05.Get the most from your oven
Multifunction ovens can combine 5 or more cooking options all in the one oven, but the more functions you have the more confusing it can be — not to mention more expensive. The main functions you’ll be more likely to use in an oven are the follwing ones. All of the models on test have them unless otherwise stated.
Fan forced is what you’ll use most often and it’s great for cooking different kinds of food at the same time on different shelves, as long as they all need the same cooking temperature. Heat is circulated by a fan for even distribution. This works best for roasts, cakes, casseroles and baked foods. Temperatures and cooking times are reduced slightly compared with the conventional cooking function. Preheating the oven is necessary for most foods.
- The conventional or traditional cooking function uses the top and bottom elements and is especially useful for baking delicate foods and foods that need to be cooked more on the base, although certain types of foods need to be placed on the correct shelf level. The temperature is usually slightly higher and a longer cooking time is needed compared with fan forced. Preheating is necessary for most foods. Only the Smeg doesn't have this feature, but the replacement model does.
Bottom element and fan, or fan-assisted baking: A bottom element is a useful function that’s ideal for cooking pastries, pies, pizzas and any food that requires crisp cooked bases. With fan assisted cooking although it also uses the top element, the majority of the heat is directed at the bottom of the food while the fan assists the heat to cook the filling or top of the food. Food is usually placed on the bottom shelf or close to it. You’ll need to make sure you preheat to get the best results. All tested models except Blanco, Chef, Miele and Smeg have fan-assisted baking; and only the BLANCO and MIELE models have the bottom element and fan function.
- A grill element is featured in most multifunction ovens where the grill functions inside the oven. A grill element is useful for foods that only need a short cooking time such as cheese on toast or browning the top of au gratin dishes. Maximum temperature is required but preheating is not necessary. The best position is usually the top shelf. Some, including the Whirlpool in this test have variable heat control for the grill which can help to get better results when grilling delicate foods like fish.
- A fan grill is useful for grilling cuts of meat such as sausages, chicken, cutlets or fish, and it combines the fan with the grill element. The door is closed during cooking and cooking times and temperatures are reduced. The shelf position is usually second or third from the element. Preheating is usually not necessary. Overall, grilling meat in the oven cavity can leave your oven smelly and splattered with fat and grease. If you do a lot of grilling it’s a good idea to have catalytic self-cleaning panels fixed to the top, sides and back walls of the oven. Make sure that the liners have good coverage of the walls.
Which foods go on what shelves?
Once you’ve decided on a cooking mode it’s also important to select the correct shelf position for the food you are cooking.
- Pastries, roasts, reheated foods can be set on any shelf when cooked with the fan forced setting.
- Muffins, egg dishes such as quiche and heavy cakes cook best using the top and bottom element and should be placed on the middle shelf.
- Pizzas, foccacia, bread, meat pies and fruit pies cook best using the bottom element only or bottom element plus fan. These foods should be placed on the bottom shelf or as close to the bottom as possible.
- Chicken legs, sausages and baked vegetables suit the fan grill setting and are best positioned around the middle area of the oven.
- Chops, cutlets, steaks and fish cutlets should be cooked using the grill element only. Use the top shelf or as close to the top as possible.