Summary: Advice for choosing a kitchen oven or cooker, comparing the pros and cons between the different types of ovens and cookers and what to look for when buying.
The first thing to decide when choosing a cooker is: do you want free-standing cooker or a separate built-in oven and hob? Modern free-standing cookers are an economic option if you don’t have a fitted kitchen, and feature an integral splashback and height adjustable legs. Alternatively, AGAs and ranges add a homely touch to a traditional kitchen, and are extremely durable, featuring a number of hot plates, ovens, grills and warming compartments for cooking multiple dishes at once.
Buying a cooker or oven
If you prefer separate appliances, there is a great deal of choice in single or double ovens, grills, microwaves, and hobs. Make the most of space by mounting microwaves and ovens on the wall, or choosing a combined microwave/oven. You can also buy compact ovens for small spaces.
Next, choose your fuel. Most modern cookers are fuelled by gas or electricity, with only traditional ranges and AGAs running on oil. You could opt for combination or dual-fuel appliances e.g. a gas oven and an electric hob. Many utility companies can supply both gas and electricity to simplify your bills.
- Gas is cheaper than electricity but electricity can be more cost-effective for smaller homes.
- Electric ovens have versatile programming controls and maintain a constant temperature, but require preheating.
- Gas tends to be faster heating but ovens will be hotter at the top.
- Fan ovens consist of a fan in the rear wall of the oven, which has a circular heating element around it. Fan ovens tend to be the most efficient as they are fast heating and distribute heat evenly through circulating air.
- Multifunction ovens combine the features of a fan oven and a conventional oven together with a grill for greater cooking control. Some even combine a microwave or steamer.
When picking which model of cooker to buy, bear in mind practical considerations of safety and hygiene. Some ovens have cool-touch doors and child locks, or side-opening doors so you don’t have to reach across a hot door. Many now have removable doors for ease of cleaning. The range of features and programmes available with ovens these days can be daunting, so here are some key features to look out for when choosing an oven:
- Digital Display showing you the oven temperature and cooking start/finish times. Some ovens now have touch-sensitive controls for changing the cooking time.
- Programmable timer. Many ovens have pre-programmed cooking settings for various foods, and some can even weigh the food and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
- Auto-off. Make sure the oven turns itself off when the programme ends.
- Electronic controls offer greater accuracy and even thermal transfer.
- Self-cleaning ovens. There are two types: catalytic stay clean ovens have a catalytic lining, which absorbs grease. Pyrolytic ovens, at the top end of the range, can be heated to a high temperature to burn off any residue inside the oven, which then falls to ash in the bottom of the oven.
- Forced-air fan ovens push hot air back into the oven to increase thermal efficiency.
- Turbo or thermal grills have a fan and grill to create a spit roast effect.
- Ovens with variable heat can increase or reduce the heat from above or below the food as required.
- Telescopic shelves have rollers to slide out heavy dishes easily.