Saturday, November 2, 2013

Still Sad about Wolf Breaking Up with Me

For those of you not familiar with my oven saga, previous posts are here, and news of the path to my newest oven here.  I will try to make a long story short, by saying that I had 7 ovens in 5 years in our new house.  It might sound fun to try out new brands and models, but it was so frustrating.

My favorites were the Wolf E-Series ovens, which were amazing performers, but, like the Fisher & Paykel models that also baked pretty well, the porcelain coating kept coming loose, crazing, then splintering, and chipping, in the front corners of the interior.  Wolf claimed mine was an unusual situation, and after replacing my oven twice (quickly, without question, and with as little hassle as possible to me), they decided we should go our separate ways.  

That last time, there was supposedly a lot of conversation and thinking going on about my experiences
between the customer service and engineering departments to come up with an answer for me.  But they decided I baked more often and at higher heats (for pizzas) than 'the norm' who the oven was designed for (even though they agreed and assured me I was doing nothing wrong), and they could not promise an answer that would work for me, so offered a refund.  

We discussed that one of the Wolf convection-steam ovens (stainless interior) might do well on pizzas, while I used a single E-series for everything else.  The customer service person was still not sure the oven would 'stand up to my use,' but said they'd back it up if I chose to go that route.  The 2-oven combo, though, would cost almost $3000 more than the refund for my double oven, and they didn't offer to help with the difference, which, of course, wasn't required, but might've been nice.

After this, many Wolf oven owners who baked less often and at more 'normal' temperatures contacted me to say they had the same, exact problem. Additionally, very soon after I got my refund, I found out that Wolf's new line of ovens (due out in 2014) has replaceable bottoms in the oven cavities.  The engineering department had to have been working on this plan while they were 'discussing' my issues.  Does this mean they probably also knew this was a wider-spread problem, but wouldn't admit it?

The replaceable bottom seems like a great answer to me.  The seam between the bottom and the rest of the cavity will, perhaps, allow the metal to expand and contract without stressing the porcelain, and if there is a problem, the bottom will be much easier to replace than a whole oven.  -Less expensive for Wolf, since they won't pay as much for service and won't be junking ovens, and it's less hassle and risk to home and cabinets for the homeowner.  Win-win... except for me.

Now enter my German-engineered beast, the Gaggenau oven.  --The BMW or Mercedes of ovens, I guess you could say.  It's fit and finish is great, as was Wolf's, and it's a beaut with its big windows.

I have disappointments, though.  It is much shallower (back to front) than any of my other ovens. I can't bake as many loaves of bread at once, and can't put things like rectangular cake or lasagna pans in end-first to fit 2, side-by-side, on a rack.

The racks aren't full extension like my most-often-used racks in the Wolf. Someone on the Gardenweb Kitchen Forum said that wasn't too much of an issue with the side-opening doors, but when it comes time to flip or baste chicken pieces, for example, it means a struggle, or pulling the pans out of the oven onto the counter.  The new Gaggenau models have extension racks, but it'd cost me $800 per rack, including retrofit bracket, so I won't be adding them. 

The display screen is small, so the numbers are TINY.  The background light for it also goes out if the oven gets really hot or both ovens are on.  I'm supposed to get that looked at, but if/when fixed, the numbers for the timer will still only be 1/8" high.  On my other ovens, I could read the clock or timer from across the room.

There are still people (a majority) in our household who don't know how to operate the oven, because the controls are not at all intuitive, or similar to other ovens, so if they're not the frequent bakers, they forget from one time to the next.  There are a lot of symbols without words, unless you hit the "i" to get an explanation with each change.

I do like, that with each mode, the graphic shows which elements are on and to what extent, so it makes it easier to fine-tune a baking result.  But, like anything with lots of modes, cycles, or whatever, we have our favorites, and really don't use others at all.

These pictures show how 4 different modes utilize the top and bottom
elements...whether they use one, both, or a combination in differing amounts.
The black lines indicated use of that element at full or partial power.
For example, the top left shows the bottom element on full with
partial use of the top element, and the bottom right shows the top
element on full while the bottom element isn't used at all.  For a
convection mode, there is a small fan symbol that alights.

As the blog title says, we make pizza every Friday night, sometimes for a crowd as large as a whole school sports team.  In the Wolf, I could do 2, 15" pizzas, one in each oven, in about 8 minutes, and it took lots of pizzas in a row before the oven seemed to bake a little cooler.  Even then, it wasn't bad, just took a couple minutes more to bake a pizza.  With all the in and out, it really held its temp.

In the Gagg, first of all, we can only make 11" pizzas.  It has an expensive stone and element set up, designed to be used with a special stone baking mode, all especially for pizza and artisan bread. I expected this would be amazing, and worth buying when my old pizza stones wouldn't fit in the new oven.  

But, the fan runs during that mode, so my pizzas get done on top while the crusts are still white on the bottoms.  I finally played with times and temps enough so that I can get a (barely) acceptably done pizza, but it takes 13 minutes.  That might not sound bad, but using one cavity of the Wolf, I cooked our family 4 pizzas in 32 minutes.  With the Gagg, I cook 6 smaller pizzas in 78 it takes approximately 2 1/2 times as long to get the same amount of food on the table. This would mean a crazy decrease in the amount of pizza I could get done for a houseful of hungry athletes, compared to what I did in an hour with the Wolf...even if I could use 2 ovens, like I did with the Wolf.

The oven and stone don't seem to retain their temp as well as I'd like after a couple of pizzas, which I find odd, since the element is constantly heating the stone. 

Of course, we bake more than pizza! I'd say it does an adequate job for most of the other tasks we do... baking breads, pies, cakes, and roasting meats.   I don't find the Gagg to be quite as even in baking as the Wolf, but it's not bad. 

It has its specialty rack-pans that slide into the oven without sitting on a rack.  Kind of cool, but odd, and there so many pieces of equipment (broiler pan, pans, racks, rotisserie unit, stone and element) to keep rotating in and out of the oven, as I don't really have room to store it all.

It has a probe, which I had in my other ovens and deem a necessity.  :-)  But with such high end oven at such a price, I was surprised that it only works in the bottom cavity. 

Whine, whine, whine.  I know this is a luxurious problem to have. The salesman (Michael Hoag, also a great help with the transition from Monogram to Wolf), the store (Albert Lee Appliance), and Gagg distributor (Echelon Home Products) were wonderful to me in finding this oven and getting parts and pieces that were missing from the clearance-priced floor model, even though they didn't have to.  I really appreciate all of their work on my behalf. -And the porcelain is till nearly pristine, so Gagg seems to have that part right.  It cleans up well after self-clean.

With every change in oven brand (3 times), I shelled out approximately $1000 more to 'do better.'  (It honestly makes me feel nauseous to think of that total.) Even though I paid significantly less than the usual selling price of approximately $8500 for my particular Gaggenau, I just don't feel it's as extraordinarily amazing as that price indicates.  

I think I wish I'd gone for an Electrolux (that infamous 2nd-guessing), and then if I liked it less, I'd at least have the satisfaction of some money back in my pocket.  What I really wish, though, is that Wolf had stuck with me, and let me know they had a probably answer to the porcelain issue in the works... :-(

I so quickly bonded to my Wolf oven(s), and we seemed to understand each other.  I got the results I wanted without hassle, and so consistently.  I have to include some caveats, but still recommend them because of their performance.  The Gagg just isn't quite the same. --Maybe it's the language barrier -   LOL.  I haven't been able to find a demo or lessons that might help us communicate better. I might not understand all it can do for me.  I'll have to keep trying.

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