The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Review: Cadco Countertop Convection Oven - XAF-113

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thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

Review: Cadco Countertop Convection Oven - XAF-113


I just purchased a new Cadco convection oven and to say I am thrilled would be an understatement. After using a 20-year old Whirlpool oven with a Hearthkit Oven insert while I learned to bake bread during the past six months, and producing very satisfactory results, I have found this new oven to be big step up in ease of use and evenness of baking. Since there are virtually no reviews of this oven on the web, I wanted to share my experiences with this group that has provided me with so much useful information.


DETAILS: After having semi-lusted for this oven since seeing it in operation a few months ago, I used the occasion of a malfunction of my regular oven to to treat myself to the Cadco even though I had never used a convection oven before.
The model I chose, the XAF-113 is the largest countertop convection oven they make that can operate on 120 volt current, so no special electrical hookup is needed. It is an approximately 24" stainless steel cube with a huge glass front window and door which provides a clear bright view of everything going on in the oven. No more peering through a small, darkened window or cracking open the door to see how the bread is doing. It has a capacity of 3 half-sized (16 x 12 inch) sheet pans.


This unit also has a very simple manual as opposed to digital control panel. (Digital, programmable panels are available on more expensive models). There are basically only two control knobs, time and temperature. Temperature range is 175°-500° F. Just recently, Cadco introduced  a manual "steam" button on this model and my unit is equipped with it. It is not a true steam injector but seems to work well anyway. What it is is a built-in small electric pump which draws water thru an inlet hose which has its outside end inserted in a water container. This water is then sprayed on the ventilator fan and heating element and dispersed throughout the baking compartment. Although I could see some water droplets being scattered around the inside, no drops appeared to mark the bread crust, and my final crusts seemed to be as good as I was getting using hot water thrown on lava rocks in a skillet. And, this is so much easier. The skin on my hands and arms has already started celebrating the end of daily steam burns.


I have also equipped my oven with a 1/4" metal plate that Cadco sells as an accessory to use instead of a baking stone. They claim that this heats up much more quickly than a stone yet retains heat as well as a stone. After baking two loaves I am inclined to agree with them. The metal plate has protrusions coming from the bottom surface which seem to markedly increase the exposed surface area and allow it recover quickly.






EXPERIENCE: I have only used it to bake two loaves so far since I just installed it yesterday. What I immediately noticed was that the oven heats up much quicker than my conventional oven and stone. Normally, it takes my oven 1 hour plus to reach 500°. With the Cadco, it took about 25 minutes!


The first loaf I baked was variation of Eric Kayser's Baguette Monge. I have been playing around with this formula a lot recently trying to work out a successful cold retardation process. I have baked probably 20 loaves recently so I am well aware of the whole gamut of final loaf possibilities. I was extremely pleased when the oven turned out the best loaf of this bread that I have so far been able to bake. I adapted the baking temps by reducing the pre-heat temp from 500° to 450°. Normally, the temp on loading is set to 425° and I reduced it to 400°. Usual baking time has been 25 minutes and with the Cadco I used 20 minutes. What I got was great oven rise and grigne, lovely browning and the most open and moist crumb of any loaf so far. In addition, the overall browning of the loaf appeared to be quite uniform. Although I did rotate the loaves out of habit, I never saw any unevenness in the browning of the crust and rotating is probably not necessary. Here are some photos:








The second loaf was Hamelman's Golden Raisin and Walnut bread. I had never made this before and figured this would be a good test of whether just following simple guidelines for conversion to convection would be sufficient to produce a good loaf. Well, I was more than satisfied with the loaf. It had a wonderful crispy, chewy crust and a beautiful, semi-open and very moist crumb. I had no problems with over-browning of the crust with just reducing baking temps by 25-30 degrees.
Here's some more photos:






In trying to be "fair and balanced", these are some of the negatives:



-Pretty noisy although I have gotten used to it.
-No audible signal when oven has reached operating temperature
-Not supposed to be built-in. Need 4-5" clearance on all sides.
-Manual cleaning, not self-cleaning.


SUMMARY: In sum, I am extremely happy with this product. Although my experience with the oven is brief, it appears to be an extremely valuable tool for baking hearth-type breads. And the fact that this may provide a satisfactory solution to the ever-present "steaming" problem is a real plus for me.


As far as price goes, the unit lists for $1850 but I have seen it on the web for $1200-$1300 dollars. If you order one, make sure that it has the new manual "Humidity" button. Both the old and new units have the same model number so that alone is not enough to know what unit you are buying.


I hope that this will help those members who have been leery of convection ovens, just as I was, to consider it as a possibility. I have never used another convection oven, so this review is not meant to say that the Cadco is better than any other brand. I just know that it works, works well, and appears to be very solidly built. YMMV.


Jessica

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

Thanks for the kind words, David. I baked another loaf tonight and found that it is just as easy to be absent-minded with convection as it is with thermal ovens. Even with a simple push button for steam, one still has to remember to press it. On to the next loaf.


Jessica

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Great review Jessica. Please keep us posted on your progress with this oven. I'm about to be in the market and am considering something different.


