Reasons to Love Your Oven

by Jane Wangersky | April 24th, 2014 | Cooking Basics

bread in ovenA few weeks ago, our oven just stopped heating up; it’s such a little known brand that I couldn’t find any repair service that was willing to send someone to look at it. In the end, the broken valve had to be pulled out and sent to another country to be fixed — and now it’s back and the oven is in working order again. I celebrated by baking a great big cake — no more need to stick to batches of half a dozen cupcakes that could be baked in the toaster oven — and rediscovering some things I’d almost forgotten.

Like meat loaf, cookies, home baked bread that doesn’t have a hole in the end of the loaf from the bread machine paddle, and good old Jello frosting (there’s no reason to think of that when you can’t make cake). We’ll be having baked potatoes again, but first we should probably get through all the sweet potatoes that’ve piled up. Sweet potatoes are problematic when you don’t have an oven, way more so than regular potatoes. You can’t boil and mash them, make hash browns or pancakes out of them — well, I guess you could, but would anyone eat them? — and you certainly can’t make sweet potato pie. It’ll be a relief to be able to bake them once again, and maybe make oven fries.

There’s nothing that can quite replace an oven. Nothing else can actually brown foods and cook them through at the same time — and has a handy broiler for the browning just in case that doesn’t work out in the main oven. (No matter how much you trust your appliances, it’s always good to have a backup plan.) Nothing is quite the same for warming up plates before a hot meal, a nice touch that keeps the food hot. (My stove has a warming oven — you begin to see why it’s a little out of the average — but an oven set on the lowest temperature, or turned off and cooling down, will do the trick too. Just use a potholder to take the plates out after a few minutes.)

Yes, ovens use an awful lot of energy, take time to preheat (but also to cool down, meaning you can turn them off a few minutes before the food’s actually done) heat up the house in summer — no one seems to consider that they heat it in winter too — and have to be cleaned with nasty chemicals or they’ll set off the smoke alarm every time you open the door. But I missed mine while it was out of service, and I hope I’ll never have to go so long without it again.

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