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Appliance World

Setting the Mode

When looking at ovens today you might have noticed how many more buttons and options there are for your oven modes. The first stoves used in homes didn’t have any modes you could choose from, they were either on or off and with little control for the heat. These ovens were almost always left on as they doubled as the primary heat source for homes and used mostly wood or charcoal as a fuel source, which also meant you had to clean them out often. As technology grew and centralized heating became available in homes, the stove could focus more on it’s ability to cook your food instead of heating your house too. With industrial growth, including laying natural gas lines and electrifying cities and towns, gas and electric ranges grew in popularity. Even as these new forms of cooking became available the idea of setting an oven mode was unheard of. Whether you were baking a pie or roasting a chicken, both were achieved by merely turning on the oven.

            With the fuel-burning stoves, the heat mostly came from the side of the oven where the coal or wood would be loaded, and the location of the food is the only way to control how much heat it would receive. By the mid 1800s, as gas became more available in cities the gas stove grew in acceptance, as did electric ovens after towns and cities became electrified years later. With these gas and electric ranges the heat would always come from the bottom of the oven where the lower section would be significantly hotter than the rest, this would become known as the Bake mode in our ovens today. Eventually oven makers were able to add thermostats, giving better control to the oven temperature. By adding a broiler as an extra heating source you could focus intense heat from the top of your oven, mostly for meats. The technology of gas and electric even merged into dual-fuel ranges with a gas cooktop and electric oven. Some brands even separated the oven and cooktop, which is how the built-in wall oven came to be when Thermador first did this in 1947.

            Gas ranges today still have the heat always focused from the bottom of your oven, with the exception of gas broilers, as this is the easiest and safest way to contain the flame inside of the oven cavity. If you have a gas oven or range you likely have less modes then the electric counterparts. The most common modes found on a majority of gas ovens are Bake and Broil, occasionally they may also have a Roast and Convection options depending on the brand and model. Electric ovens provide more functionality since they utilize heating coils. This coil use to always be an exposed element in the bottom of the oven but as customers demanded more efficiency and control this element was concealed under the bottom plate. This also provided the leap for some brands to insert more heating coils along the sidewalls, rear and top of the oven cavity. Having these elements located throughout the oven cavity allow for more options when it comes to oven modes. Electric ovens also have modes such as Bake and Broil but also commonly have Roast and Convection. Depending on the brand and model you may also see modes such as Proof, Keep Warm, True Convection, European Convection, Convection Multi-Rack, Convection Bake, Convection Roast, Pizza and Self-Clean.

            To better understand when to use what mode it helps to know how the heat is applied for each specific oven mode. The Bake mode is when heat comes from the bottom of your oven, so the racks on top don’t receive as much heat as your bottom rack. Broil is an intense, exposed heating element at the top of your oven that can be anywhere from 400-500 degrees. This is mostly used for searing or browning meats for a few minutes at most; anything longer will often burn your food. Roast is also heat from the top of your oven, however this element is often concealed and far less intense compared to Broil. The upper racks will receive most of the heat in this mode, as it is ideal for getting crispy skin on meats or roasting vegetables for the entire cooking process.

Convection means there is a fan assisting the heating element to make your oven more evenly heated. Convection provides many benefits to cooking and more information can be found here (link for convection article). Convection Bake and Convection Roast use the heating elements described earlier, with the fan assist to spread the heat around more efficiently. Modes such as True Convection, European Convection and Convection Multi-Rack utilize a third heating element in the back of the oven, behind the convection fan, instead of moving the heat from the top or bottom of the oven. The Keep Warm function will hold your oven at a low heat, usually between 150-200 degrees, letting you keep food warm and appetizing when you aren’t ready to serve it yet.

Proof mode is specifically design for when you are making a dough recipe that calls for it to double in size as the yeast activates. Many people may proof dough in a sealed bowl on the counter, however the room temperature is inconsistent during the changing seasons and it often takes a couple of hours for the dough to rise. When using Proof in your oven it creates an ideal temperature between 80-100 degrees and can get you perfect results in less time. Another specialized function is the Pizza mode, which performs better with a pizza or baking stone on the lowest rack of your oven. Pizza mode uses high temperatures with both the Bake and Roast heating elements simultaneously to ensure you get an ideal crust and perfectly melted cheese just like from the pizzeria.


If your oven has a Self-Clean mode it will lock the door as a safety precaution while this process may also take several hours. When using this mode be sure to remove all of your oven rack to prevent warping and discoloration. After the door locks it will use all of the heating elements available to increase the oven temperature to almost 900 degrees, as it turns the food residue into ash. Once the oven cools the door will unlock and you should wipe the cavity clean with a dry cloth towel. It is not recommended to use any additional oven cleaners during this process and if you have any birds please ensure you remove them from the home during the entire Self-Clean process.
As technology improves we are sure there will be new functions and features as our appliances continue to evolve. With all of their current modes, cooking and baking has become a lot simpler and more efficient than it once was. Appliance World will gladly review and answer any questions you have about your oven during one of our Convection Classes or you can always call and speak to one of our chefs or sales staff. (Link to article about classes) We have all major brands available many of which are on display and one of our highly trained sales associates will gladly assist you to find which oven or range has all of the modes you will need for your kitchen.