Whether you’re redoing your kitchen or replacing your old appliances, cookers and ovens are essential. Depending on your living space and personal requirements, you can choose between a freestanding cooker, built-in single or double ovens, or if you need additional hobs or extra ovens, a range cooker could be the right choice for you.
The options before you buy a new oven
Single ovens are a great choice if space is tight, if you tend to cook for one or two or don't spend too much time cooking. Single ovens are about 60cm tall and can be slotted under the counter or at eye level.
For family cooking and entertaining, a double oven may be a better choice. These offer more versatility and are good for families. There are two types of double oven available. There are double built-in models, which measure about 90cm high and are built-in at eye-level, and the smaller double built-under model, measuring 70cm high, which are built-in under the counter.
Built-in double ovens are usually roomier than the smaller, double ovens built under the counter. You may be better off with a larger single oven which will generally offer more space for your Sunday roast. When it's an under-counter model, double doesn’t necessarily mean double the size. Some models come with a very small second oven - more suitable for grilling than cooking larger dishes. You may find you’re better off with a large capacity single oven. Double ovens are also decreasing in popularity, so you’re less likely to find new models on the market. If you have a larger family with plenty of mouths to feed or enjoy hosting dinner parties, you may find two single ovens to be a more suitable option.
Using wi-fi or Bluetooth, you can connect to these newer ovens using a smartphone so you can control it either from another room in your home or remotely. Depending on the model and specific features, you can operate the oven from a distance - you could switch it on and off or adjust the settings from the comfort of your sofa, or you could preheat it on your way home from work.
You can programme a smart oven to save your settings for next time so your cooking programmes are custom-made just for you. Smart ovens also feature preset cooking functions for different foods, so the hassle of selecting the right setting and temperature is out of your hands at the press of a button. They can also still be used manually like a standard oven.
Installing a built-in oven
Installing a built-in oven is relatively straightforward, as they’re designed to fit inside your kitchen cabinets, but it will require more than simply slotting into place and plugging in. Many electric ovens are just too powerful to plug straight into a wall socket. You can check this with the manufacturer for guidance.
You’ll need to make sure the oven is the right size for the cavity you intend to use and that the surrounding space will allow you to fully open the door. You should also check the cavity is near the power supply you want to use, be it gas or electricity, and have enough space around the power supply to be properly installed. You’ll also require a platform strong enough to support the oven’s weight and with enough clearance to meet the safety guidelines of the manufacturer.
For peace of mind and your own safety, we recommend your oven is installed by an electrical engineer or Gas Safe registered engineer, depending on the power supply.
Before you buy a new cooker
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a new cooker. While most are quick and easy to install, the type of cooker you get will be largely determined by your kitchen’s fuel supply, whether it’s gas, electric or dual fuel with a gas hob and electric oven combined.
Freestanding cookers are simple to install and more affordable than built-in ovens with separate hobs. Designs can be just as stylish, and they have a large enough capacity for entertaining groups of family and friends. Just slot in and you’re ready to go.
You’ll also need to take into account your kitchen space. A freestanding cooker simply needs to fit in a space between your cabinets and work surface where there’s a fuel supply. The type of cooker you get will be dictated by the fuel supply in your kitchen. You can choose between gas or electric, with a small number of dual-fuel cookers available with a gas hob and an electric oven. Electric cookers require installation by a qualified electrician, as they need to be wired into a 30amp socket (a conventional electric socket is only 13amps) and gas should be installed professionally by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Single vs. double oven cookers
Consider whether you need a cooker with a single oven or double oven. Single ovens tend to be at the lower end of the cookers price range. Although they are roomy inside, they usually also have the grill within the same cavity, so you’ll have less cooking space than you may expect. You also won’t be able to use the grill at the same time as the oven, so they’re not as versatile as a double oven. Some single ovens also have a storage drawer at the bottom, which is useful for keeping roasting and baking trays, but you’ll lose cooking space.
If you’re a busy cook, cookers with double ovens are the best option although they’re in the top price bracket. You’ll find the top oven has a grill as well as housing a conventional oven – some gas ovens will even have an electric grill in the top cavity. A second oven can also be used for warming food and plates. Cookers with double ovens are a better option if you’re cooking for a family as you’ll have the benefit of the roomy oven, plus the extra cooking option with the separate grill.
With both single and double oven cookers, the standard dimensions are a height of 90cm, a width of 60cm and a depth of 60cm, but you can also find smaller cooker widths of 55cm and 50cm. Range cookers are much wider, with a width of 90cm or more. A cooker with an eye-level grill is about 150cm tall, so make sure you have enough space before you start looking at different models. You may also wish to choose a colour that fits in with your kitchen décor. Black, white, cream and stainless steel are the most common options.
What to consider when buying an oven or cooker
Rational Commercial Ovens Range
Gas, electric, induction, ceramic... what's the difference between them? How does each affect cooking performance and fuel efficiency? What pans will you need? We have all the answers. Whether you’re a fan of steaming, simmering, griddling or frying, there's a hob for you.
It’s important to think about what type of cookware will be suitable for the hob type. Many manufacturers put symbols on the bottom of their cookware to show which hob or heat source they will work with. What may have worked on your old hob now may not work on your new cooker, for example. If in doubt, ask an assistant in-store or look at the product specifications if you’re buying online.
Most electric ovens have an internal fan to circulate heat more evenly, so the temperature is consistent throughout the oven. In fan-assisted ovens, the air is heated by electric elements in the top and/or bottom of the oven with a fan at the back. With fan-assisted ovens, there’s usually the option to have the fan switched on or off depending on what you are cooking.
