Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Broken Oven

Blondie and I are looking for a new oven. One recent evening I had just put a casserole in the oven for dinner and went on about my business. Suddenly, we heard a loud crackle and then the smoke detector started beeping. We couldn't figure out what it was until we saw the smoke in the kitchen. We opened the oven door and saw a small flame on the element. Needless to say, our dinner was ruined. The status of the oven remained to be seen.

Blondie removed the charred element and I took it to our local appliance store to see if they could get a replacement. We didn't have a model number, so they had to guess which one to order. It came in and Blondie installed it. No luck. Apparently it was more than just a bad element.

He called his dad for backup and they still couldn't find the problem. His grandpa came over to help and they determined that there was a bad switch that needed to be replaced. Without a model number, it was pretty much impossible to find a replacement switch. They searched high and low and couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, Blondie fiddled with it enough to find a model number under the cooktop.

Like any good researcher, he entered it in Google and when he came up with four results, he knew he was in trouble. The most helpful article was a scanned newspaper clipping from 1971. Apparently, this Michigan newspaper had archived their articles, and he found an ad promoting a big appliance sale. Our oven was the "Imperial" model, which featured an oven window, oven light, aluminum foil liner, and an optional panoramic full glass door and Teflon back panel. It was pretty fancy in its day. Regularly $289, on sale for $179!

He called the store where we had purchased the new element and they laughed when he told them he was looking for a part for an oven from 1971. The lady said that he was pretty much out of luck on anything older than 25 years.

Let me tell you, you can't get an oven for $289 these days. Not even a cheap one. We've been considering all of our options. Blondie did a ton of online research and learned that there are basically three options to choose from when selecting a new oven/range combination: drop in, slide in, and freestanding. Drop ins only come in electric, the sides aren't finished, don't have a bottom drawer, don't have feet, and is the most expensive option. No, thanks. Slide ins are similar. Their sides aren't finished, but they do have a bottom drawer and feet. Free standing is exactly what it sounds like: a completely self contained unit that stands on its own four feet and has finished sides. It's the cheapest.

We currently have a drop in and would like to replace it with a gas or induction range. Since drop ins are the most expensive and don't come in gas, we're probably going with a different style this time. We would like to just buy a free standing oven and set it in the hole where our drop in was. However, it's not quite that simple. A drop in is a little smaller, so we'll have to cut out a 4"x30" strip of cabinet at the back and the little platform that the current oven sits on. That doesn't sound like a big deal, but the little platform under the oven contains a drawer and there's a tile kickplate on the front of the cabinetry. Those won't be easy to remove without ruining something.

Also, drop ins are generally hard wired in, so there's no plug behind the oven. If we buy a gas range, we'll have to get a plumber to run a gas line. And, of course, anything new has electronic controls, so we'll still have to plug in our gas oven. Fortunately, there is already an outlet directly above the stove.

In the meantime, we've been improvising. The electric range part of this unit still works, so we've been using that like normal. I have a pretty fancy toaster oven that I can use to bake small casseroles and even full size frozen pizzas. However, it's not so good for a 9"x13" cake pan or a bunch of cookies. One day I decided to bake a cake for dessert and got halfway through mixing it up before I realized I had no way to bake it. I ended up putting it in two 8" round pans and baking them separately. That worked fine. However, when I volunteered to bake cookies for Vacation Bible School, I didn't consider how long it would take to bake them, six at a time, in my toaster oven. I mixed them up at home and then baked them at my mother-in-law's house.