The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help, I need a new oven!

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Help, I need a new oven!

Last Sunday, my most epic baking day yet (14 loaves, five types), my oven bit the dust.  It's a less than five-year-old Kenmore gas oven.  After preheating for 2.5 hours on Sunday, it only got up to 200 degrees.  More broiling and preheating wouldn't get it hotter.  The repairman came on Friday and said we needed a new main circuit board.  And a new sensor.  The total would be $320.  We bought the oven used for $150.


It is possible that the huge billows of steam did something to the board.  Frankly, I don't see why you need electronic circuitry in an oven.  It is possible that the last 6 months of intense baking with multiple stones in the oven caused a problem.  I don't know, I'm not a mechanic.  But I do know that one should be able to bake in an oven without melting down the circuits.


So.  My conundrum now is about oven types.  Here in Southern California, there are tons of vintage ovens from the 40s and 50s around.  They are tempting both for the reliability of mechanical and solid components, and for the possibility of a double oven (yeah, Wedgewood!).


For all you bakers out there, which way should I go?  Is it better to get a newer (and bigger) oven that may break down again with all the steaming and baking?  Or should I go for a 50-year old model with a smaller oven but sturdier components?  FYI, I'm looking at Wedgewood, O'Keefe and Merritt, and Gaffers and Sattler for vintage ovens.  I have no idea what new oven brand would be good.

DerekL's picture
DerekL

It's not the electronics, nor that oven is of recent vintage - it's that you are treating a household oven like the commercial oven it isn't.  I doubt even a vintage oven will hold up long under that kind of mistreatment.

Aprea's picture
Aprea

Todays manufacturers and technology have planned obsolesence - I think it is disgraceful!  What is to stop a circuitboard developer from programming a breakdown after so many hours?  I know they do that - I once talked to an engineer for a popular electronic hair product company who confirmed this.


 


The components of the oven should be cheap to replace if we are to pay these exhorbitant costs to buy it in the first place.  I know yours was cheap - but I have the same issue with a $3000 double oven.  Imagine the landfill waste because of people wanting to replace things because of these circuitboard issues - I think it is horrible and I wish manufacturers would end this.  I don't mind paying more for something if I know it going to last - or that it won't be crazy expensive to replace the electronics.


 


 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

You hit the nail on the head.  Think in terms of pollution, resources, oil usage, or whatever you want ...the world is too high in pollution, too low on resources, and oil is in short supply for our needs.  If it weren't for a global recession, oil prices would be through the roof ...and commodities and resources already are.  I've said for years now that the solution is to stop the low-quality insanity.  It is NOT more economical to buy a new 'whatever' every couple of years because the quality was garbage compared to spending more on a higher quality version that does NOT fail after a couple of years.  The US manufacturing base was built on a reputation of quality in the first place, and it worked and worked well.  When we compromised quality in favor of product turnover and availability then guess what?  Japan became the new leader and THEY did it by mandating quality.  China will do it next if they get smart about it, and there are hints here and there out there that say they are ...or trying to.  They have many challanges to address and can't afford to address them all.  Worldwide, we could reduce overall cost of living, reduce how much is going into solid waste landfills (and the ocean), greatly reduce the demand on resources, and dramatically reduce the amount of oil used ...if we'd all boycott junk from junk companies.  It's crazy to sacrifice so much just so some foreign company can make a quick buck by generating wasteful turnover.  Ok ...off my podium.  I'm just tired of all the junk on the market and how the trickle down from running business like that is at the root of most of our problems today (the other big 'root' being government involvement in anything.)


Brian


 

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz


It's not the electronics, nor that oven is of recent vintage - it's that you are treating a household oven like the commercial oven it isn't.  I doubt even a vintage oven will hold up long under that kind of mistreatment.



I totally disagree with you. Years ago it was not unusual to subject a household oven to "that kind of treatment." 


For example: My ex-boyfriend's grandmother came from the old country - Italy. Her days were spent cooking, baking - she made everything (and I mean everything) from scratch. Pastas, breads, sauces, meats - that coal stove was always on AND she had a bureau in the hallway of her third floor apt LOADED with every kind of Italian pastry - cannolis, cookies, cake - for the postman, neighbors, relatives - anyone who came up those stairs were expected to help themselves.


All of this - she made herself, from scratch.


Frankly, I'd like to see anyone in the commercial sector try to hold a candle to her, (or to any mom or grandmom of her generation).


Once more, the appliances that were built years ago were built with the intention of their lasting, not wearing out, like they do now. Even the stainless steel that is mined in Asia is a poorer quality.


 



 


rainwater's picture
rainwater

I think vintage ovens will hold up under the stress of huge baking.  I've owned and cooked with "Chambers" ovens before.  I'm sure other vintage ovens are similar.  The reason I think vintage ovens can "take the heat" is because there are nothing but metal parts.  The pilot has to be relit if it goes out, and can be replaced if malfunctioning relatively inexpensively....no automatic electric starters.......the ovens are basically metal gas outlets and heavy steel.  I've known of old gas ovens being professionally blown out after years of service...sort of "cleaning the pipes" to restore gas flow.  ...but this isn't very expensive. Modern ovens are actually built rather well, but the digital and automatic (pilot) components are not meant to last that long....and they are expensive enough to make most people rationalize buying another oven....pretty smart.  Don't be surprised at how heavy a vintage oven can be to move......

