When it comes to the full size oven you can fall into two categories, you either use them or you don't. Like many things in our modern lives trends are changing and newer, more efficient technologies are replacing them. When's the last time that you used a camcorder, for example? Some readers might not even know what that is.
Once the mainstay of the family home, ovens are seeing less use through each generation. Smaller living spaces and environmental footprint are realities for younger generations. Will the full-size oven be part of the future or will it go the way of the fax machine?
If we are talking about certain generations (Millenials and Gen Y in particular), there is probably very little requirement for an oven range in their lives. No one is staying home to bake or prepare large family roast dinners. Career-minded urbanites, whose fast-paced lives intertwine with an eclectic choice of restaurants, cafes and eateries; The perfect places to mingle and hang out with friends. Then there's the glorious choice of food carts, often conveniently located next to the local craft breweries.
That there are many opportunities to eat out is an understatement. There are hundreds. Even for the home-focused people, there's SkiptheDishes, DoorDash and Foodora to name but a few of the food delivery services available. People don't even have to go out to get a ready-made meal.
Indeed, following Europe and (as always) New York, Toronto is the first Canadian city to become home to urban renter-friendly units with deliberately shrunken kitchens, many of which have ditched bulky, conventional ovens.
The History of the Oven
The history of the oven is far from brief. It's pretty extensive - with a history longer than any other appliance. In fact, the concept of the oven has probably been around longer than any other appliance.
Ancient people first began cooking on open fires in pits dug into the ground and heated up called "Earth Ovens." Archaeologists found many ruins of these pits - particularly in the region of the Ukraine - where they were found with coals dating from 20,000 BC. It is believed that every home here used to have mammoth bones used for heating and cooking. Many different (and bizarre) kinds of ancient ovens have been found over time, but the history of the wood burning oven as we know it today stems from Ancient Greece and the renowned "Clay Oven" or "Ipnos" that was used to make bread and other baked goods.
A significant discovery of a portable ancient Greek oven dated from the 17th Century BC is hosted in the Cycladic Museum of Art.
Ovens had progressed by Medieval times - instead of earth and ceramic ovens, Europeans used fireplaces in conjunction with large cauldrons. These were similar to the Dutch oven. Following this, ovens underwent many changes over time from wood, iron, coal, gas, and even electric. Each design had its own motivation and purpose. The wood-burning stoves saw improvement through the addition of fire chambers that allowed better containment and release of smoke.
Another recognizable oven would be the cast-iron stove which were first used around the early 1700s. One successful and compact cast iron design was Stewart's Oberlin iron stove, patented in 1834. Cast iron stoves continued to evolve, with iron gratings added to the cooking holes, and added chimneys and connecting flue pipes.
British inventor James Sharp patented a gas oven in 1826, the first semi-successful gas oven to appear on the market. Gas ovens were found in most households by the 1920s with top burners and interior ovens. The evolution of gas stoves was delayed until gas lines that could furnish gas to households became common.
Some historians credit Canadian Thomas Ahearn with inventing the first electric oven in 1882, but the first oven to be patented was by William Hadaway in 1896. It was not, however, until the late 1920s and early 1930s that electric ovens became popular in homes and began to compete with gas ovens.
Almost a century later, and the oven has primarily become the cornerstone of the kitchen. The choices are huge - there are a variety of different oven types, which are categorized by how they cook food and any extra features they might have. Choosing the right one is key to getting the best results from it. Each oven type has certain pros and cons that can affect whether it's right for you.
Gas vs Electric
One advantage that a gas oven has over an electric is in the quality of the cooking experience. A gas stove creates a consistent flame that can easily be adjusted and, more importantly, is easy to tell if it's on or off. Additionally, cooking on a gas range is often more efficient, with the end result rendering food that is cooked faster with greater consistency. Also, adjustments in temperature are faster with a gas oven.
Gas ranges cost more to buy than electric. Whereas average electric stoves range from $450 to $2,800, comparable gas stoves range from $460 to $2,300. They also need a gas line; Electric ones do not. Depending on where you live, the requirement of a gas line may be a deal-breaker. In most suburbs, the infrastructure is such that gas- and electric-powered stoves are equally feasible. In more remote areas, gas lines are not a given, therefore the cost of setting up a gas range will be more costly. However, once everything is hooked up and ready to go, gas ovens take less energy to cook with - costing anywhere from 10-30% less than electricity.
There is a potential risk of gas leaks with gas ovens - if they aren't properly hooked up to a gas line or if a knob turns enough to release gas without igniting. To be on the safe side, any home with a gas oven should have a carbon monoxide detector. That being said, electric ovens do not eliminate risks of burns or fires. Vigilance is key when operating all types of stoves.
Although they might be easier to operate and are less expensive to purchase than gas ovens, electric ovens tend to cook food slower than their counterparts. This is especially true as it's sometimes hard to tell if the oven is on at the proper setting since you don't have an open flame. However, it should be noted that electric ovens distribute heat better when baking, and the dry heat they produce is great for roasting.
Gas ranges can be used during electrical power outages - most older models will still allow the flow of gas (propane or natural gas) without electricity to the stove only and must be lit with a match or other flame. However, built-in safety features in the newer models do stop ignition in the oven when the electricity is out.
As you can see there are many stove/oven options. But it still doesn't address how the size of ovens can affect a spatially-compromised kitchen. Many studio apartments are cluttered with full-size stoves that serve more use as storage cabinets in already cramped kitchens.
So what are the alternatives to the oven to consider for a small-scale apartment? Here are a few alternative space-saving and effective cooking options that you may not have considered before.
The Portable Convection Oven
A portable convection oven is the one cooking appliance on this list that comes the closest to replicating a traditional oven. You will be able to use a convection oven pretty much the same way that you would use a normal oven. It can bake dishes, and you will be able to make many of your favorites. If you love baking casseroles, lasagna, and other food items that are traditionally cooked in the oven, then you'll enjoy owning this.
