An oven is a kitchen essential and a purchase you’ll want to get right the first time. Your oven should cook your dishes to perfection but also be easy to use and clean and while looks may be important, they're only one of many things to think about when buying an oven. The first things you’ll need to consider are:
- Gas or electric
- Built-in or Free-standing
- You need to check the oven capacity when buying to make sure you’re getting the size that meets your needs.
The most common oven width is 60cm but if you’re after a larger oven a 90cm wide oven might suit you better. You should always check the internal size of the oven – it should be able to accommodate the amount of food you’ll be cooking. It’s a good idea to take your largest baking dish/tray with you to the shop to make sure your trays and dishes will fit.
If you’re undergoing a complete kitchen re-build then you have a bit more freedom to build your kitchen space to accommodate whatever size oven you want.
A double oven
is another option if you have the space. This is two separate ovens either on top or alongside each other. This type of oven is great if you do a lot of entertaining or have a large family as you can bake different dishes simultaneously. They’re versatile, as you can bake and grill different dishes at the same time, or bake two things that require different cooking temperatures and functions.
If you’re cooking large quantities of food at a time, a standard-width (60 cm) double oven can have much more space than a single extra-wide (90 cm) oven — around 164 L, compared to 118 L. Of course, if you want double the capacity but don’t fancy paying the price of a double oven, a cheaper alternative may be to install two single ovens – subject to your electricity circuit(s).
1½ ovens — often referred to as double ovens and sometimes as a single plus secondary oven — provide similar versatility to real double ovens. However, the secondary oven tends to have limited functions (generally classic bake and grill) and only one shelf. For single or small items, though, using the secondary oven is likely to save on preheat and cooking time, as well as energy.
Gas or electric?
If you’re willing to experiment with your oven, you’ll learn how to get a good result regardless of its fuel. If you’re open to either option, here are some things to consider.
- Electric ovens generally start at a lower price point than gas ovens
- Most electric ovens are multifunction, meaning they are more versatile to optimise different cooking, baking and grilling needs. They usually include a top, bottom and grill elements plus a fan to maximise different cooking needs.
- The price range for electric ovens starts lower.
- Gas ovens require a mains gas connection.
- Gas ovens don’t tend to dry food out (unless they’re fan-assisted) and retain the moistness in food, so they’re ideal for roasts, casseroles and heavy cakes that require moisture.
- Gas ovens are naturally hotter at the top and cooler at the bottom, so unless there’s a fan, food will need to be rotated to get even cooking and browning if you’re doing any multi-shelf cooking. However, it does mean you can cook several different foods at once. For example, after a roast has been in the oven for some time, you can move it to the bottom, turn the heat up, and use the top shelf to crisp the potatoes.
- There’s no direct heat from the top in a gas oven (unless it has an internal grill) so it may not be as good as an electric oven for foods that need browning or crisping on top.
- You can also get a gas oven that has electronic controls and/or an electric grill, in which case you’ll need an electrical outlet nearby.
Built-in vs Free-standing ovens
give you more flexibility with your kitchen layout – you don’t have to put it under your cooktop – it can be mounted into a wall recess or under the kitchen bench. It can also be positioned at your preferred height to minimise bending or squatting and make cleaning easier. Keep in mind that a built in with a separate cooktop may take up more bench space than an upright stove, depending on the layout.
are a complete unit with a cooktop combined on the top of the oven. This is often a good choice for smaller kitchens and are available in a range of sizes. Be sure to have it installed correctly, with wall brackets if applicable (see Tipping stoves).
Video: What to look for - Ovens
Fiona Mair shows us what to look for when buying an oven.