Eric

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

Thanks, Eric. I will plan on following up as I bake a wider range of breads. If you have any specific questions as you do your research, please feel free to contact me.


Jessica

tomsbread's picture
tomsbread

Hi Eric,


 


I have been using this oven since Jan 2006 and I think it is a great oven. Just the manual humidity feature is worth the prce. I paid US 1400 for it. The water is piped in. The oven is actually made in Italy under the Unox brand but I believe it is sold in the US under Cadco.


The model I bought is similar to the Elena XF183. I chose manual controls as I find that digital electronics don't usually last in high temperature/humidity conditions. Anyway, the mechanical control was very precise. The internal temps measured exactly what I set on the dial.


 


http://www.unox.it/unoxcom/PRODOTTI/LineMiss_Manual/LineMiss800_Manual.asp?m=25200


Thanks to the information from Jessica, I am now looking into the stone replacement Fakiro


http://www.unox.it/unoxcom/PRODOTTI/TecnologieCottura/Tecnologie_Cottura_fakiro.asp?m=25800


This oven is probably meant only for pastry and bread. The salesperson asked me if I was going to bake cakes in it and I can imagine the impact of the strong convection on cakes.


The fan is very powerful and goes clockwise in one cycle and anticlockwise and so forth. There is an open vent at the back of the oven. I found that it was exhausting all the steam that I was putting out. I fixed this by making a vent cover for it.


 


http://tomsbread.blogspot.com/2008_12_01_archive.html


http://www.angelfire.com/planet/tomsbread/equipment.htm


So if you buying it just for bread and pastry, go for it. However if you are going to bake cakes in them, you probably have to do a little more research on the impact of high velocity hot air on the surface of the cake.


 


Tomsbread

ehanner's picture
ehanner

I appreciate the post on this oven. Sounds like you like it for what we do.


Eric

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

I have done some more baking with the Cadco and am still impressed, although there as some caveats that I will get to later.


I baked 2 loaves of a sandwich-style bread, "Honey Wheat Bread" which is a straight dough with honey, eggs, ricotta cheese and whole wheat as well as bread flour. I had made a simiilar version one time with cottage cheese but without the oat toppings. I was curious how the oven would handle the rolled oat toppings and the sweetened dough in a steel loaf pan.


Well, not to worry. As you can see from the photos, the loaves came out looking great and tasted even better. The oat toppings stayed attached and were not blown off (which is a real possibility). The crusts were darkly browned but not even close to overdone and were thin and crunchy. Overall, I was quite pleased with the results.


For moisture, I applied a coat of water, then the rolled oats, and a mist of water before loading. I then "humiditised" (a word I just coined for using the "Humidity" button) for 20 seconds after loading. I baked at 350° for 15 minutes (25° below the previous bake) and lowered to 325° for the last 10 minutes. Overall baking time was 25 minutes as compared to 35 minutes previously.



This last picture is supposed to show the very similar browning of the crust over the top of the bread and the sides of the bread in the loaf pan.



This brings me to a few of the the caveats I mentioned:


First, having this Humidity control available introduces a whole additional level of either control or complexity (choose one or both) to the baking process. It is now possible, as a home baker, to reproducibly introduce moisture at the time and in the amounts that one desires. I have settled initially for doing a 20-second burst right after loading with good results but I am already thinking of variations including shorter bursts spaced out at various intervals. I, personally, have not found loss of moisture thru the vent to be a problem as has Tomsbread since the oven doesn't seem to clear it that quickly.


Second, for those of us who like to bake on parchment paper, there is a significant concern. Any loose sides of the paper will tend to be lifted up by the hurricane inside the oven. I almost lost a 7" thin-crust pizza when the airflow lifted one side of the parchment it was on and almost flipped it over. I found that it was advisable to trim the parchment as close to edge of the dough as possible to avoid this problem.


Third, I think the oven temperature of the Cadco is more responsive to changes in thermostat setting as compared to a thermal oven. I haven't tried to verify this, but I think that the active movement of air over the cooking element and onto the dough as opposed to the slow passive response of a conventional oven further moderated often by a large baking stone would make this reasonable. As I said this is just my impression when I have made adjustments for too-rapid browning in the Cadco.


So, these are my further impressions of baking with convection. If I was looking to make my life simpler, I don't know if I would choose this path. But then again, I wouldn't be baking bread either.


Jessica


 


 

koloatree's picture
koloatree

hi, thanks for sharing! I plan on purchasing one of these ovens in a few months. quick question, can the convection fan be turned off?

thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

The answer is "no". The oven is convection-only so there is no way to heat the oven without using the convection fan.

Jessica


thebreadfairy's picture
thebreadfairy

**Ignore**

koloatree's picture
koloatree

i was looking at other cadco models and came across the larger model that can fit 3 full sheet pans. the oven seems large enough to fit maybe 2 2-2.5 lbs boules/batards. specs are 10x27.25x18.75. buying 4 of those ovens may produce similiar breads compared to a one deck doyon 2T oven that may cost 2x the price? the reason i ask is because i am interested in one day making bread for a living. =)