The Cuisinart Chef's Convection Oven placed itself solidly in the upper echelon of performers in our testing. It received high marks for toasting, baking, and ease of use. The only thing that separated it from the top performing Breville Smart Oven was its below average temperature accuracy. This might cause issues if you bake very temperature sensitive items, but most likely would not be noticeable otherwise. If you're not particularly concerned with temperature accuracy, the Chef's Convection Oven is a great choice.
Cuisinart Chef's Convection Oven Review
Pros: Dual cook mode adds versatiliy for complex dishes, included pizza stone
Cons: Pricey, slightly lower performance than other models in price range
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cuisinart was on par with but just slightly inferior to the two top performers in our baking test. It scored a 7 out of 10, just below the top score of 9 and well ahead of the worst score of 4. The only reason it missed out on a higher sore was because it was somewhat less adept at retaining moisture. It made cookies with crispy edges and gooey middles that if anything were just a tad too dry. It cooked cakes very evenly but again with a slightly drier texture. Its drumsticks were top notch, but again the meat was just a bit drier than that of the best performing ovens.
Ease of Use
The Cuisinart again sat right behind the top performer in our ease of use testing. It earned a 7 out of 10, just below the top score of 9 and well ahead of the low score of 3. It has a solid crumb tray that is easy to remove and clean. Its controls are somewhat reminiscent of the Breville and KitchenAid's designs. A well lit LCD screen displays all relevant information, and one main knob allows you to toggle through settings. Spinning the knob cycles through the Cuisinart's ten main cooking modes: toast, bagel, waffle, bake, broil, roast, pizza, sandwich, keep warm, and leftover. Pushing the button at the center of the knob selects the cooking mode and turns the knob into a temperature selector. Pushing the button again selects the temperature and lets you then select the cooking time. This felt fairly straightforward, but not quite as intuitive as the Breville's three dedicated knobs. Once selections are made a start/stop button begins the cooking cycle. Convection can easily be turned on and off at the push of a button. It also has a dual cook button. This allows you to program in settings for foods that have two cooking stages. Say you have a dish that requires slow cooking at 250˚ for an hour and then another 20 minutes at 450˚ to brown the outside. You can plug this into the Cuisinart and it will automatically run through both of those stages with no mid-cycle adjustments required. You can also set the oven to a low temperature, like 150˚ to keep items warm after they finish cooking. Just note that the oven can't cool down instantaneously, so be careful about overcooking things if you use this option.
Our temperature accuracy test is where the Cuisinart really fell behind the top performers. It scored a 4, putting it in the lower half of a metric that had scores between 2 and 9. When set to 350˚ in our test the Cuisinart was 10˚ hot at the 15-minute mark and rose to 25˚ hot at the 30-minute mark. It consistently ran 25˚ hot when set to 400˚. When set to 450˚ it fluctuated between 20˚ and 25˚ hot.
The Cuisinart shared the bottom score of 5 with one other model in our frozen meal preparation test. This was not far below the top score of 8, earned by the Panasonic FlashXpress, but its results did feel somewhat below par. It was able to cook frozen pizzas fairly evenly on the surface, but it often left the dough at the center quite underdone. We got similar results with tater tots: crispy outsides but insides that felt a bit too soggy. While most of these problems could probably be fixed by lengthening cook times, it is annoying to follow the provided cooking instructions and come out with less than stellar results.
The Cuisinart was again just below the top performers in our toasting quality tests. It scored a 7, putting it near the top in a metric that saw scores ranging from 4 to 8. It made phenomenal bagels, close to the quality of the Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven. It toasted faces evenly with just a few light spots. It was also able to leave the backsides untoasted. Its toast map showed a fairly large toasting sweet spot with all three slices in the center of the rack toasting fairly well, but it did produce some light spots near the crusts. The slices adjacent to the sidewalls did come out very light compared to those in the center. Overall we feel most people will be happy with the toasting quality of the Cuisinart.
The Cuisinart lists for $259, which is $9 more than the Editors' Choice Award winning Breville Smart Oven. Since our testing showed the Breville to offer much better temperature accuracy and slight gains over the Cuisinart in all other metrics, we have a hard time calling it a great value.
The Cuisinart is a solid, upper tier performer that will function well in most kitchens. However, it is priced similarly to other slightly better performing models, so it would not be our first recommendation for most people looking for a toaster oven. Its dual cook function is unique and interesting, and may make this a good choice for people who often cook things that require two different cooking stages.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata