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Product Reviews

Appliances that cook up convenience

Many sport fancy features that can make mealtimes easier

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Families are eating more meals and snacks at home — 61 more per person per year than a decade ago. That’s a total of 902 breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks per person, according to research company the NPD Group. Consumer Reports found many ranges, cooktops, wall ovens, and microwaves that make cooking easier and more fun.

The almost 250 cooking appliances that were tested have more features than ever. And manufacturers aren’t shy about promoting them. Five claims were put to the test.

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They say: Double-oven ranges and wall ovens let you cook multiple dishes at the same time at different temperatures.

Consumer Reports found: They’re a multitasker’s dream. Double-oven ranges come in two configurations: a smaller top oven paired with a larger one below and two ovens that are the same size — all in 30-inch-wide models. They do let you cook different dishes at different temperatures.

No matter how your range is configured, that lower oven is low, and if you’re using the lowest rack inside that oven, then it’s really low. To see how you like it, borrow a roaster from the housewares aisle while shopping and place it in the lower oven. Imagine it filled with food, then pull out the rack and lift the roaster from the oven.

They say: Five burners offer the ultimate flexibility.

Consumer Reports found: More 30-inch gas ranges and cooktops have five burners instead of four. Some of the fifth burners are small and are just for simmering; others are oblong and can be used with griddles for added functionality. Using all five at the same time could require some careful maneuvering.

They say: A new style of infrared broiler cuts more than 20 percent off cooking time.

Consumer Reports found: Not so fast. Tests of the LG range with that new infrared broiler found that it broiled burgers about a minute faster using its speed-broil setting than did the standard broiler on a similar LG range. Both turned out seared and juicy burgers, but the infrared’s speed-broil option is meant for broiling only a few burgers or steaks. When larger quantities were cooked on regular broil, the infrared model wasn’t as good as the standard broiler.

They say: Induction heats much quicker than conventional electric and gas.

Consumer Reports found: Induction cooktops and ranges, which use electromagnetic coils under the cooktop’s glass-covered surface, do deliver the fastest heating, about 25 percent faster than electric smoothtops and even faster when compared with gas models. Induction also provides precise simmering and control, but those ranges and cooktops usually cost more.

They say” AquaLift cleans your oven in less than an hour with odor-free, low-temperature technology.

Consumer Reports found: The only self-cleaning ranges that scored poorly in oven cleaning out of the more than 140 tested were five Maytags and two Whirlpools with AquaLift. Though the technology can effectively clean the bottom of the oven, you may have to run more than one cycle or manually clean the oven to remove grease from the walls and window.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.
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