Who has a steam-assist oven?

The saga of oven repair that nearly exploded the house continues. Whirlpool doesn’t have the parts to fix the 36″-wide dual-fuel range. It is still under warranty so they have offered to give us a credit against one of their new 36″ dual-fuel ranges. These are crazy expensive (will be “stupid expensive” instead of “crazy expensive” after our credit). Here’s one example: a Kitchenaid KDRU767VSS. There is a slightly cheaper model that doesn’t have the “steam-assist” oven. That raises the question… do we want or need a “steam-assist” oven?

Readers: Does anyone have experience to report using one of these high-end Kitchenaid 36″-wide ranges? Experience with a steam-assist oven of any type?

Separately, I would like to take a moment to thank the architect who designed this kitchen for the previous owner of the house (and architects everywhere). Without his initiative in picking a 36″ range width, instead of the standard 30″, Whirlpool would be giving us a free replacement instead of charging us thousands of dollars for an oven that contains enough steel to build a minivan.

27 thoughts on “Who has a steam-assist oven?

  1. Um, I think a 36″ opening can fit a 30″ stove and have room left over for a little cabinetwork. Always nice to have storage for the cookie sheets. But I’m just an architect.

  2. If it’s still under warranty and they can’t fix it, why on earth aren’t they replacing it for free — regardless of width?

  3. Colin: But there are granite countertops. Are you saying try to find a granite that matches the current and make a 6″-wide piece for the top of the cookie sheet storage?

    tta: I think that they would buy it back for the original purchase price. Hard to ask for more than that.

  4. 36″ is a standard width for a 6 burner range, and a lot of people looking for higher end homes look for these larger sizes. I have a friend who put in a fancy 48″ range even though he doesn’t cook so that he could attempt to increase resale value even though it was a custom built home and he has no plans of selling any time soon.

    The steam assist seems like a weird feature, but we have a steam oven in our house instead of a microwave, but this steam assist thing seems gimmicky. If you don’t want the super fancy range, just get a 36″ one from a less expensive brand. How you deal with KitchenAid’s inability to support their warranty is separate. Small claims court might be a fun way to settle it.

  5. My mother is addicted to steam and while I wouldn’t use it every single time like her, I tend to agree it is a great feature to have. Especially for rewarming food that goes dry when left for any period of time (pancakes are a perfect example).

  6. It depends on how badly do you want to reach your gourmet potential, of course. I am pretty sure that this feature does not exist on commercial ovens (which are very simple and reliable) and I would recommend against getting it because it seems like another failure vector.

    I once asked a fridge repairman about what refrigerator he owns. He said that he has a pre-microchip GE model from the 60s that absolutely, positively never fails.

    Two of my refrigerators failed in the last 15 years, each time out of warranty, on the hottest day of the year. Both times the failed part involved electronics.

  7. Chris: I can’t get too enraged about Whirlpool’s inability to fix this range. Italy has melted down nearly its entire economy with deficit spending (government debt is at 127 percent of GDP according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_public_debt , worse than the U.S. though not as bad as Japan or Greece). How was Whirlpool to know that these folks wouldn’t be able to make a repairable range?

    It is a good thing that the government assures us that there is no inflation in the U.S. When Consumer Reports reviewed the prepared its page on “pro-style ranges” the price was $6000. Now they show the retail price as $7289 and Kitchenaid says the list price is $8,149.

  8. Also, since we are on the topic of modern ovens — don’t you find it strange that there even though there is no shortage of refrigerators and tvs that are vulnerable to viruses there seems to be not a single oven that can wirelessly tell a smartphone if its on or off?

  9. Nobody seems to be answering with “I cooked X with steam-assist and it came out…”. From this I think we can infer that nobody who buys these $8,000 ranges ever actually uses them!

  10. When I cook bread I put a cup of boiling water in a pan in the oven. A steam oven would be an improvement. My parents have a Vsug (I think that is how it is spelt). They can “boil” as many eggs as reasonably fit, possibly in the carton still. Useless of course unless you have 20 family members coming for lunch.
    On a separate topic, I wish our architect had put in a 36inch oven. 30 inches have a choice of about three brands here with 36 and 24 inch being common. I would totally put in an 8 burner range with 24 inch ovens. But I love cooking and couldn’t care less about resale value of the kitchen – I plan on using it to death.

  11. Of course nobody who buys an 8000 dollar oven is going to use it to cook. Anyone who’d have enough sense to know how to cook would also be able to calculate that you’d need to cook like 25 French Laundry dinners just to break even on it and would spend the money on something much more sensible.

  12. Philg: “Nobody seems to be answering with “I cooked X with steam-assist and it came out…”. From this I think we can infer that nobody who buys these $8,000 ranges ever actually uses them!”

    “Steam assist oven” second nkn-ad result. From 2013:


    They also have the advantage of being convection oven too (apparently).

    More basic 36 inch ranges can be had for $1500.


