- Ovens and Cookers Buying Guide
Ovens and Cookers Buying Guide
Ovens and Cookers buying guide
If you are a keen cook, you can buy a cooker or oven that offers lots of different methods of cooking to help you achieve the perfect crisp pie or beautifully browned meat. And some are self cleaning so you’ll never have to scrub with corrosive oven cleaners again. We explain your options.
What’s the difference between a cooker and an oven?
A cooker is made up of at least one oven cooking zone as well as a set of either gas or electric hobs on top, and will always be freestanding. An oven is the same as a cooker but will always be built in. As ovens are built in units they do not have hobs.
For the purposes of this guide it will be helpful to think of a cooker as a freestanding oven with hobs included.
Standalone or built-in?
Unless you are installing a new kitchen, the cooker or oven you choose will have to fit the space available so this is usually what determines the type you choose. However, if you do have a choice, an oven means less bending down to get things in and out of the cooking zones. It is also a good choice if you have young children as they can’t reach it. You may need to pay for extra insulation, though. With a cooker you won’t need to buy a separate hob.
Gas or electric or both?
Gas ovens and gas cookers are generally cheaper to run and they have a more moist cooking method so food doesn’t get as dry as it can in an electric oven. This makes them better for cooking cakes. However they don’t tend to cook as evenly as electric ovens and they don’t crisp or brown food on top. Electric ovens are easier to turn on and they allow better control of the oven temperature. There are more electric ovens on the market. Dual fuel cookers have an electric oven and a gas hob. Electric ceramic hobs are easy to clean but gas burners spread the heat better than electric hobs. However, if you don’t have a gas connection, you are restricted to buying an electric oven and hob.
One oven cooking zone or two?
If you do a lot of cooking or entertaining, a double ovens or double cookers are great as they allow you to cook more food, to cook foods simultaneously at different temperatures, or to keep food warm while the rest cooks. You usually get a grill in the second oven too.
Conventional or fan assisted electric oven?
In a conventional electric oven, the thermostat controls the heat in the middle of the oven so it is always slightly hotter in the middle. They take a while to reach cooking temperature so need to be pre-heated. Fan ovens circulate the heat around the oven creating a more even temperature. It also helps the oven heat up quicker which helps to save energy. With double ovens, often the main oven has a fan and the smaller oven is conventional although with top-end models, both models have a fan.
Conventional or cycloheat gas ovens?
Conventional gas ovens are usually hotter at the top of the oven but cycloheat gas ovens concentrate the heat to the middle of the oven. This means you place things in the middle to be cooked at the temperature the oven is set on. You can also cook things hotter on the top shelf and cooler on the bottom shelf.
How do multi-function ovens work?
Most multi-function ovens combine a fan and conventional oven together with a grill which operates while the oven door is closed. This allows you to cook and grill at the same time so that you can mimic spit roast or barbecue cooking. Some multi-function ovens also offer other cooking modes, such as bottom heat only which is useful for making pies or pizza bases crisp, or top heat only, which is useful for browning food. Some also have rotisseries and a defrost setting which uses the fan.
What should I consider when choosing the size of a cooker or oven?
Most single ovens range in capacity from 50 to 60 litres while double ovens have a capacity of around 70 to 80 litres. The standard width is 60cm but freestanding models can be as wide as 90cm. However, wider models don’t always offer more internal capacity so check before you buy. When measuring up the space for a freestanding cooker, ensure there is room for a 5cm gap around the cooker to prevent anything being damaged by the heat.
What is the best way to clean an oven?
The answer depends on the type of oven you have. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions. Models with catalytic liners catch, absorb and break down food spills and then burn them away during cooking leaving you with no scrubbing work at all. Ovens with a pyrolytic programme burn off dirt and grease at up to 500°C. You then sweep out the ash afterwards. They take about two hours to do this and lock the oven door while the cleaning process is taking place. If you don’t have either of these automatic cleaning processes, you’ll need to rely on manual scrubbing with an oven cleaner which can be corrosive so must be used with care, following the instructions carefully. Cookers with removable glass shelves make cleaning easier. On enameled surfaces, use a damp cloth and mild detergent for general cleaning but use a cleaner to remove stubborn stains.
What is the best way to save energy when cooking?
Although gas ovens are an efficient way to cook, only electric ovens are given an energy efficiency rating, as these ratings are given only to electrical appliances. If you are buying an electric model, choose one with the highest rating – A++ or A+. But whether you have a gas or an electric oven, the way you cook is the biggest influence on energy efficiency. Always bring pans to boil with the lids on and use the minimal amount of water. Cook lots of things at the same time instead of cooking twice for example, cook for yourself when cooking the kids’ tea, or if you are using one shelf of the oven, why not roast your vegetables at the same time? And don’t leave the hob or oven on for any longer than is necessary.
Automatic ignition: This ignites the gas flame automatically when the burner knob is pushed without the need to press a separate ignition button.
Catalytic liner: A liner that some ovens have which self cleans by catching spills and splashes and burns them away while cooking.
Childproof locks: These prevent children from switching ovens on accidentally. Usually, you press a button, or combination of buttons to activate or deactivate the lock.
Economy setting: Some gas ovens have an economy setting which allows you to cook at a very low heat which is ideal for cooking casseroles.
Flame supervision devices (FSD): Also called flame failure devices. This safety device is not only very sensible but essential as CORGI registered engineers will not fit cookers or hobs without them in flats, rented accommodation or multi-occupancy dwellings, such as student residences. If for any reason, the gas flame gets blown out, the FSD will shut down the gas supply.
Flexible cooking zones: These allow you to use as much or as little of the hob as you’d like depending on the size of the pan you are cooking with.
Heat indicators: Electric hobs can stay hot for some time after they have been turned off, so it’s good to have a heat indicator which lets you know that it is still too hot to touch or clean.
High speed grills: These heat up faster to speed up cooking and save energy. In most modern oven the grill is used with the door closed.
Induction hobs: These work by creating a magnetic field between the pan and the element beneath the glass top. They work only with cast iron or ferrous pans (that contain iron). They are an energy efficient method of cooking as they heat only the pan and not the glass surface.
Non-tip shelves: These are a safety feature to give extra protection when cooking heavy dishes. You pull the shelves out to avoid reaching into the oven.
Pyrolytic programme: Ovens with this feature self clean by burning off dirt and grease at very high temperatures. You then sweep out the ash.
Storage compartment: Some cookers have a compartment at the bottom in which you can store your dishes or keep them warm.
Timers: Most ovens have a digital clock and some sort of timer. The ‘minute minder’ is the most basic. They sound an alarm when the set time is up. Auto timers can be programmed to set the oven to start and finish cooking at pre-set times.
Vitro grills: These have the gas flames behind ceramic glass which means the whole grill area heats up evenly.