Our 20 year-old electric oven recently croaked. I took the opportunity to seek the new oven of my dreams.
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I was making my bride Andrea her usual morning omelet last week when I realized that my go-to burner had burned out. My first reaction was to hunt down a replacement coil online. My second reaction was to do the math and assess the likely outcome– the new coil (plus shipping) would cost $250; but there was no guarantee that the coil was actually the problem, or that the other three surface coils wouldn’t soon follow the first to oven-part heaven. So I might as well buy a new one, I figured. My third reaction, therefore, was to head to the Consumer Reports site and start reading reviews.
We prefer gas to electric for a number of reasons, both rational and otherwise. The perfect oven, I think, would have a gas cooktop (better heat delivery) and an electric oven (more precisely controllable.) No such thing exists to my knowledge, so we opted for gas after confirming that the gas lead that stood dormant for two decades behind our electric oven was still live and usable.
Upon perusing the product reviews, it seemed that LG (as in “Life’s Good!”) Electronics & Home Appliances has come to dominate multiple markets, including that for ovens. I was delighted to find that a reasonably affordable gas model of theirs had the two features I considered most desirable– two separate baking compartments with separate temperature settings; and a convection feature in the larger compartment. The separate parts meant, obviously, that I could cook two different things at once. This is especially useful when making, say, a pot roast or other braise that requires three hours at 325º while also cooking something at a significantly higher heat. Also, sometimes I need to broil something while roasting something else. And oh, the possibilities with the convection option! More on that later.
The trade-off for the separate compartments is twofold– we lose our lid storage container, and we can no longer roast anything really humongous, such as a 20+ lb. turkey. We’ll surely find or make some cupboard space for the lids, and my wood-fired beast of a smoker/roaster/grill will accommodate anything too big to roast indoors.
We went ahead and ordered the model shown above and scheduled delivery. The unit arrived while I was at my hair salon and Andrea was home. My phone soon rang.
They couldn’t install the new oven, the delivery guy said, because the gas line needed cleaning AND we needed some additional parts to connect the gas. After discussing our options, I had them leave it in our kitchen and assured Andrea that I would hook it up myself and have it running by dinnertime… and also have our old unit out by the street for pickup by the scrap collectors. When I got home I hit the ground running, tackling my mental to-do list in order.
I removed the damaged wheel from my heavy-duty hand truck and brought it to Harbor Freight, where I found an identical replacement wheel. At Home Depot I purchased a 45º elbow connector, pipe dope, and a 3-prong socket to replace the ancient 2-pronger behind the old stove. When I got home I first repaired the hand truck and wheeled the old stove outdoors. I then changed the electrical socket, cleaned out the existing gas connection with my air compressor, and finally added the new connection… all with lots of swearing, as usual, but it actually went fairly smoothly.
Then I fired up the convection oven and put it to the test– making the one dish in my repertoire that, more than just about everything else, requires this method of heat delivery.
We cook food with radiant heat (think glowing coals) or conduction (as in boiling or steaming) or convection, which works kind of like winter’s wind-chill index– just as blowing cold air makes you feel colder, blowing HOT air has the opposite effect. And blowing hot air on a roast helps to give it a nice crispy crust. For a large roast such as prime rib, convection cooking offers little improvement because the long cooking time yields a nice dark crust even in a regular oven. But smaller roasts– like, say, pork loin– improve significantly with the blasting hot air.
And the smallest roast of all– the one that benefits most from the convection option– is Rack of Lamb. I had already purchased the meat in anticipation of this test.
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Rack of Lamb is expensive, and getting more so. New Zealand lamb is the cheapest, but I avoid it because it can be quite gamey-tasting. American lamb is generally considered the best… but the American Rack of Lamb I found in my local store was priced at EIGHTY DOLLARS for barely a two-portion piece! Australian lamb occupies the sweet spot between the two extremes, the constrained optimization of price and quality, so that’s what I bought.
I set the convection-enabled oven section for 400º. I put the Rack of Lamb on an elevated roasting rack that would enable maximum air circulation; then I inserted my digital roasting thermometer and let it rip. I let it roast up to an internal temperature 125º, checking periodically to make sure the exterior was browning but the bones were not burning. Based on my restaurant experience, this can be a tricky balancing act, one that necessitates shielding the bones with foil at some point for larger racks. But mine cooked quickly… and, I dare say, perfectly. Almost, anyway.
I removed the lamb right at 125º and let it rest. The internal temperature slowly coasted up to 135º… about five degrees too high for my taste, but perfect for Andrea. I’d call the result more medium than medium-rare… still rosy pink, but a lighter shade of pink than I prefer.
The good news is that this LG Convection-Enabled 2-Zone Gas Oven passed the hardest test with flying colors– making Rack of Lamb that emerges with a nicely browned crust and nicely pink within. My bride can look forward to enjoying this dish on a regular basis.
And I can’t really think of any bad news… we’re very happy with this purchase so far.