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Stupid oven controls


Fat Guy
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Time was, you could go most anywhere and use any home oven. There was this big dial and you turned it to whatever temperature you wanted. The main exception was that if you went overseas you had to deal with a different scale.

Today, most new ovens I see have digital controls that are hardly intuitive. In the past couple of months, I've been to several people's homes to cook and it has been nearly impossible to figure out how to work their ovens without a tutorial. Worse, in one case a meal was nearly ruined by the complexity of the controls, to wit who thought it was a good idea to shut the oven off automatically when the timer reaches zero?

I would really like to see a return to sanity in oven controls.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I really love that my digital oven controls are placed so that I have to reach over my (likely hot) burners to reach them. Also, digital controls give such a lovely illusion of precision!

Dougal is also completely right about excessive features-- people seem to like to buy products with more features even if the features are useless, or worse.

Jen

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....who thought it was a good idea to shut the oven off automatically when the timer reaches zero?

Probably someone associated with fire departments they got tired of going to house fires caused when people leave home with something still in the oven. It actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Do you also dislike having the ability for the oven to come on via timer?

One thing I wish they would add is a button to push to change the temperature control from Centigrade to Fahrenheit. That should be a very simple addition.

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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Digital oven controls (like the ones on my oven) make me want to go on a shooting spree.

It's not just that they're unintuitive. Even after you learn how to use controls like mine, it takes half a minute to click the thing from 500 degres to 200, instead of the half second it takes to turn a knob.

Notes from the underbelly

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who thought it was a good idea to shut the oven off automatically when the timer reaches zero?

I'm sure this feature is useful to many people. I am not one of them. I used the timer on my oven a total of one time. After that, I switched to using an external timer. It's easier to set, and it doesn't have any affect on the oven. I agree wholeheartedly: manufacturers are always looking for new "features" to put in their advertising, to the detriment of usability.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Absolutely agreed that domestic goods manufacturers in general don't spend nearly enough design time on the operational aspects of their 'user interface'.

Problem is, all these are reports on things that people actually paid money for.

Until shoppers tell salespeople "I'm not buying that because its not good to use" then the message will not be fed back to the design managers that buyers demand usability.

If people buy on feature lists (and looks) then the designers will be instructed to produce more of the same "but more modern-looking".

And the designers will indulge their artistic fantasies rather than considering the science of ergonomics, and the subtle skills of making the complex simple to operate.

AFAIK, all domestic time switched cookers have simply switched off at the end of their programmed time, ever since such timers were mechanical.

I think it sounds as though there might have been confusion between two different functions, set time (switched) cooking, and a simple minute minder 'pinger' alarm - not actually controlling anything.

Its making such distinctions clear to a user who hasn't studied the operators' manual that distinguishes the extraordinary from the very ordinary in 'human interface' design.

And, OK, yes, I do choose to use a Macintosh...

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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My parents have a double in-wall oven. The top oven has electronic digital contols. To set the temp, you have to push + and - buttons. It's a total PITA. Also, just turning that oven on to heat requires some sort of special button press. Just setting the temp doesn't fire up the elements. Yes, conventional knob controls typcially have a second knob for this. But with the buttons, it seems more "complicated". There have been numerous times when someone has set the temp, only to find a stone cold oven later because it was never on. Or, sometimes, it seems like the oven is more easy to shut off accidently. The bottom oven has a set of conventional knob controls. It's weird.

It's not that I am against digital controls for an oven. But design them so they make sense. At least have a pad with numbers so I can punch in "400" instead of pushing a button a ton of times. Really, it seems that sometimes these things are designed by techie people that don't actually ever cook.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Are there any ovens that have thermometers that correct the digital temperature controls on a regular basis and at different levels (low, medium, high, extra high heat)? Now that's a feature I'd like, and it'd be pretty easy, wouldn't it?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Really, it seems that sometimes these things are designed by techie people that don't actually ever cook.

They are also designed for people who never cook. The fancier and more complex the oven, the more likely it is to wind up in a trophy kitchen that never gets used.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Steven , I couldn't agree with you more.

I recently cooked a meal at someone's home. They have a "trophy kitchen" and don't cook a lick. The knobology drove me nuts, though I got through it ok.

One of the nicest things about my house is that the stove is as basic as it gets (gas Kenmore) and has nothing but knobs. Once I figured out the actual oven temps, I love the thing. I wish that it had six burners, but beyond that, it's doing just what I want it to do at all times. I do miss my old O'Keefe and Merritt, though. That thing was a 1930's rocket ship. I'll get another one for this house at some point.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Ahh, "Trophy kitchen"....

I remember doing a wedding gig at a private home of a wealthy Asian family. Everything was fully prepared, I just had a few sauces to heat up, and asked where the kitchen was. Was shown to an immaculate kitchen with a state-of-the-art stove. Now, I'm pretty good with gadetry, but I couldn't get the thing to work. I finally figured either I or the the band must have blown a breaker and asked the man of the house where the fuse box was. He looked at me kinda funny and wanted to know why. I told him the we mut have blown a breaker because the stove wouldn't work. He cracks up and starts laughing, then leads me to a door past the trophy kitchen.

What a mess! Dishes everywhere and a very old, reliable gas stove groaning under pots and pans, and a charcoal brazier going with a clay pot of silky black chicken and medicinal herbs simmering away.....