In convection ovens, the heating element is wrapped around the fan. The advantages of fan-operated ovens are:
- Cooking is quicker
- Preheating is usually unnecessary
- Colouring is even, but usually paler and less glossy than food cooked in a conventional oven
- Repositioning shelves is unnecessary, as is swapping trays halfway through cooking
- Good for multi-shelf baking due to an even distribution of heat
- Cooking times and temperatures are less than traditional ovens – follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully as they vary depending on the brand and model
- Foods with strong flavours can be cooked in the same oven without flavours mingling or transferring
- The food surface may be drier and less crisp
These are less widely available now and generally found in basic models. Electric elements are in the sides or top and bottom of the oven. These also have zoned heating, meaning the top of the oven is usually hotter than the bottom. Some top and bottom elements work independently, which is ideal for base crisping or browning the surface of some foods.
This type of oven is a combination of a fan and a conventional oven, providing you with maximum versatility. Each function can be used separately or together depending on the type of food you are cooking. In some models, the grill can be used with the fan, giving a similar effect to a rotisserie. A multifunction oven is ideal for batch baking and traditional cooking.
Conventional gas ovens
The temperature in the middle of the oven relates to the selected gas mark. The top shelf is slightly hotter, the lower shelf slightly cooler and the base cooler still. ‘Zoned heat' is ideal for cooking complete meals where dishes require different temperatures. Gas is a more moist form of heat than electric, which is particularly noticeable in baking. The result is a glossier appearance of your food on the outside and a moist texture on the inside.
Imported gas ovens
Many built-in gas cookers sold in the UK come from Europe originally. The burners are concealed under the base of the oven, so food is crisped from underneath. They are ideal for pizzas and pastries but don't be tempted to use the base plate of the oven as a shelf. Cooking techniques are similar to fan cooking, heat is more evenly distributed throughout the oven, and cooking tends to be quicker.
There are also a growing number of dual-fuel cookers available on the market, with a gas hob combined with an electric oven. You will find two top performers in our roundup of the to buy.
What are the different types of hobs?
Gas is still the most popular choice with home cooks, who like that the heat is visible, easy to control, fast, responsive and can be used with all pan types. Most gas hobs have mains rather than a button ignition, with many igniting as you turn the knob, taking away the need to press and hold an ignition button simultaneously. Gas hobs can be dismantled for easier cleaning, but they can still be time-consuming to keep looking their best. Go for a hob with a variety of burner ratings that will suit different types of cooking. You'll need to get your hob installed professionally by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Gas on glass hob
If you're a fan of gas but get fed up with mess and spillages that are difficult to clean off a traditional gas hob, this could be an option for you. Gas burners are mounted on top of ceramic glass, making the surface much easier to clean. But the glass does mark with fingerprints and grease. The burners can also be awkward to clean. They don't heat up as quickly as burners on an electric ceramic glass hob too, but you will get the precision heat and control of a normal gas hob.
With electric ceramic hobs, the heating systems are hidden underneath the tough ceramic glass surface. Patterned zones on the glass surface indicate the size and position of the heat source. All have a safety device that prevents the ceramic glass from overheating. The smooth and easy-to-clean surface makes them a popular choice. However, heat distribution around the bottom of the pans are not as good as when cooking on gas.
Induction hobs heat the pan directly via a spiral copper coil beneath the glass surface, which transfers energy directly to the pan. The coil is not activated until an iron-based magnetic pan is placed on to it, so the glass itself doesn’t need to heat up for cooking. When the pan is removed, the hob cools, reducing the risk of burns. Induction hobs are becoming increasingly popular as they are easy to use, highly responsive, very energy efficient and quick to clean.
Please note: You may need to check whether it's a good idea to get one if you have a pace-maker fitted because of the powerful electromagnetic field used. You may also find you need to discard some favourite old pans and invest in new, magnetic-based ones to use your hob. An indicator light on the hob will start flashing if it’s not the correct type of pan or it will simply not heat up. The only suitable ones have a magnetic material in the base, such as cast iron or stainless steel. Pure aluminium or copper pans will not work unless the base is bonded with a magnetic metal.
For more information, take a look at our expert guide to buying pots and pans.
How to clean your oven
When it comes to cleaning, we’re all guilty of paying less attention to the inside of our ovens than the rest of the kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. Grease and little pieces of burnt food in the oven can absorb the heat and make the oven less efficient. In keeping the glass clear, it also means you can take a sneak peek at your bakes during the cooking process.
Worry not, as with the right tools and techniques, cleaning your oven can be effortless. Click here for our thorough guide on how to clean your oven - and keep it clean.
Is it worth getting a pyrolytic oven?
Pyrolytic cleaning is an automatic cleaning function, using a combination of pressure with very high temperatures to convert grease and food residues inside the cooking compartment to ash, which then collects on the floor of the oven. This can then be swept away when the cleaning is done. Depending on the programme, this process lasts between one to three hours.
During the cleaning cycle, heat surrounds every corner of the oven cavity. Most ovens with this function ensure residual heat is enclosed during the cycle meaning the temperature of the oven door should remain cool during use, just like in normal operation. In addition, the door automatically locks when pyrolytic cleaning is activated and cannot be opened during the cycle. The door will only unlock when the cycle is complete and the internal temperature has returned to a safe level.
Alternatively, some ovens have catalytic stay-clean liners instead that transform the oven into a self-cleaning machine when set at high temperatures. They should never be cleaned manually and the liners may need replacing during the lifetime of the cooker. Depending on the oven, you also might have to service the liners by putting the oven on its highest heat setting for about an hour.