03.What to look for
- Adjustable legs to let you match the height of your benchtop and for levelling.
- Continuous trivet design that allows pans to be moved around the burners without being lifted.
- A good burner layout – simmer and wok burners should be a the front so you don't have to lean over other burners to stir a sauce or stir-fry. When simmering foods for a long period that don't require frequent stirring, such as casseroles, you would normally use a medium-sized burner; these are best positioned at the back.
Controls that are a good size, ideally with a crossbar so they’re easy to grip, and a clear pointer. Controls should not be positioned too close to the trivets or the burners.
Labels that are etched (as opposed to bonded) on stainless steel surfaces so they don't come off over time or after cleaning. Bonded labels sit on the surface, etched are in the surface - you can feel the difference with your fingertip.
Burners Gas burners are rated in megajoules per hour (MJ/h), the amount of energy each uses on its maximum setting. Four-burner cooktops should have a good range of heat ratings, from low (about 3.5MJ/h-5MJ/h) to high (up to 10MJ/h or 11MJ/h), and wok burners should be about 12MJ/h-15MJ/h. Burner sizes vary from about 4cm-7cm in diameter. CHOICE has found that burner ratings don’t correlate with cooking performance results, so don’t base your buying decision on the burner ratings – check our cooking scores for this. All cooking scores are listed in our compare tables at www.choice.com.au/stoves
One-piece burners for easy cleaning and maintenance.
- An oven door that's light and easy to open, and stays open in any position (without falling fully open or slamming shut).
- A large enough window for a clear view inside.
Internal space Take your largest baking dish with you to the store rather than going by the stated capacity. Many manufacturers use an international standard to measure usable capacity, but differing interpretations means claimed usable volumes between manufacturers are not. For this test we measure from the deepest shelf or tray in lowest shelf position to the grill element, side-wall to side-wall (at the narrowest point to fit the widest possible tray), and the rear wall to the door. In many cases you can slide a wide dish in between the shelf supports. Using the oven floor is not recommended in any of these ovens. All but the Omega oven has as a separate plate warming/storage draw below it.
Catalytic liners (or self-cleaning surfaces) work by absorbing fat splatters. For the liners to work well, you need to regularly heat the oven to 250°C for an hour to burn off the splatters and, when cool, wipe them with a damp cloth. Properly cared for, they should last a long time but may eventually need replacing at an additional cost.
Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them from being pulled out accidentally, and should not tilt when pulled out and with a load.
- A good range of shelf positions and three or more shelves.
Shelves that don't slope down when pulled out with the weight of a heavy dish on them.
Telescopic shelf runners help to keep the shelf stable, and make it smoother to slide shelves in and out.
Moulded runners rather than metal pull-out ones, as they’re easier to clean.
- Stainless steel exterior that is fingerprint-resistant. This will save valuable time when it comes to cleaning.
- A bright interior light — check that the bulb is easy to replace.
- Storage under the oven for large trays and racks.
- The grill tray should slide in and out easily and allow you to place food at the back. Look for a safety stop so it doesn’t pull right out.
- A smokeless grill tray traps fat and grease below it, rather than under a wire rack. This is important as splattering and smoking fat can be messy.
- The grill element should be set high into the ceiling or have a shield so it can’t be accidently touched. This is particularly important in an underbench position. It should also drop down for cleaning the oven ceiling.
- At least two grill tray heights.
Oven and grill function
According to CHOICE's home economist, the most useful heating methods are:
Top and bottom elements (‘conventional bake’)
This is standard convection baking. It provides reasonably even heating, but tends to be slightly hotter towards the top, allowing food to brown on top. It's good for cooking foods such as cakes, roasts and casseroles.
Fan-forced (rear element)
Heat comes from an element at the back of the oven and is circulated by a fan surrounded by the element. The oven heats relatively quickly and efficiently, and heat is distributed evenly, which is helpful for multi-shelf cooking. It's similar to conventional bake but faster, with more even heat distribution.
Classic or base bake
This is where heat comes from the bottom element only. It's particularly recommended for getting crispy bases.
The top and bottom elements of the oven are used, while a fan circulates heat. This can be useful for cooking on more than one shelf at once as it helps to distribute the hot air evenly.
Top element only
Used for browning and finishing off dishes such as lasagne and cheese toppings.
Grill with fan
Can be used to cook chicken and other roasts or larger cuts of meat.
For people with a disability
The view of the Independent Living Centre (NSW) is that large ranges like these aren’t suitable for anyone with any sort of weakness or cognitive impairment:
- Because of their size they can only be placed on the floor, which limits the access for wheelchair users and people with upper limb dysfunction and back pain.
- Wide shelves and roasting pans are heavy and awkward to lift and are also hard to clean in a domestic sink.
- People with cognitive impairment may find the amount of controls confusing.
Things to consider before buying
- Grill scores could be better, with only two scoring very good to excellent.
- Their cooktop performance is also generally good, though once again, you can get better performance when comparing standalone gas cooktops.
- Our home economist Fiona Mair wasn’t that impressed overall . She found the instructions weren’t informative enough, and the build and enamel quality (ease of cleaning) wasn’t to the standard of separate units.
- None had a pyrolytic self-cleaning option, and only four came with catalytic liners.
- Their shelves and baking trays are significantly wider than those in a standard oven and can be difficult to handle – particularly when loaded with food. Plus the position of the oven means you need to bend to access the baking trays, adding to the difficulty.
- The trays and shelves won’t fit in a standard kitchen sink and can be tricky to clean.
- You will have to get down on your hands and knees to clean the oven.
- Preheat times can be longer with larger ovens – these models ranged from 9 to 21min to pre-heat on the fan-forced function to 190°C , and a little longer on the conventional function . However the Blanco, Bosch and Omega all took over one hour to pre-heat to 240°C using the bottom element plus fan. We advise you to preheat on the conventional or fan assist function and then switch to bottom plus fan to base bake.
- As with any oven, all ranges require professional installation because they have to be wired in, which will add to your overall costs, and you’ll need an additional 15 amp circuit to be installed if you don’t already have one.
- A separate cooktop and oven give you maximum flexibility in your kitchen layout, with the option of any style or size of cooktop, plus any style and size of built-in oven, which can be positioned at the right height.