Ovens buying guide

Ovens aren't simple anymore – our buying guide takes you through the choices.
 
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01 .Introduction

Roast chicken in oven

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:

  • Size
  • Gas or electric
  • Built-in or Free-standing

Size

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

Built-in 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.

Free-standing ovens 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.

 
 

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Door

  • 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.
  • With a side-opening door you don't have to reach the food over a hot oven door. They're a particularly good option for wheelchair users, but there are only a few on the market.

Inside

  • Capacity - check the usable space rather than going by the stated capacity. In CHOICE testing we calculate the internal baking volume from measurements of the lowest shelf of the oven or baking tray (if supplied with one) to the grill element, side wall to side wall, and the rear wall to the door.
  • An interior light - check when buying that the bulb is easy to access and replace.
  • Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them being pulled out accidentally.
  • A good range of shelf positions and three or more shelves may be handy, especially if you often cook several items at the same time.
  • Shelves that don't slope down when pulled out with the weight of a casserole or baking dish on them. If you find the shelves do slope, a guard at the front will help stop dishes falling off, but may make it harder to slide heavy baking dishes in and out.

Grill

  • A smokeless grill tray that traps fat and grease below it, rather than a wire rack. This is a useful feature for ovens with an internal grill, as spattering and smoking fat can be messy.
  • A grill tray that's easy to slide in and out and comes out far enough to let you easily manipulate food at the back of the tray. Look for a safety stop mechanism to stop it pulling right out.
  • A grill tray that doesn't slope down when pulled out.
  • A grill element that's set high into the ceiling or has a shield in front, so that it can't easily come into contact with your fingers.
  • At least two grill tray heights.
An external grill is more versatile, as you can grill one item while you roast or bake another at the same time. It also isolates the mess, so the main oven cavity stays cleaner. Open-door grilling tends to give a better result than closed-door grilling, which can steam food, making the skin of meat tough. However, an internal grill is more common, takes up less space and can give more direct heat for certain types of cooking, such as au gratins.

Oven and grill function

Unlike with a gas oven, there are many variations and combinations of heating methods with an electric oven that make an oven multifunction. You’re unlikely to use many of these functions, but our Home Economist, Fiona Mair, says the following functions are the most useful:

  • Classic or base bake: this is where heat comes from the bottom element only. It's particularly recommended for foods like pizzas and quiches, to get crispy, rather than soggy, dough and pastry bases.
  • Top and bottom elements (also called 'conventional bake'). This is standard convection baking. It provides reasonably even heating, but the temperature tends to be slightly hotter towards the top, allowing food to brown on top. It's good for cooking scones, muffins, cakes, fruit cakes, baked custards, pastry, meringues, roasts and casseroles.
  • Fan-forced bake: 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 throughout. It’s ideal for multi-shelf cooking especially for roasts, cakes, casseroles and baked foods.
  • Grill element is useful for grilling foods that require short cooking times such as melting cheese on toast or browning the top of au gratin. You don’t need to preheat the oven but use the top shelf and maximum temperature
Other ovens functions include:
  • Quick preheat: A setting that reduces the oven preheat time.
  • Fan-assisted: 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. This function is good for foods that require crisp cooked bases like pastries and pizza.
  • Rear and bottom elements plus fan: This gives a very even heat and can be useful for roasts. It’s also good for cooking pizza with a crispy base.
  • Grill with fan: Can be used to cook chicken and other roasts or larger cuts of meat.
  • Defrost: The fan operates without or on low heat, moving air around to help defrost food. However, to reduce the chance of bacteria growing on food at unsafe temperatures, we’d recommend defrosting food in the fridge or microwave.
Some ovens have a selection of pre-programmed (or automatic cooking) functions for a multitude of food types, ranging from biscuits to roast chicken. 

Self-cleaning ovens

True self-cleaning ovens are pyrolytic. Set on the cleaning mode, the oven locks itself and heats up to around 500°C, converting food residues into ash, which you just wipe away when it cools. The easy cleaning comes at a price though.

Often referred to as ‘self-cleaning’ surfaces, catalytic liners 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.

03.Layout pros and cons

 

Built in vs freestanding

A built-in oven gives you more flexibility with your kitchen layout — you don’t have to put it under your cooktop, and it can either fit under-bench or in the wall. It can also be positioned at your preferred height to minimise bending or squatting and make cleaning easier. But a built-in oven with a separate cooktop may take up more bench space than an upright stove, depending on the layout.

If your kitchen is small, freestanding stoves (oven and cooktop combined) are available 50–60 cm wide, which may fit better. Just make sure it’s installed correctly, with wall brackets if applicable (see Tipping stoves).

Typical prices
Standard built-in (60 cm wide): 1000–$2100 (gas); $970–$2100 (electric), although you can pay up to $4700 for a top-of-the-range MIELE.
Standard freestanding stove (50–60 cm): $800–$1200 (gas); $760–$1600 (electric).

