Monday, November 22, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Stainless Steel: Why I Miss My Frigidaire Electric Range!

The Good: Excellent look, Even heat distribution, Fairly easy to clean
The Bad: Cooktop easily gets messed up, Timer function
The Basics: The Frigidaire FEF336EC stove works well, is easy to clean and fits a great deal in it!

Some years ago, when I had my own home, I was thrilled with the kitchen I had. Everything had stainless steel and looked good. I swear, when I bought my house, the first people who made out best were the fine folks at Frigidaire! We had all of our appliances from them and when I was forced to leave the house, most of my stuff went to the local library (including the Frigidaire FEF336EC electric range). In all seriousness, I've owned my Frigidaire stainless steel, electric oven with the glass (they call it "ceramic") cooktop for five years before that happened and it is a product worth writing about. First of all, for those of you looking for a new stove, this is an exceptionally nice one. Bottomline, if you want it quick, this is an excellent product.

The oven is big, at least 4 cubic feet of usable space in the oven. In fact, with its adjustable racks including one directly over the recessed lower heating element, it is perfectly possible to be using three levels of cooking space. This is an exceptional asset when you're cooking for a party.

The front door of the stove opens downward (don't they all?) and with so much continuous use as I've had with mine, I'm pleased to note that the seal around the door is exceptionally durable and I've noticed no leaks. This was especially frustrating last year in the winter when it was bitter cold inside and out; I couldn't use baking something as an excuse to warm the house.

The top of the oven is a smooth glass (or "ceramic") top. If you're not familiar with these new stoves, there's no gas flame nor heating coils, there's a flat surface (in this case black) with four circles that are the burners. When the stovetop it turned on (we'll get to that in a minute), the whole glass circle begins to glow and heat. It's very cool. The advantages of this are: 1. it cooks food very evenly. As long as your pan actually has a flat bottom, this is a perfect way to insure that the contents cook evenly. This is especially noticeable with things like omelets and pancakes. 2. It is very easy to clean. Things spill on it, wipe it right off and it stays looking as nicely as it did when you first bought it.

Unfortunately, I've discovered this also leads some people (like my partner) to get lazy. This cooktop can remain perfect, but it requires the user to be somewhat fearless with the cleaning cloth. I am. My partner is not. Thus, if one is either fearful - or just plain lazy - one ends up with a less than perfect cooking surface. That is to say if something boils over, it may be as simple as salted water for pasta, if you don't wipe it off within a minute or three, your surface will be permanently marred. I tend to be able to get right in there when such things happen. My partner does not and as a result, will allow the substance to cook into the burner panel. It's hard to describe because one might assume if you waited until the burner was cool, you could simply wash it off or chisel it off. Such is not the case; if something bakes into the surface, it bakes IN. I've yet to figure this out entirely because I've removed all particles from such mistakes and still - under the gloss - the panel has become discolored. Poop.

On the plus side, the functionality of the stove has not changed. While the slight imperfections in the surface might crop up after things are baked into the top, it becomes no less efficient at cooking on the stovetop. Indeed, I have noticed no problems in that regard. Ever.

The controls are very easy to use. The burners are controlled by dials with settings from low (1) to high (above 8). And there is a noticeable difference in the heat levels that I have not noticed on previous stovetops I have used. So a 3 and a 4 will yield different results for cooking in both time and quality. The nice thing is that if you have a high learning curve, this stove is easy to adapt to. The results are very predictable based on experience (i.e. if you cooked one omelet at setting 4 and it took 2 minutes, you could cook 100 at the same setting and be guaranteed it would take the same 2 minutes). The oven is also easy to use with a simple digital setting that goes in increments of five degrees, making setting it quite easy.

The only other drawback to this is the timer function on the oven. It's not so much a drawback as something it helps to know. When one sets the timer - a very easy digital display - it is tied into the clock function of the oven. So, if you set the timer for ten minutes, the minutes count down based on the time. So, if it is 9:59 and you set the timer for ten minutes, the timer goes off at 10:09. The issue here is in the time you want. If it is 9:59:59 when you set the timer, the timer still goes off at 10:09:00. Cooks in the house, what does that mean? Your timer ate almost an entire minute. There are some recipes (like late in the cookie game) that this can make a huge difference for. Of course, once you know this, it becomes very easy to work around. I, for instance, just wait (on important projects) until I see the minute change, then throw whatever it is into the oven and set the timer.

Despite minor problems, this is an exceptionally energy-efficient oven that is well put together and very nice to look at and use. It's probably the best on the market for anyone who wants consistent results, easy cleaning and energy efficiency. What more could you want?

For other kitchen appliance reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Frigidaire FFC07C3A Chest Freezer
Cuisinart ICE-20/ICE-21 Ice Cream Maker
Samsung Stainless Steel microwave


For other appliance and home furnishing reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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