The Story of the Life of my Kitchen - or - Appliance Jinx Re-Visited
I AM the appliance jinx of SW London. The reason we bought our Neff oven is related to our tales of woe.
Years ago, we moved into our house. I HATED the kitchen (avocado, badly designed), had a little spare money, so we had the kitchen re-done literally within a week of moving into the house. We did NOT buy an oven before the kitchen was re-done. I knew what would happen if we did. We'd wait and wait to get around to having the kitchen done, and meanwhile spend the money allocated to the kitchen.
We thought we'd save a bit of money by not purchasing the appliances from the kitchen fitters; rather, we'd go to Comet (I think) and buy cheaper ones there. Big mistake. We bought a Pro-Line oven that never worked properly from day one. Finally, the fan AND the grill gave up the ghost (this may have had a little to do with the fact that we rarely...very rarely actually cleaned it well).
My mother - oh how I am grateful to my mother - offered to pay for the replacement oven around 3 or 4 years ago. Off we trot again to Comet, order an oven, it never arrives. We wait, and wait, and finally cancel the order and (lesson learnt), went to our LOCAL independent appliance store (support your local high street traders, folks). They undercut Comet, delivered, installed AND took the old one away. We were now the proud owners (and all for just around £400) of a NEFF B2421 built in electric fan oven.
Story over, Matty - tell me about the OVEN - THE BASICS
Right. Sorry. You can wake up now.
As I mentioned, this is an electric fan oven. This means that a fan in the oven distributes heat more evenly (in theory, anyway), thus allowing cooking at a slightly lower temperature and for a shorter time. According to the instruction booklet, it also means you don't have to pre-heat the oven (but I don't believe them, and pre-heat anyway, most of the time). There is also an internal grill.
This is a good sized oven (and no, I've never MEASURED it - I'm not that sad!) - as it's a single oven, I can fit large joints - if I took out extra shelves, I would have no problems fitting a good sized turkey in it - but I don't COOK good sized turkeys - there's only three of us, for crying out loud! We did look at under counter double ovens, but the main cooking area is just too small - even for just the three of us. I'm told that it's has one of the larger cooking cavities around for its overall size. (And thanks guys, for the suggestion that size matters!)
There is a timer which can be used in one of three ways (four, if you include the normal 24 hour clock) - as a timer (to time things that aren't in the oven, say), as a cooking timer (when cooking time is finished, the oven shuts off, and the beeper goes), and as a start/finish timer (you can decide what time you want to eat, and set the oven to come on when appropriate and to shut off the oven and beep annoyingly at you when it's finished.
On the front of the oven are two dials - one for cooking method, and one for temperature. Going in reverse, the temperature setting is pretty obvious and straightforward - you set the temperature at which you wish to cook in degrees C ranging from 50 - 250, with markings for the grill from L(ow) - H(igh).
***WARNING - digression - weird story time - skip this bit if you're just interested in the oven***
Years ago, my mum came over to England, and decided she'd cook us a roast. She shouts to me from the kitchen, "Kate, what am I going to do, we'll be eating at midnight!" I said, intelligently, "huh?!" "Because," replied mum, "the oven only goes up to 250!".
I thought about that. "That's CELSIUS, mum." "Ah..."
*** END OF STORY ***
There is a de-frost setting (which I've never used - that's what a microwave is for), the grandly named 'Circotherm' (fan setting by any other name), the 'radiant' grill, and 'Circo-roasting'.
GENTLE DEFROST - as I said - never used. The instruction manual tells me it's recommended for 'delicate pastries only'. Whatever.
CIRCOTHERM - fan oven. This is the setting most frequently used. The fan comes on and supposedly moves the heat around. According to the instructions, in addition to the advantages listed above, it also allows 'cooking on up to 3 shelves at once'. To be honest, I'd do that anyway if I really wanted to - but I don't have three pans or tins that would FIT on three shelves anyway, so two is the most I use.
Does It Work?
The fan and fan cover need cleaning from time to time to ensure that the fan remains effective. They probably need cleaning more than they get cleaned in our house. However, the fan oven does, generally, cook evenly. BUT, I DO need to remember that cooking times and temperatures are less in a fan oven. I've dried out a few casseroles by forgetting this important fact. Dry pork chop casseroles are GROSS.
CIRCOTHERM GRILLING - this is exactly the same setting and little picture on the dial as Circotherm. There's a difference? Beats me. Apparently, using this instead of the grill for steaks and sausages and stuff means you don't have to turn them. Again, whatever - I'm a traditionalist - if I want grilled sausages, I'll either grill them or, better yet, get hubby to do them on the gas barbeque!