While you may not be able to host Thanksgiving for the whole family with this appliance, there are some convection ovens that are large enough to roast or bake small chickens or turkeys. It depends on the size of the convection oven that you buy. Most of them will not be large enough to handle this type of meal. It will be perfect for making most dinners, and you'll love owning one, so it's a good idea to look into it further.
Air fryers are definitely the most popular and trendy thing happening in the kitchen this year. Rather than being similar to a deep-fat fryer, these compact appliances are more like portable convection ovens in disguise, except with higher speed fans.
They use electrical elements to quickly heat the air, and then circulate this hot air around and through your food. This hot air cooks the food quickly, so crispy things get browned but the inside stays moist and delicious. The most endearing feature of an air fryer is its versatility. You can do so much with it! Yes, it fries really well compared to an oven. But it also can bake (even cakes), broil, roast, grill and stir fry! Feel like chicken and mangetout for dinner? Easy to make with one of these.
Since Sharp introduced low-cost microwave ovens affordable for residential use in the late 1970s, their use spread into commercial and residential kitchens around the world. In addition to their use in cooking food, microwave ovens are used for heating in many industrial processes. Many people don't think of their microwave as an oven alternative, but it can definitely work well to replicate what an oven does in certain situations. You will be able to cook many frozen foods inside your microwave. It may take a little longer than it would with a traditional oven, but it will be possible.
Microwaves are a safe, effective, and highly convenient cooking method. There is no evidence that they cause harm - and some evidence that they are even better than other cooking methods at preserving nutrients and preventing the formation of harmful compounds.
The Toaster Oven
While a microwave might seem more of a kitchen staple, a toaster oven increases your cooking options by a long shot. Its capabilities go far beyond making toast. These appliances are basically countertop mini-ovens. They may be small, but they're agile, multi-functional and surprisingly capable. Toaster ovens preheat much faster than their larger counterparts and usually don't make your kitchen as hot (great for balmy summer days). Some models can air-fry food too, thanks to extreme convection and some newer models even have features such as air-frying, convection, and slow-cooking. A variety of options include: Sausages, pizza, ribs, baked potatoes, roasted veg, broiled burgers, reheated leftovers, as well as cookies and baked treats.
Indoor Electric Grill
If you want to be able to cook various types of meat without having a traditional oven, then it is very beneficial to own an indoor electric grill. These convenient grills are capable of cooking many different things. Most people use them to make foods such as hamburgers, grilled chicken, and even skewers. They can be used to make a variety of different dishes, so having one of them around is going to be very convenient.
If you're into the idea of making stews, soups, and one-pot dishes in a third of the time it would take you in the oven or on the stove using traditional cookware, an electric pressure cooker is what you need. Just add ingredients to the pot and cover it with the locking lid; when heated, the pressure cooker raises the boiling point of water and traps steam inside, which is how it decreases cooking time by up to 70%. Great for novice cooks, there are a variety of models available for making set-and-forget meals that will seriously slash your prep time.
The Portable Cooktop
You will be able to cook more meals than before if you buy one of these portable burners. Being without an oven generally means that you are also without a stove. This will help to give you the functionality of cooking on a stove without having to buy an expensive unit. This is affordable, compact, and easy to use.
Portable induction cooktops are a step up from the regular ones and are so compact that they resemble the size and weight of a typical bathroom weighing scale. Designed to blend into kitchens, most users will find them seamlessly fitting in any environment.They heat faster, cook and boil quickly and have been designed to distribute heat evenly.
Crock Pot / Slow Cooker
If you want to make dishes such as soup, chili, baked chicken, or even a roast, then you will love owning a crockpot. You can simply place the ingredients inside of the crockpot and let it slowly cook your meals. It allows for a very hands-off approach to cooking that will appeal to people who don't have a lot of time. Like crockpots, slow cookers, too, are cheap to buy, economical to use and they're great for making the most of budget ingredients. They offer a healthier, low-fat method of cooking and require the minimum amount of effort. Really, what's not to love?
Smart Technology and the Portable Convection Oven
The June Oven
The ultimate smart oven - the June Oven - is extremely multi-functional, and its simple, minimalist design makes it an excellent space-saving choice in a stylish kitchen with limited space. First launched In 2016, this "intelligent oven" for busy people features a 2.3-GHz quad-core NVIDIA processor, lots of sensors and a dose of artificial intelligence. It cooks a variety of foods simply using preset programs.
Replacing your convection oven, toaster, air fryer, dehydrator, slow cooker, broiler and warming drawer, this do-it-all oven will save you valuable money as well as precious counter space. In terms of smart technology, it boasts an internal camera, a built-in probe thermometer that estimates when your food will be cooked through, and a number of preprogrammed cooking functions. Its HD camera can recognize certain ingredients, automatically prompting the interface to recommend corresponding cooking programs. Plus, a Wi-Fi connection allows you to use an app to monitor your food with the camera and control the oven from anywhere in your home or even while you are out. How about that? Sounds too good to be true.
To conclude, there are many choices for small-scale cooking in condos and houses, without the need for an oven range. Even for those that want ovens in small spaces, there are options. In fact, with the increase of smaller houses and apartments, many companies are starting to produce high performance, beautiful small-space appliances. And according to Brian Huston, brand director of Haier, the company has discovered that eco-conscious millennials are interested in small-space appliances because they use less energy to run compared to full-sized appliances.
However, with the multitude of restaurants in cities all over the world, and ever-rising number of family-purpose suburban homes, the oven is definitely not out of a job just yet. But it may take on a different look (and role) in the kitchen in years to come. What do you think? Could you live without an oven?.