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How to choose an oven that won't let you down when entertaining

Hot tips to help you feed a crowd this festive season

large_roast_turkey_ready_to_take_out_of_an_oven
Last updated: 27 November 2020

Need to know

  • A standard oven will fit a turkey or ham – but won't leave room for anything else
  • A wider oven will give you more space to accommodate other food
  • If you have the space, consider a double oven or freestanding oven with multiple cooking compartments

When you're cooking for a crowd, there's often little margin for error: if you burn the roast potatoes, you're potentially disappointing tens of people, rather than just a few. 

If entertaining through the festive season with your old oven is making you yearn for a newer model, we've got some advice to help you choose the right one – or make the most of the one you have.

If you're upgrading your oven ahead of the busy festive season, you'll want to make sure you make a good choice, and we can help. 

CHOICE's kitchen queen Fiona Mair shares her tips for choosing the right oven, and we'll steer you in the direction of some quality ovens that'll help you cook up a storm to feed the hordes.

Size it up

Make sure you factor the size of your oven into your menu planning, and figure out if you need to upgrade.

"A standard 60cm oven with a capacity of about 65–73L can fit a fairly large turkey (no. 6) or ham (size 7), but that will leave you no room for anything else," says Fiona. 

So you may need to consider oven size if you're planning on serving other hot foods for your festive feast. It'll be a massive festive fail if your turkey is ready but you haven't even started cooking the potatoes.

"Ovens sized 70–90cm will give you more volume and can accommodate other foods such as baked vegetables."

What features should you look for in an oven?

If you're cooking for a crowd, Fiona suggests a few features and extras that'll make life easier:

  • Fan-forced cooking: This will enable you to cook on multiple shelves
  • Pyrolytic cleaning: This will take care of any grease splatters, spills and baked-on food with ease – just turn it on and vacuum up the ash once the oven has cooled down. 
  • Telescopic runners: Makes manipulating the food so much easier. Large heavy trays can slide out easily so you can have access to the entire tray – great for basting and turning food over.
  • Catalytic liners: The next best thing to a pyrolytic oven, catalytic liners absorb fat splatters so they don't bake onto the oven's interior – again, just turn the oven up and then wipe the liners once the oven is cool. 
  • Accessories: Roasting trays and racks that come with the oven are helpful, and telescopic runners are useful for sliding out heavy dishes that require basting or turning.
  • Timer: This will help you cook your meal to perfection, rather than relying on guesswork.
  • Meat thermometer: Very handy for roasting meats to make sure they're not only cooked to your liking, but to ensure you don't send your guests home with food poisoning.

Wall ovens

If you're after a big wall oven, 90cm wide is as big as it gets. These 90cm ovens scored well in some of our tests – but they weren't necessarily the top performers. To see the full results, visit our wall oven reviews.

fisher and paykel OB90S9MEPX3

Fisher & Paykel OB90S9MEPX3 wall oven.

Fisher & Paykel OB90S9MEPX3

  • Multiple shelf baking score: 95%
  • Roasting score: 80%
  • Price: $4790

This 90cm Fisher & Paykel wall oven aced our multiple shelf baking test. It also received an excellent score for low-temperature baking, so it could help you turn out the perfect pav. 

Read our review of the Fisher & Paykel OB90S9MEPX3.

delonghi DEP909M

Delonghi DEP909M wall oven.

Delonghi DEP909M

  • Multiple shelf baking score: 88%
  • Roasting score: 70%
  • Price: $2299

This Delonghi wall oven is a much more affordable price, but scores slightly lower than the Fisher & Paykel in our multiple shelf baking test. However, it also scored a perfect 100% for low-temperature baking.

Read our review of the Delonghi DEP909M.

Double ovens

You could also opt for a double oven set-up, which is two distinct ovens, each with its own set of functions, but stacked one on top of the other into a larger unit. 

Some configurations are actually two full-sized ovens, and some are a smaller half-oven (with fewer functions) on top of a full-sized one. So consider how much space you have in your kitchen, and what you'll be using the second oven for. 

"If you have a large family, a freestanding 90cm oven or a 90cm wall oven is worthwhile," says Fiona. "Even a 75–80cm oven will give you a little extra baking area."

05-Falcon-CDL90DFFBL-CH1

Falcon Classic Deluxe freestanding oven.

Freestanding ovens

Another option is a freestanding oven with multiple compartments, which will enable you to cook different foods at different temperatures – so you can cook a pork roast with perfectly crisp crackling at the same time as you turn out a light-as-air Victoria sponge. 

They do have their limitations, however. The smaller grill and oven compartments can limit the amount of food you can cook: the tall oven component usually has a narrow cavity, and smaller compartments may not take standard-size baking trays.

One example is the Falcon Classic deluxe CDL90DF + Colour freestanding oven. It's a dual-fuel model with a gas cooktop. While it's 90cm wide in total, its internal oven volume is just 51L in the main section. 

Oh, and it'll set you back a cool $8994 (RRP). But if you love the look, can live with the limitations and have a spare $9000, then this may be the oven for you.

How to cook multiple dishes in the same oven 

When entertaining for a crowd, you can cut down the time spent in the kitchen by cooking multiple dishes in the same oven. But there are some rules you should stick to, says Fiona.

Use fan-force mode

You need to use the fan-force setting to cook on multiple shelves, says Fiona. "This is because the element surrounds the fan, which allows heat to be evenly distributed throughout the cavity." 

Temperature considerations

Since both items are going to be cooked at the same temperature, choose dishes that have similar requirements. Most savoury foods such as meat, vegetables, casseroles etc are flexible when it comes to temperatures.

However, baked goods have less flexibility and will need to be cooked at the specified temperature.

Strong aromas

Avoid pairing dishes with dominant savoury flavours with a sweeter dish that might absorb the stronger aroma. 

"You don't want your lemon meringue pie tasting like a garlic and rosemary lamb roast," says Fiona.

Rotate dishes halfway through

Many ovens have different 'hot spots' so when cooking or baking multiple dishes you should rotate them so they cook evenly.

"Halfway through the cooking time, rotate the dishes and swap their rack position," says Fiona. "So if one is on the top rack, move it to the bottom and vice versa."

But don't cram too many dishes in the oven. "If there isn't enough air circulation it's going to take much longer to cook," says Fiona.

Trial and error

When cooking multiple dishes there's a little bit of trial and error involved and some foods may take longer than usual to cook. Check the dishes every now and again to ensure one isn't getting overcooked while the other is underdone. 

"And if you want your dishes to be done at the same time, put foods that need longer cooking in first and always monitor the cooking process," says Fiona. 

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