Tuesday, November 15, 2011

TKO Tuesday: Oven Saga

I am interrupting my posts on kitchen zones to discuss a vital part of the cooking and baking zones, the oven.  I had 4 new ovens within the first 2 1/2 years in my new kitchen, which is ridiculous.

Forgive the long story, but I want to include information that might be important or helpful to anyone...  And hopefully, it'll be the last time I have to write anything about it.

Oven #1:
Fisher & Paykel OD302SS
This was the oven I had my eye on during the entire time we were building our house.

Things that appealed to me in choosing it:
  • Retro-ish styling that 'spoke to me' 
  • Large windows 
  • Nice, halogen interior lighting that came on whenever the oven was on 
  • Knob controls instead of touch screen on black glass 
  • 10 cooking modes 
  • $3899 retail, but found one with full warranty on Ebay for $2100 + $400 shipping  (The store in Alabama who sold it couldn't have given me better help and customer service if they were down the block and knew me personally.)

Things I liked after using it:
  • Appreciation of the large windows and nice lighting 
  • Detailed user's manual  
  • It came with 4 cookie sheets and the nicest broiler pan set and rack. 
  • The useful variety of cooking modes for different purposes, like AeroPastry for pizza baking, AeroBake for one-rack convection, and TrueAero for multi-rack convection 
  • Excellent baking results because of accurate, consistent, and even temperatures

  • After owning it for about a year, I noticed the porcelain coating on the interior was pitting and chipping.  I don't know if it was caused by self-cleaning, but I noticed as I was wiping the oven after a self-clean.

  • Fisher & Paykel was quite friendly and willing to help.  After a report from a repair tech who looked at in person, they immediately offered me a new oven.  There was quite a problem finding a repair business who wanted to accept the new oven and do the switch.  The guys they found, though, were great, and it finally was accomplished.

Oven #2:
Built In Oven - Fisher & Paykel
Fisher & Paykel OB30DDEPX1 -- Fisher & Paykel had just changed their model style...Drastically.  Instead of the mostly stainless, retro-look, they now produced a contemporary style appliance with glowing red lights around the knobs and black glass doors with somewhat of a mirror finish.  Not my style at all.  But improvements included glide racks and a different color of porcelain in the interior, which I hoped would make a positive difference in its durability.

  • The glide racks, although not full-extension, operated very smoothly. 
  • It gave me the same excellent baking results...If anything, it was better than the prior oven. 
  • This one didn't have the cookie sheets, but I gained a 2nd broiler pan and rack set.  I still use them all the time.

  • It arrived without a particular knob that was essential in setting and operating the oven, and being such a new model, they had no spare parts.  They finally sent parts from a display model. 
  • They not only sent the knob, but the whole electronic mechanism.  This is when the repair tech found out it just floated behind the front panel. The bit of play in all the knobs, because of that, interfered with operation of the oven, and was a small, but fairly constant aggravation. 
  • I never became fond of the black, mirrored glass, which in our house, seemed always covered with smears and fingerprints.  Prince Inventive liked using it, however, to admire the development of his upper body muscles.  ;-)  
  • The darkened glass was harder to see through to keep track of baking progress. 
  • It eventually developed a similar problem with pitting/chipping porcelain. 

Resolution:  The company was in turmoil over financial issues and the ovens weren't in production at the moment, and they had no stock in reserve.  They might have worked to find me one if it weren't for the problem of finding service people in my area...So they did a 'buy back,' refunding my original $2100, but not the shipping cost.  It wasn't much with which to look for a new oven of the same baking quality...

Overall impression:
I could definitely recommend a Fisher & Paykel oven to others.  (Also, the DCS ovens, which are made my the same company.)  It's true that I had issues twice with the porcelain, but I haven't read of anyone else have the same problem with this brand of oven.  The oven performance was very good. The company seemed to stand behind their product well.  Not sure they dealt well with the repair companies, since the ones who did the first swap did not want to do the 2nd.  I would definitely warn any potential owner to check for ample authorized service in their area before buying.  The lack of it in our area is why I can never buy F&P again, and that's disappointing.

