There are lots of choices to cook on, from a traditional cooker in all gas, all electric or dual fuel, with electric oven and gas top, to a big range cooker with one big oven or with two, three or even four ovens. Sizes on these freestanding options range from 50cm wide to 150cm wide.
For a fully fitted kitchen, the preference is normally for a built in appliance. The choices here range from a simple single oven, to a built under double oven (rather like a built in version of a traditional cooker) to a built in double oven which fits in a tall cabinet – sometimes called ‘eye level’. When selecting a single oven, it is quite common to have one or more additional appliance like a built in micro wave with grill or a built in steamer.
The majority of ovens are fuelled by electricity, because they produce a more even temperature and are easier to control, especially the fanned oven options. Traditionally, gas ovens have zoned heat, with the hottest section at the top, the coolest shelf at the bottom, while electric fan assisted cooking heats all parts to the same temperature at the same time. The most popular combination in a modern British kitchen is a gas hob and electric oven with a separate micro wave oven.
Single built-in ovens can be fitted at eye level for easy grilling and less bending with a built in micro wave below them (or with the oven on the bottom and the micro wave at eye level) in a tall appliance cabinet. Some models are combined conventional and microwave ovens in the same unit and also include a grill. A separate hob is always required.
Design and finish are high on most people’s list of priorities. Fashionable stainless steel is here to stay and comes in ultra modern designs with electronic touch controls or more conventional knobs. Brushed Steel is now more common as it avoids the problem of sticky finger marks.
Black is now the second most popular finish. Anthracite, a very dark grey, is also emerging as an avant-garde choice. Coloured appliances are less popular, but are available, from classic racing green, blue and claret (usually traditionally styled, often with brass trim) to pale pastels. White, however, is still an enduring favourite.
Most brands offer multi-function ovens – for adventurous cooks. As well as traditional cooking, fan or fan-assisted cooking and grilling, these ovens offer up to nine further functions. These include: Top element only (browning), bottom element (final cooking of pastry dishes or pizzas), fan and bottom element (delicate cooking), fan only (thawing).
The standard 60cm single oven has been joined by various other sizes. Now consumers can choose heights from 45cm compact, 60cm standard , 72cm and 90cm. The standard width of a built in oven is 60cm. Some brands offer a 90cm width built under double oven and a few specialist brands have 70cm wide options. Always check the internal capacity shown in litres as well as the external dimensions.
Ease of cleaning is well worth considering at the outset. Stay clean liners operate while cooking and gradually burn off dirt but pyrolitic cleaning (fast clean) is the ultimate where the oven locks on the cleaning cycle and simply incinerates all deposits leaving a small pile of dust that can be wiped away with a simple wet cloth.
Some brands offer pyrolitic cleaning on double ovens and on range cookers. Look out for ovens with a steam cleaning facility too, and remember that some ovens have removable inner doors that are easy to clean or removable top and side liners which can be taken out and washed.
Mixing and matching compact 45cm ovens and microwaves with coffee makers and steamers can give a completely bespoke cooking solution. Often a very useful warming drawer can be added to this kind of combination of separate cooking units.
Innovations like the slide away door (rather like a garage door) and side opening door options are easier to use for anyone who is a wheelchair user and do give greater access to the oven cavity for everyone. Anti-tilt and pull out shelves are often available to give added stability and safety to users. Cool touch door options are now common with ovens having a secondary cooling fan which blows cool are through the middle of the door or having triple glazed doors to reduce heat build up.
If you are a lover of casserole cooking, the induction based single oven is a great product, allowing you to casserole for hours at a very low running cost. If you want to brighten things up, look for the ‘u see’ oven options which have bright LED lights built into the oven door so that you can always see what is cooking.
If you are a very traditional cook who prefers the ‘moisture retaining’ effect of gas cooking, there are fan gas ovens which give much more control than a traditional gas oven. Where space is an issue, there is also an option of a combined single oven and a microwave in a single 90cm tall appliance or an option of a single oven with a grill and a dishwasher built under it all in the same unit – yes, that is right, an oven and a dishwasher for small flats and the like.
If you think all single ovens have the same amount of cooking space, think again, new technology and cool wall insulation has enabled many brands to produce jumbo single ovens with cavities that are up to 20% bigger. This has led to a new generation of large divider single ovens which look just like a standard single oven until you open the door – inside the cavity is a removable divider shelf which when fitted cleverly creates two separate ovens which can cook at two different temperatures at the same time.
Single ovens are now rated A to G for energy efficiency with double ovens having two separate ratings such as AA, the first applying to the top oven and the second to the lower oven. The A is the best rating followed by B and so on. While ovens are only on for short periods, they can use quite a lot of energy so always look for an A energy option.