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

As I have done in the past, search the interwebs for an appliance parts website.  they offer great advice and pictures to help you order and install your own replacement parts.  This is usually accomplished with great savings to you.

ericb's picture
ericb

Peter,


You might want to consider going to fixitnow.com. Not only will you find advice on how to repair your oven, but you can get the scoop on unreliable models. Searching the forum is free, and a $5 donation to the "beer fund" will get you posting rights. I have saved at least $800 on repairs by using it as a resource.


Eric (not affiliated in any way with fixitnow.com)

pjkobulnicky's picture
pjkobulnicky

Peter, et al ...


Do not buy that argument that they are breaking down because we are treating home ovens ovens like commercial ones. Commercial ovens just are bigger, have built in steam and hold heat in the baking surface better/longer) It IS the crappieness of modern appliances. An oven is a REALLY simple device ... insulated box and a heat source with a thermostatic (coil) feedback control on the heat source. An oven should last as long as the thermostat and heat source last and both should be simple to repair/replace. . But, if you make the heat source (burner or electric element) really cheap and/or make the thermostat really cheap (or digital) it will crap out ... which is the case.  Look at the heating element in a new electric oven vs the element in an old one ... the old one is MUCH more substantial.


So ... Buy an older oven but make sure that thermostat and burner/element parts are available (replacements will not be as good as the originals however). Do not think that a home version of a commercial stove is better, by the way. They are not.


Paul


 

DerekL's picture
DerekL

Why urge people not to believe the truth?  It's not a matter of having the same components, it's what the components are built of, how the oven is insulated, vented, wired, etc... etc...  Lots of details and lots of differences.  (Simple in theory doesn't mean simple in practice.)


If you could use a $500 home oven in place of a $5000 commercial oven, there wouldn't be a commercial oven sold.


 

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Maybe, but I'll bet the $500 oven would last 5X longer if the heat and steam from cooking didn't have access to the electronics.  That's called "engineering" and a little foresight on the part of the engineer (and I am one) would've prevented that.  I don't doubt that either the manufacturer didn't care (not as likely) or that the company that did the design and manufacturing under contract rammed the design through fast and dirty and didn't care if it lasted or not as long as it met the product specifications.  Ask me ...I know.  When working at a large blue-chip American company as an electrical engineer, I watched China and Taiwan do that to us over and over ...the only way to prevent it was to have an engineer permanently on location overseas to babysit everything they did ...else accept the short cuts, cheats on supplies and suppliers and quality, etc.  In defense of the Chinese, note that they work extremely hard, often putting in 18+ hour days and just don't have time to finesse things much of the time.  They are making an unreal effort to pull into the 1st world and aren't there yet.  Still ...I believe in refusing low-quality results, and, whatever it costs them, they (or whoever) needs to do the job right and to do it with quality, no cheating.


Brian


 

deblacksmith's picture
deblacksmith

The difference in a commercial vs. a home oven is not as simple as the cost of the parts and construction.  My guess is that half the cost of a commercial oven is that they are made in very low volume compaired to the home oven.  Marketing and after sales service is also a big factor in a commercial oven.


The real problem with the home oven today is that they are made to "look nice" not to use.  Only a small percentage of ovens sold today are used by folks that cook and bake a lot -- hence our frustration.


Look at the quality difference between washer and dryes (which every household makes heavy use of) and ovens.


It is part of the game.


Dave

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Microwaves are the same way ...When ours failed, the service man told us that the very high majority of failures was the membrane-type push button panel that they all have.  Something that should sell for $5 (if you compare to other products with similar components and quality), yet they want $75 to $125 for the thing, plus labor to put it in.  We bought a new microwave and intalled it ourselves, and it cost less than $200.  One small cheap piece bad ...one big piece of junk in the landfill.


Brian


 

jeromethegiraffe's picture
jeromethegiraffe

I know exactly what you are talking about. I too have no faith in touch pads and other gadgetry on modern-day ovens. I just posted about my problems with my Whirlpool convection oven here if you want to have a look:


 


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/13047/your-opinions-ultimate-baker039s-oven-please-my-lemon-must-be-replaced

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

My experience with modern home appliances is that they have a very short life expectancy no matter how they are used.   Short as compared with appliances made 40-50 years ago.  Many appliances from the 50's & 60's were replaced not because they failed but rather because the consumer was convinced that they needed to "upgrade" or "modernize" their appliance.  So much for modernization.


Jeff

cryobear's picture
cryobear

In 1953, Vance Packhard wrote the book "Planned Obsolesence" as a suggestion for getting out of the post war depression.  He introduced the idea that nothing should last more than 5 years.  At the same time, people started doing things out side the home, and builders took the hint.  Kitchens became smaller, stoves were used less and made cheaper.  No more 6 burners or double ovens, nor griddles and deep pot for slow cooking.  It's out to Mcdonalds.  The family center of the kitchen table moved to the larger "Family Room" and TV.