Oven #3:
Monogram ZET2PMSS

This oven was 'runner-up' to the F&P oven while we were building our house.  I actually preferred its styling, but it was lacking in other areas.  But after the F&P problems, I felt this was my next best choice. I was happy to find a display model on clearance, although it cost approximately $1200 more than my refund from Fisher and Paykel.

Attractive features:
  • Beefy, professional styling, and nice construction quality with good lighting and windows. 
  • Full-extension glide racks coated in porcelain so they could remain in the oven during self-clean. 
  • Ultra-quiet fans. 
  • A timer for each oven and a separate clock. (On the F&P there was only one timer, and while it was in operation, it took the place of the digital clock readout)

Negatives of which I was aware at purchase:
  • Fewer baking modes than in the F&P. 
  • Temperature adjustments in 25 degree increments. 
  • This oven was a few inches taller, overall, than the Fisher & Paykel ovens, so Hubby had to restructure the cabinet and reduce the depth of my nice drawer below.  
  • Not the most helpful user's manual.  Compared to the F&P manual, which had helpful charts and suggestions for preparing all sorts of meats and baked goods, this one fell very short.  The only discussion of pizza is about preparing frozen pizzas. 

Major performance problems:
  • The glide racks were so bulky, only 2 fit in the oven at a time even though it came with 3...and there were only 5 possible rack positions, as opposed to 13 in the original F&P and 8 in the 2nd.   Since I felt that positions 1 and 5 were too close to the elements, this left only 3, and that made it difficult to use even 2 racks at a time.
  • The special "GE reverse-air convection technology" did not achieve even browning and even temperatures. 
  • The oven did not recover to set temperature quickly after the door was open, so that when doing things like pizzas, where high heat is necessary and the door is open often, it lost temperature and severely affected baking times and results. 
  • To recover the set temperature it would switch into preheat mode, then overbrown the tops of the baked goods. 
  • The oven temperatures weren't accurate or consistent, so that I could cook something in the same way and in the same amount of time every time.  I couldn't leave the kids with the instruction, "Cook this for __ minutes," because I never knew how long it would take." 
  • The oven temperatures weren't even from one side of the oven to another.  One time I was making pizzas and all 4 or 5 of them looked as if they'd been covered with foil over one side while the other side browned.  The thermometers I bought to check it told me the oven temps varied by up to 100 degrees from one side to the other.

Resolution:  Another avid baker I know, Cotehele from The Old Kitchen, was having the same problems with uneven baking and inconsistent temperatures in her Monogram oven.  With the help of Jane from AtticMag, who initially contacted GE about the problem after seeing my pizza photos, Cotehele and I both sent them email and photos over a period of weeks, documenting problems as they occurred.  We would wait for days for answers or hear what progress there might be.                                                                                                                              
I finally involved a rep from the customer service department at the store where I purchased my oven (Albert Lee Appliance), and he sent emails to the GE contact also.  For whatever reason, they finally agreed to buy back my oven so that I could find another that met my needs better. (The guys contracted by GE to come get my oven and give me a check said I was 'lucky,' as 'that never happens.')  Cotehele was not so fortunate and they just told her that her oven was working as engineered.  I do think that both hers and my ovens were 'working as designed,' but that wasn't in a way that suited our needs.

Overall impression:
I could not recommend this oven to anyone.  For someone who roasts meat, heats up frozen foods, and bakes cookies once every month or two, it might be fine, and they might never notice problems.  But I think that even the occasional baker should be able to set the oven temperature and expect the oven to reach that temp and maintain it... and evenly across the oven.  For people who bake a few times a week, based on my experience, the inconsistencies and problems would be too frustrating to endure... And the chance of getting the problem resolved would be small.

I will quit for today and cover my 4th oven tomorrow...
in Wordy Wednesday: 4th Oven -also the Final?
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