodate casserole pans and are set up with the factory settings to do so easily. Other ovens are excellent for baking breads and pastries and even come with the right pans to do so. Yet others have all removable racks and pans that are dishwasher friendly.
Look at a Variety of Styles and Options
After you’ve determined the needs the countertop convection oven must meet within your kitchen space, your cooking styles, your lifestyle and any other considerations, it’s important to look at a wide variety of oven styles, designs, manufacturers and features. There are far more options available for sale today than most people can imagine exist.
When most people envision a countertop convection oven, they think about a unit similar in nature to a toaster oven, but more the size of a microwave oven. While this “toaster style” convection oven is by far the most commonly seen on the market, other options exist that compete very well amongst top convection ovens and exceed most of the toaster style ovens in performance on several cooking tasks.
The Halogen- powered glass dish ovens, such as the VonShef 12.5 Quart Premium Countertop Convection Oven come to mind as an alternative style that not only looks great, but performs very well. This model along with several others consist of a heavy glass walled dish top which sits a metal gasket and cooking unit. The cooking unit includes a high powered halogen bulb and a fan to circulate the heat the bulb generates.
This style oven has become increasingly popular because it’s incredibly efficient. The halogen bulb heats up close to instantly, so there’s no need for preheating the unit. Owners simply place foods to be cooked in the glass dish, flip the switch on and let the oven work its magic.
These halogen powered glass dish ovens are perfect for meats as the fast, hot air sears meats on the outside and traps moisture inside, resulting in incredibly tender meats without added fat. Most of these units come with a meat rack that the food sits atop so that if oils and fats drip off the meat, it actually is left at the bottom of the glass dish rather than being cooked into the bottom of the food.
This style countertop convection oven is also particularly adept at steaming foods. They’re an excellent way to steam vegetables, rice, fish and much more. If you are someone who loves steamed foods, this could be the right oven for you. But as mentioned above, before rushing out to buy one of these ovens, look at where the oven will be placed and the potential impacts on your kitchen in terms of cabinetry, walls and more.
Owners of this style oven rave about the ease of cleaning as well. For most of these ovens, after removing all foods, you simply turn the oven back on to a cleaning mode and the bulb heats the remaining contents up to extremely high temperatures. Once the cleaning heat cycle is done, you simply wipe the glass clean with a paper towel. They’re amazingly simple to keep clean and maintain. Much of the other implements are either dishwasher safe or hand- washable.
Even a toaster style countertop convection oven has a wide variety of features that can make choosing one particular unit quite difficult. Once you get beyond the internal cooking dimensions and the size of the unit to fit your kitchen, there is so much more that needs consideration.
First, look at the range of settings that the oven has. Can it just toast and bake? Can it broil and roast? Can it do all of the above plus steam and sear? This is where looking at your lifestyle, cooking trends and your intended use of the item will come into play. If you need something simple to cook pizzas and toast bread, you will have many, many options available to you. If you want something capable of baking breads, steaming fish and vegetables, roasting a whole chicken, searing steaks and broiling dishes, there will be fewer options to choose from.
Think about your tolerance for technology. Some of the countertop convection ovens on the market today are extremely modern appearing and high- tech with LCD displays and single push button programmed cook settings. Yet others have remained relatively easy to operate with several toggle switches that allow the user to turn a knob to a certain temperature setting and turn another knob to a time setting. When selecting an oven, know your preferences as well as those of the other people in your household that will need to cook with the oven. While a stainless steel countertop convection oven with LCD backlit display and factory preset cooking settings may look extremely modern and sleek, if nobody will be able to figure out how to use it without pulling out the instruction manual, it may not be the best choice for your household.
After shopping and looking at the various styles, manufacturers and features, there is still one critical step to take to make your decision on which countertop convection oven to purchase for your home. This is a step than many people skip, but can tell you so much about how well an oven will work for you and often times, it can tell you a lot about how the company handles defects, issues, and returns.
Take some time to research product reviews thoroughly and at more than one source. Many people first turn to Amazon for product reviews. This can be an excellent source of information about products, but if an item has fewer than five reviews, it may not be a very good representation of users’ experiences with a particular company or model. Often Amazon reviews focus more on the service that was received by the seller or Amazon themselves. Be sure to read all Amazon reviews carefully to ensure that any feedback on the product, positive or negative, is actually a reflection of the product and the manufacturer, not just Amazon or the third party vendor.
