Ovens

Kenmore 72903 Review

The cheap exterior aside, the Kenmore 72903 has a reliable range and an even heating oven.

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Introduction

The looks a bit like it's in disguise—a slapped-on, "stainless" disguise. If ovens were cars, and stainless steel ovens were convertibles, this one would've had the roof cut off by Cousin Joey with a Sawzall.

Cheap styling aside, this Sears-only, Frigidaire-built, Kenmore-branded range does some things very well—most notably, keeping even temperatures in its conventional oven. You won't hear us complaining about its one powerful burner, either. Furthermore, users will especially enjoy the precision and control of a gas rangetop. Of course, there are some weaknesses, but most of them were forgivable, considering the Kenmore's $1,199 MSRP (Sears occasionally puts it on sale for $1,049). Think about what your needs are as you read, because the may meet them.

Design & Usability

This Kenmore is one dressed-up, mid-range oven.

The Kenmore 72903, made for Sears by Frigidaire, is a mid-priced, 30-inch, freestanding range with a single oven and some higher-end accoutrements. It's definitely not a high-end unit, but it wears its patrician features conspicuously, in manner of Burberry scarf. Stainless trim abounds, and cooking grates look like they're off a commercial range. Underneath all that, though, it's just a small-town Frigidaire. Look at the rippling on the enamel backsplash—you can see its roots, shining through.

Beyond the four traditional burners, a fifth, oval one makes it easy to use a griddle.

Beyond the four traditional burners, a fifth, oval one makes it easy to use a griddle or other larger attachment. This extra burner also gives more coverage under the continuous grate, allowing the user to place anything anywhere. The self-cleaning oven's main and only real feature is the convection fan, which blows air around the oven cavity (theoretically) allowing for more even temperatures, better heat transfer to food, and faster cooking time.

Rangetop

A middling rangetop

Although this Kenmore has the visual feedback and great responsiveness that people love about gas rangetops, it does not perform particularly well. It took its time in our water boiling tests, had marginal simmering abilities, and didn't get our pans as hot as we might have liked. But while the boiling numbers weren't necessarily great, there was at least one quick-boiling burner which we imagine will do the heavy lifting. Often, that's all you need, since the other burners can get the smaller jobs done. Likewise, the temperature range allows for most forms of cooking, but the simmering situation may require some on/off action and meat might not hiss quite like it should.

Oven Broiler & Convection

This fast preheater is very successful at keeping itself in check.

Convection mode ... was all over the temperature map.

Frequent oven users who do more than make frozen pizza will love this oven. It performed exactly as it should, averaging and staying right around the proper temperatures, providing excellent, even heat. Consistent temperatures are often important, since large fluctuations sometimes burn dishes on the outside and leave the insides raw. This extremely successful conventional oven performance was much better than the convection mode, which—despite hitting its target—was all over the temperature map. The broiler heated up our sensor to 600°F in 13 minutes, not the most powerful we've seen, but it should get the job done.

Conclusion

This could be a solid choice for certain kitchens.

It's hard to say whether this elegant stainless steel machine with black trim gets our approval. With an MSRP of $1,199—we found it on sale for $1,049, at Sears—this range did well on some of our tests, but struggled on others.

If you value the conventional oven over everything else, this is a pretty trusty choice.

In many ways, the impressed us; it had fast preheating, varied features, and one speedy boiler. The conventional oven performed quite well too, hitting the right temperatures and staying consistent in our testing. But the convection oven was not particularly reliable, tossing the mercury up and down capriciously. It all comes down to your usage: If you value the conventional oven over everything else, this is a pretty trusty choice; provided that you don't need a high-performance rangetop either, just something that can get a pot of water boiled quickly.

Science Introduction

This is the behind-the-scenes-look at our test results, complete with charts and explanations.

Oven Performance

On this appliance, convention beats modernist convection.

To begin with, the keep-warm (170°F), 350°F, and 550°F test settings all did quite well. The lower two hit marks of 172°F and 356°F, and stayed close to those temperatures at all times; we observed a window of 38°F total fluctuation at the 350°F setting, which falls within our 40°F standard of satisfaction. The maximum setting missed the 550°F mark by a bit—coming in at 536°F—but it managed to keep a tight hold on that temperature at all times.

The convection situation was not nearly as successful. Although it averaged 350°F, it almost broke 400°F during our test, getting all the way up to 394°F. Its lower bound was 325°F.

Rangetop Performance

This rangetop has one fast boiler... and not much else.

The front left burner is the best part of this rangetop, boiling six cups of water in just over four minutes. The rest did alright—though not speedily—taking around 12 minutes each. For fun, we had the simmering burner give boiling a shot. It took 47 minutes, so use the others.

The maximum temperature outputs weren't so high here: We saw a range of 310°F to 419°F, with the front two at the upper end of that range—bad news if you're looking for a quality sear. Likewise, the disadvantage of gas reared its hot head, with mediocre low-temperature abilities on all burners save the dedicated simmering burner, which did its job and hit 111°F. The rest were all in the 130s and 140s.

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