02.What to look for
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.
Typical prices: $950-$1160 (WESTINGHOUSE), $2400 (BOSCH) and $1500 (ASKO).
Capacity - check the usable space rather than going by the stated capacity.
- An interior light - check when buying that the bulb is easy to replace.
Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them being pulled out accidentally.
- A good range of shelf positions. 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 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.
A smokeless grill tray that traps fat and grease below it, rather than a wire rack -- important 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.
Oven and grill function
Unlike with a gas oven, there are many variations and combinations of heating methods that can make an oven multifunction -- many of which you're likely to use only rarely. According to CHOICE's home economist, the most useful are:
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, which is helpful for multi-shelf cooking. It's similar to conventional bake, and good for similar foods, but it's faster, with more even heat distribution.
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.
Rear and bottom elements plus fan: This gives a very even heat and can be useful for roasts.
Grill with fan: Can be used to cook chicken and other roasts.
Defrost: The fan operates without or on low heat, moving air around to help defrost food.
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.
Typical prices: $1700–$4700.
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. Ovens that have catalytic liners are those in the mid to upper end within each oven category.