There are many other sources of user reviews on countertop convection ovens. To find them, simply search for “countertop convection oven reviews” online and search from several products from there. There are several sites that compile user reviews that aren’t associated with the sales of the ovens. These sites are more likely to give true reviews of the countertop convection ovens and the manufacturer rather than just focusing on the customer service aspect of shipping and receiving.
The biggest value in reading these reviews is that many reviewers leave excellent specifics about products. They will say things such as, “I love the crumb tray that is removable from the front and can be placed in the dishwasher.” Or something like, “The best feature is that when you open the front door of this convection oven, magnets actually pull the rack halfway out of the oven to prevent you from getting burns on your hands.” You even read reviews that may things such as, “The knobs worked great for six months, then fell off. I was able to super- glue them back on and they’re working fine.”
Sometimes reviewers will give insight into the company in their reviews as well. If there is something that isn’t working correctly and they contact the company and get a favorable response, they’re likely to note that in a review. On the flipside, if they contact a company about a defect and get a negative response or no response at all, they are even more likely to share that in a review. Reading reviews over time can tell you if the product has recurring defects and how the customers and company overcomes that. It can be extremely useful information to know before going to the store and is often a way to rule out some of the models that you’re considering.
Your New Oven
Once you’ve selected and purchased your new countertop convection oven, it’s time to get it set up and ready to go in your kitchen. Be sure to read all of the safety warnings and operating instructions. Also, it’s important to clean any of the racks and pans that come with the oven prior to cooking in or on them.
Often manufacturers advise running a countertop convection oven for a prescribed amount of time to burn off any trace chemical fumes and compounds that may still be on the interior of the unit. It’s advisable to cook those compounds off without food in the unit. Once done, your unit is likely ready to use. It’s time to create your first meal.
Using your Oven Efficiently in Everyday Life
Your countertop convection oven really can be used to supplement your standard oven, but in many cases, new owners find that it replaces their standard oven in daily use. These smaller versions are often able to accomplish as much as a standard oven in less time and using less energy. Think about the last time you cooked a meal using more than one rack in your standard oven. For many families, this only happens on holidays and maybe when company comes to visit. Having the ability to cook the same meals with greater efficiency is a very powerful thing.
Many busy parents rave about the speed with which a meal can be prepared and cooked. With schedules being as hectic as they are nowadays, having a way to cook a tasty, healthy meal in a fraction of the time is a huge benefit.
As you ease into using your countertop convection oven, start by preparing some meals that you normally prepare in a standard oven. If necessary, adjust recipe size to accommodate the smaller unit but in some cases, you may not have to even do so. Experiment with the recipes to reduce the amount of oils and fats that must be added to see if they are as tasty without in your new convection oven as they are with using the normal recipe in a standard oven.
One recommendation is to always try some of the recipes provided by the manufacturer with the countertop oven. These are generally “tried and true” recipes that are designed to showcase the new oven’s abilities in terms of speed, taste and quality of the final product.
Finally, seek out recipes specifically for a countertop convection oven online. See if you can find recipes for meals or dishes you have normally prepared another way altogether. All of these suggestions are ways that you can test the capabilities of your new countertop convection oven and see what it can best be used for in your home.
Maintaining your Oven
The key to a long- living countertop convection oven is keeping it well maintained. One of the best ways to do this is to clean all cooking surfaces, attachments and implements after every use. This includes emptying any drip trays and crumb trays. Drips and food left in the oven will result in burns on the cooking surfaces and ultimately, can lead to scorched food smells when the oven is cooking foods, leading to ruined meals. Keeping the oven clean from the start will ensure that it has a long, useful life in your kitchen.
Inspecting your dishes and cookware prior to cooking in your oven can help reduce this as well. If you look at your dishes and pans before cooking and clean up any drips and spills on the underside of the cooking pans, this reduces the amount of drips and spills that even enter your oven. These are very easy tasks to do each and every time that can literally extend the life of your countertop convection oven by years.
A countertop convection oven can really begin as a solution to one problem and end up solving many problems as is the case for many households. Always be willing to try new things and you will find the best applications for your countertop convection oven that also serves your family’s needs. If ever in doubt as to the performance of your particular make and model, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer for guidance. They are always willing to answer questions and offer advice to customers and oven owners. Always remember: if you take care of your countertop convection oven, it will take care of you for many years to come.