Yes, now we are paying the price, but have you noticed that the kitchens are getting bigger and so are the stoves?  So if they get back to quality again, things will get better.  We just have to insist on better treatment from producers, or they don't get my money.  BTW, I now bake in a stone oven.  By that I mean that I live on the side of a volcano, on an old lava flow.  In my yard we have a "Puka", a hole in the flow that is 6 feet deep vertically, and domed.  I just throw in the wood in the morning, and can cook all day.....


Bob Farrell

jeromethegiraffe's picture
jeromethegiraffe

Cooking on a lava flow. Wow. I bet you will never have to replace a digital control panel on that oven!

Humble Bread's picture
Humble Bread

Have you considered building a WFO (wood fired oven)? There are quite a few in your area of Southern CA. My wife and I built a 36" x 48" Alan Scott oven last year and haven't looked back. We had very little experience with bricks and mortar but we pulled it off (www.humblebread.blogspot.com).With this size we can fit 18  750 g batards at a time (if we want). After a firing and a decent sized bread bake, there is plenty of leftover heat for baking or roasting other terrestrial treats.


If your county allows such ovens, you should definitely consider one if you are a bread baker and in need of a new oven. You could always buy a regular indoor oven for regular fare.


Check out The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing & Alan Scott. It's a great book about bread and ovens and worth the read even if you aren't going to build one.


Best Wishes,


 


Henry

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

Thanks everyone for the comments.  I think there's incontrovertible evidence that today's appliances cannot compare in quality and durability to vintage ovens.


With that said, I disagree that using steam to bake bread is mistreatment of a residential oven.  Anything put in an oven will produce steam to some degree, and even the cheapest modern ovens have vents.  Ovens are still meant to get hot to bake and cook food, and water vapor will be released.


I'm reluctant to buy another modern oven but it looks as if I have no choice, based on the oven size I want and the kitchen space available.  If baking bread ruins another oven, so be it.  I also plan on simmering stews, finishing meats, baking cookies, and doing lots of other things with my oven that, while possibly qualifying as "mistreatment", will continue to bring me joy and good food.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Well, since you're going for a modern product (which is going to be better insulated than any vintage product), why not look into an oven which includes steam injection?  They're now available for home kitchens.

jeromethegiraffe's picture
jeromethegiraffe

LindyD above talks about steam injection as a feature on some new ovens. Does anyone have experience with these ovens? Are they more durable and reliable or is this yet another expensive-to-repair gadget that turns good ovens into junk?

rayel's picture
rayel

Was the title of that book,The Waste Makers?


Ray

flourgirl51's picture
flourgirl51

Does anyone have a Viking oven? Looking for pros and cons to this brand.

cryobear's picture
cryobear

The Waste Makers: A Startling Revelation of Planned Obsolescence (1960),


I thought that I read it in Korea in the 50's, but I was wrong.  I read it in French Indo China, in the early 60's.  What the hick, one war is the same as any other, all bad.


 


Bob Farrell

PeterPiper's picture
PeterPiper

I finally got an oven.  It has been over 3 weeks since I baked and I'm itching to get back into it.  I decided it was better to get a solid oven that's already been working for 60 years, than to roll the dice on another recent model.  I got an O'Keefe and Merritt double oven.  The bonus is that I have two ready-made proofing boxes now, with those pilot lights going.  Also with two ovens I can do two types of bread, or we can make dinner while I'm baking bread.  Thanks to everyone for the comments and I can't wait to start baking again.  The important question now:  which bread should I bake first, to annoint the new oven?


O'Keefe and Merritt vintage oven

lynnebiz's picture
lynnebiz

Wow - that oven is BEAUTIFUL!! I never knew they made double ones like that back then - I've seen what we call "gas on gas," meaning one side was for heating. But this baby is gorgeous - and you have two ovens... I am so jealous! ;-D


Way to go!

sphealey's picture
sphealey

This thread set to me Googling around to see if I could find my mom's old 6-burner Roper (circa 1960 I think - my father bought it from an early television cooking show in Chicago that was cancelled).  Besides 2 ovens and 6 burners, two of the burners had a sensor which touched the bottom of the pan and was supposed to automatically adjust the flame to maintain a constant temperature (those never worked in my lifetime, but are an interesting example of how technology is often tried, fails, and is later perfected and reintroduced as new).


I didn't find that stove, but I did find this site with pictures of a Roper 8-burner home stove:  http://www.antiquegasstoves.com/pages/1roper.html  Wow!  Also some interesting pictures of refurbishing such a beast.


sPh

Yerffej's picture
Yerffej

Now THAT is a beautiful stove.


Jeff

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

At first glance I thought they were a pair of washer and dryer! LOL  It took me a second to register... how wonderful and hey I want one of those double oven, too! 


 


tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

That is a beautiful oven!  And it really fits the ambience of your kitchen as well!


Which bread?  Hmmm... I'd pick one of Hamelman's rustic sourdough multi-grain breads.  Something earthy, wholesome, and full of great flavor.


Brian