  13. I would find a scratch and dent 36″ range at one of your local appliance stores.

    Thermador, Wolf, Viking, Jenn-Air, Dacor, American Range, Capital Range. All brands that an individual such as yourself will find acceptable from a signalling standpoint. 🙂

    The steam assist is a nice feature if you bake a lot of bread. Otherwise you don’t need it.

    Also, you can save some money if you get a simple gas range.

    Michael, I design kitchens that will frequently have much more expensive ranges (La Cornue) than that of Chris’ friend. I’m convinced that many of my customers eat out or have caterers and never actually use their fancy appliances.

    You can also have 3″ stainless fillers made to flank a 30″ range. This might end up being a huge hassle that will end up being more costly than the 36″ range.

  14. Steam assist has limited usefulness – for example good for baking bread but you can achieve the same effect by covering the bread with some kind of dome (e.g. upside down aluminum foil pan) during the first few minutes of baking which traps the bread’s own moisture. Or you can spritz water from a spray bottle into the oven (this is essentially what the steam injection oven does). I think it’s completely skippable.

    You know that a steam injection oven needs a 1/4″ water line (like an icemaker)? Are you in a position to run a new water line to the oven?

  15. Got a nice, new, very slightly dented at the bottom front corners, 6 burner gas Wolf 36″ with convection oven for 40% off, or about $3K. Very happy with it. No steam though.

  16. I’m sure this is more than just a feature for baking bread. It must also assist with deicing and as such will be very handy on Philip’s plane. The regulation hurdles alone that the manufacturer must have faced make this oven an amazing value!

  17. do we want or need a “steam-assist” oven?


    Re: How was Whirlpool to know that [the Italians] wouldn’t be able to make a repairable range?

    It’s their job to know, evaluate all the factors guiding their purchase contracts, project the risks etc. They KNEW that that their Italian suppliers’ wares had higher than usual breakage/ return rates, yet chose them anyway because the Excel profitability model they employed told them so—and no MBA exec dares to argue against that.

    @ Michael Krakovskiy: I didn’t know (Phil failed to disclose) that that oven was FAA-certified for use onboard a helicopter, and not as mere jettisonable ballast either. But if that’s the case, it changes EVERYTHING.

  18. If it helps you, I can probably still get the employee discount on Whirlpool items – and they allow that to be extended to “friends & family”. Usually works out to about 40% off list. No idea if the higher end stoves are available, email me a part # and I can check. (assuming they would stack your credit + discount together?)

    Personally I would probably just use a 30″ stove and do something creative with the extra 6″.

    (you don’t have any connections in Italy? I would bet there is a bin of parts sitting in a corner that would fix it….)

  19. Thanks, John! It seems like it might be complicated to pull all of this together. I guess the 40% discount available to almost everyone tells us how much margin there is for retailers!

  20. Good answers above. I cooked baguettes in the steam oven this weekend and they turned out better than by the water-in-the-pan method and with significantly less effort than the open-the-door-and-spritz method. In fact, my oven cooks baguettes according to a pre-programmed 4-stage sequence involving 4 temperatures and 3 moisture levels.

    To your point, I think it would help with white meat turkey and similarly easily dried out cuts like pork chops. Also good for fish.

    If you think you’d be cooking any of these regularly, or more generally trying things out in the kitchen, it’s probably worth it. Page 27 of the user’s manual lists a bunch of use cases if you haven’t looked at that already http://www.kitchenaid.com/digitalassets/KDRU767VSS/Use%20and%20Care_EN.pdf

  21. Note that steam oven requires period replacement of a deionization filter (without this filter the spritzed water would leave mineral deposits inside your oven and clog up the spritzing system). The problem is that pure water completely evaporates but almost all tap water contains dissolved calcium & magnesium (these are the things that make water “hard”) – when you turn the water that these minerals are dissolved in into steam, the minerals get left behind.

    Once the system detects that the filter is used up (I assume it contains an electronic hardness detector – something else to break in the future) , the steam function is disabled. The filter lists for $52 and how long they last depends on how much you use steam and how hard your water is. But this filter (and future repairs to the system) could add hundreds of $ to the lifecycle cost of the oven.

  22. Speaking of margin, I was looking at replacement double wall ovens for a relative today – they start in the vicinity of $2,000 and up to maybe $6,000 for a Viking or Wolf. (I got mine a couple of years ago at Ikea for $750 – they were clearing out last year’s style for 1/2 price – it’s (American) Whirlpool under the skin and it’s great except all the sources say NEVER to use the self cleaning function or you’ll fry the electronics).

    By coincidence, I was also looking at electric space heaters – these start at around $20 retail and consist of a heating element and a fan and a thermostat. A convection wall oven consists of a heating element and a fan and a thermostat, inside a metal box. To be sure, there are, in a double wall oven, four elements (one broil and one bake x 2) so we can figure $80 for the heat/convection system and say another $80 for two tin boxes (you can buy a microwave oven, which also consists of a tin box (plus a magnetron and a high voltage power supply which are much more sophisticated than a simple resistance element) for $50 retail ). So we are up to around $160 which leaves another $1800 plus unaccounted for.

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