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We will be remodeling our kitchen in 6 to 12 months, and I've been dreaming away about new appliances. It just kills me that I would have to spend close to $5,000 on a double oven in order to get knobs instead of digital controls. I have digital controls now on my wall oven, and the control panel went out once already. Luckily it was under warranty or it would have cost me $350.00. Of course knobs can break too but at least you can usually use a pair of pliers to turn the shaft so you can still use the oven. When my control panel went out the oven was useless. However, unless I win the lottery it looks like digital controls will be in my future :sad: .

It may be time to refurb the 1948 O'Keefe & Merritt that is sitting in my basement...although that will probably cost a few grand as well, IF I can find someone to do it. It still works but cosmetically it's very bad.

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....who thought it was a good idea to shut the oven off automatically when the timer reaches zero?

Probably someone associated with fire departments they got tired of going to house fires caused when people leave home with something still in the oven. It actually sounds like a pretty good idea. Do you also dislike having the ability for the oven to come on via timer?

One thing I wish they would add is a button to push to change the temperature control from Centigrade to Fahrenheit. That should be a very simple addition.

What does one use the feature of having the oven come on by itself to cook?

I mean are people putting a raw chicken in the oven at 8am, setting it to turn on at 4pm so they can eat dinner at 6pm?

It always seemed like a neat idea and I think my new oven even has the feature but what the hell do you use it for?

ahhhh and dont forget the Kosher switch

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

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Are there any ovens that have thermometers that correct the digital temperature controls on a regular basis and at different levels (low, medium, high, extra high heat)? Now that's a feature I'd like, and it'd be pretty easy, wouldn't it?

I take it that the answer is no?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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One thing I wish they would add is a button to push to change the temperature control from Centigrade to Fahrenheit.  That should be a very simple addition.

Actually, it's multiplication AND addition: multiply by 1.8 and add 32.

Sorry, couldn't resist! :raz:

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is my first opportunity to brag about the shiny new Blue Star range sitting in my new kitchen. Among its many virtues is that the controls are all knobs, no electronics. Turn on the oven and the little blue light next to the knob goes on. When the correct temp is reached, light goes off. End of story. Maybe not enough for some but good for me. I've had it a couple of months, and I'm embarrassed to admit that work, etc has kept me from giving it the serious workout it deserves. But now that life is getting back to normal and the holidays approach, I anticipate having a lot of fun testing this stove.


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Just passing through this forum to look up something else. But this topic caught my eye. We have Kitchenaid 30" double convection wall ovens. Model is about 12 years old. With digital controls (guess this was version 1.1 or something like that). Very easy to use. Perhaps things have gotten more complicated since then. Only problem with the digital stuff now is the timer count-down display has dimmed a bit - so it is hard to see when the sun is shining on it. Only significant problem we had with the oven is the 30" ovens used light duty springs designed for 27" inch ovens. So they broke when the oven was almost new. Since Kitchenaid didn't sell replacement springs (duh) - even though next year's model had heavier duty springs - it replaced the entire unit for a nominal sum (although the unit wasn't under warranty - I threatened to sue - and we reached an amicable settlement).

FWIW - I had to buy a new washing machine last month and wound up with dials only. The stories that I read about buying washing machines with digital controls make the stories here about ovens with digital controls sound like a walk in the park.

Also FWIW - whatever you do - and no matter where you live - buy a brand that people in your area know how to service - with parts that are kept in stock. A fancy brand (whether analog or digital) will get tiresome really fast if you need a 50 cent part that has to be special ordered from Europe (by way of contrast - our local repair guy had the parts to repair our 14 year old Maytag washer in stock in town - although the repair turned out to be not worthwhile in terms of what it would cost).

Finally - here is a handy hint that may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. A year or so ago - our oven seemed to die. Nothing - no matter what buttons you pushed. I figured - **it - we'll have to buy a new oven. But I hit the blogs first - and found a blog run by an appliance repair guy. He told us to turn off the circuit breaker on the oven - let it sit off for about 10 minutes - and then turn it back on. And - when we did - lo and behold - the oven "rebooted" - just like a computer (it actually went through a "boot up" routine on the display panel). And it worked perfectly. I was totally amazed. Robyn

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You may recall my angst a few mos ago on another thread regarding buying a new range to replace the aged vulcan that was in deep need of reapir. I worried about a too-electronic oven being a fragile PITA.

I looked at all the new ones and pondered the sage advice on eGullett and ended up spending $800 to upgrade the controls. Couldn't be happier with my old stone-age non-electronic black monstosity. :-)

One thing I'd like though is a digital thermo probe that will read up to 500 deg F so I can monitor the oven temp. Everything I can find stops at 325 or so. Any ideas?

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to wit who thought it was a good idea to shut the oven off automatically when the timer reaches zero?

This happened to me last Sunday, had some roasted garlic in the oven ready for the middle of the meal, and when I checked on it - got nothing. Oven turned off cause the first dish's timer shut the oven off 20 minutes earlier. With you 100%, this was a digital oven of course.

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The + & - buttons for setting oven temperature are annoying, no doubt. However, having a flush control panel is a real advantage when it comes time to clean. What I'd like to see is somebody install a touch-sensitive "wheel" a la the iPod for setting oven temp (and the timer, and anything else where you might need to scroll a lot to reach the setting you want). Then, if they put it on the front bezel of the thing instead of on the backsplash, I'd be in appliance heaven.

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