RADIANT GRILL - does what it says on the tin. The top element only comes on - you use it for grilling things (cheese on toast, sausages yadda yadda).
Does It Work? Yes. Like any other grill. Just fine. The oven came with a grill pan. It works - what can I say? You can use the wide metal rack for things like sausages, or, if you're cooking something flat, narrow and slippery (like bacon), you can use one of the wire racks from the oven shelves - they fit in the grill pan. I hate cleaning it - especially the wire racks..
CIRCO-ROASTING - I've never used this (though hubby may have - he does a good deal of the cooking in the house). Neff tells me that 'with Circo-roasting, the fan and the grill elements are activated alternately...this...gives an effect similar to spit roasting'. Yeah, if you say so.
ANYWAY - I think you get the point - more settings than I need - I grill and cook. That's it. Still, the little pictures on the dial look nice.
This oven has a digital clock at the front (24 hour time). It's lit in green light, and, coolly, dims after 10.00pm. In case you sleep in your kitchen, I guess.
Needless to say, it does more than tell time. You can use it to time your dinner. There are two ways of doing this.
RANDOM TIMING - You are boiling eggs on your hob. You want a three-minute egg, and your watch has no second hand. You can use the timer on the oven as just a countdown timer. Just press the little button with a picture of a little bell, turn the dial so the display reads '3 minutes', and voila! After three minutes it dutifully beeps. And beeps. And beeps. In fact, it keeps beeping until you turn it off. This can get annoying, and this is true for all timing options. Oh well....
SETTING THE COOKING TIME - You're cooking a stew that needs to be in the oven for two hours. Easy peasy - turn the oven on, choose your temperature, press the button with two lines and an arrow (not forgetting, of course, to put your stew IN THE OVEN. It won't cook on the counter), turn the dial to the required cooking time. Now, not only will that increasingly annoying beeper beep after 2 hours, but the oven will switch off.
AUTOMATIC SWITCH ON AND SWITCH OFF - You can time when it finishes, and you can set the time you want it to start (actually, you set the finish time and the cooking time, and it decides when it needs to start). WARNING - only use this option if you're cooking something that will look after itself. If you need to check, baste, or otherwise interfere with your meal, stay home and look after it! Warning over - the method is similar, except you press yet ANOTHER button in addition to those above - an arrow with one line. With the dial you set the cooking time and the finish time. Now you can go to the pub, and when you get home, your dinner will be cooked, the oven will be off, and your dinner will be ready. Assuming, of course, you haven't come home three hours late - in which case your dinner will be cold. You can set the end time up to 23 hours 59 minutes in advance. As if you'd want to....
I use the second two a lot. I go to the pub a lot. Once, I didn't heed the warning and cooked pork loin steaks unattended. Burnt, not nice, nasty. Lesson learnt. However, remembering which buttons to press in which order is tricky - I still have to look at the instruction booklet (which, handily, is open next to me as I write this). Thankfully, the instruction booklet is clearly written.
But does it work? Matty's Verdict
Yes it does - admirably, and without problem for several years. The door removes for easier cleaning (which, admittedly, happens very seldom). The fan grille comes off for easier cleaning (ditto). Nothing has broken. It all works. It's kept working - which is more than I can say for the Pro-Line. The door doesn't get too hot on the outside - a bonus when you have children.
It cooks, and it cooks reasonably evenly. Frozen pizza can occasionally be a problem - sometimes I get burnt crust and chilly inside, but I have less problems with that if I remember to actually stick it in the middle (moving the racks, don't ya know).
I don't know why they put windows in ovens - they get gross in two days, and stay gross (at least in my house). If you don't wipe it down IMMEDIATELY...well...yuck. I wish I had a self-cleaning oven, but never mind.
I was very happy with my oven for several years. It was mid-priced, and, for us, good value for money. We have, last week, moved house. Since the oven was (and no doubt still is) a built in oven, we left it there. There is an Electrolux built in oven in our 'new' house. The timer isn't as clever, and for some reason, the previous owners took the grill pan. But only time will tell how it performs as compared to the Neff.
And Finally - amusing warnings from the booklet
I am not making these up - these are really in the instruction booklet:
"The appliance should only be used for the preparation of food." OK - I won't dry my cat in it. Glad you told me.
"The surfaces of heating and cooking appliances get hot." Nooooooo, really?
Short name: Neff B1421B0GB