But it’s not just about your kitchen layout — you also need to check the oven capacity when buying to make sure you’re getting the size that meets your needs. Although Christmas only comes once a year, you may want to base your decision on the size of your annual turkey. A more practical approach is to take your favourite or largest baking dish with you when selecting a model.

Double ovens

Double ovenA double oven is essentially two distinct ovens, each with its own door and functions, stacked one on top of the other, or positioned side-by-side as one unit. They’re excellent for entertainers or large families who like to bake lots of different types of food. 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.

Typical prices
Built-in double ovens: $2200–$2500;
Built-in 1½ ovens: $2100–$2500, although you can pay up to $3600 for an ILVE model.

Extra-wide ovens

If you’re completely renovating your kitchen and styling is all-important, you might want to go for a flash extra-wide oven. The 70–80 cm width is excellent for fitting extra-large trays and great for large batches of cooking. And it might surprise you that while 90 cm models are externally wider, most 70–80 cm ovens often have the same internal usable volume. Like standard-width ovens, extra wide ovens can be single, double and freestanding.

Typical prices
Built-in single
$3000–$3300 (70–80 cm), $1900–$4300 (90 cm)
Built-in double $7000 (70–80 cm)
Freestanding single $2400–$7500 (90 cm)
Freestanding double $2100–$9500 (90 cm).

Internal vs external grill

An external grill is more versatile, as you can grill one item while you roast or bake another at the same time. It also isolates the mess, so the main oven cavity stays cleaner. Open-door grilling tends to give a better result than closed-door grilling, which can steam food, making the skin of meat tough. However, an internal grill is more common, takes up less space and can give more direct heat for certain types of cooking, such as au gratins.

Ovens with external grills are limited to the Electrolux manufactured models.

Typical prices
Ovens with an external grill
(single, built-in): $1000–$2200 (gas oven with electric grill); $1100–$3700 (electric).

Side opening door

With a side-opening door you don't have to reach the food over a hot oven door, but there are only a few on the market.

Typical prices: $950-$1160 (WESTINGHOUSE), $2400 (BOSCH) and $1500 (ASKO).

04.Other oven options

 

Light wave ovens and steam ovens claims to offer quicker cooking times and/or healthier food. So how do they work?

Light wave ovens

LG has a range of light wave ovens that combine microwave, grill and convection oven. Despite the name, it doesn’t cook using just light – the halogen light’s main purpose is to assist browning and heating on some preset functions only.

LG’s range of light wave ovens range in price from $699 to $999.

Steam ovens

Steam ovens claim to produce healthier food than conventional ovens because fewer nutrients are lost. They can produce good results, but they aren't as versatile as a conventional oven (and there are cheaper ways of steaming food).

Sharp has a range of steam ovens that combine steam, convection oven and microwave capabilities. In the steam only setting, water is heated and released as steam into the oven cavity. Steam cooks the food gently without destroying shape, colour or aroma whilst retaining moisture, natural flavours and nutrients. The SuperSteam Convection setting browns and crisps the food while the steam draws out the fat and salt while sealing in the natural juices. These ovens range in price from around $750 to $1300.

Miele also has a range of steam ovens with a much higher price tag. Their steam ovens range in price from $1499 to $6499.

Miele also has a feature in their conventional ovens called “moisture plus” whereby small bursts of steam are injected into the oven cavity at different points of the cooking process. It can be used as a manual cooking mode or part of an automatic program. Models with this feature range in price from $2499 to $5499.

05.For people with a disability

 

The Independent Living Centre, NSW, provides the following guidelines for buying ovens:

For wheelchair users

  • Control panels and door handles should be within easy reach from the wheelchair.
  • Wall ovens generally need to be installed at slightly lower than normal height, within the user’s reach range.
  • Side-opening doors are more user-friendly.

For upper limb impairment

  • Look for doors that are easy to open, and handles that allow a good grip.
  • Easy-to-press buttons may be preferable to rotary knobs. Any knobs should be large and easy to turn, with little resistance.
  • Choose appliances with shelves and trays that move very easily and aren’t heavy.
  • Place the oven at chest height to avoid excessive reaching.

For visual impairment

  • Controls that are large and wide-spaced, and labels in a contrasting colour.
  • Positive feedback — beeps and electronic lights — can be helpful.

For back pain

  • It’s best to minimise bending and reaching, so avoid appliances with controls knobs at the back.
  • A wall oven installed at chest height is preferable to a freestanding oven.

For cognitive impairment

  • The key is to keep it simple. Labelling that has a very clear and simple picture may be more useful than words, but this will vary for different people.
  • Choose appliances with few options for the controls.
  • Avoid appliances with auditory feedback if this will confuse the user. However, this can be useful if itsuccessfully reminds the user to do something.