An oven is a kitchen essential, and a purchase you'll want to get right the first time. It should not only cook all your meals to perfection, but also be easy to use and clean. A good oven is reliable and can last through endless hours of food preparation. Find one that ticks these boxes and you'll be a happy customer.
Our CHOICE test kitchen experts Fiona Mair and Chantelle Dart know what makes an oven easy to use. Hundreds of ovens have gone through our gauntlet of tests to see how well they roast, bake and grill. Here, we tell you how we put them to the test for our freestanding oven reviews, wall oven reviews and toaster oven reviews.
There's no doubt that Fiona knows her way around a kitchen and has endless knowledge about kitchen appliances. With 30 years' experience, she's seen lots of new technology enter the kitchen space – from the rise in pyrolytic self-cleaning ovens to useful control panels with automatic programs built in.
Over the years she's put many ovens to the test and homed in on the factors that make an oven a breeze to use. Our test coordinator Chantelle is also a key member of our team, helping us put more and more popular kitchen appliances to the test.
With so many to choose from, what makes us choose one oven to test over another? As with most of our product testing, our aim is to test the most popular models on the market and what you're most likely to see in stores.
We survey manufacturers to find out about their range of models and check market sales information, and we also check for any member requests to test specific models. From this information we put together a final list that goes to our buyers. They then head out to the retailers and buy each product, just as a normal consumer would. We do this so we can be sure the products are the exact same as what any consumer would take home and not 'tweaked' in any way.
Some freestanding ovens cost well over $6000 and in order to cover the market as well as meet our budgets we occasionally request one-off loans for higher-end models to see how they perform. These are always returned to the manufacturer after the test period.
Do you need the extra features found in expensive ovens, like wireless connectivity and assisted cooking?
Our expert testers put ovens through their paces by cooking scones, meringues, roast chicken and pizza, and also toasting bread. By doing this they test the oven's ability to perform over a range of temperatures, times and functions.
On most ovens, we carry out the following performance tests.
- Multi-shelf cooking: Scones are baked over two shelves to test how evenly the ovens perform at a high temperature over a short time.
- Low temperature cooking: Meringues are baked to assess cooking ability at a low temperature for a long period.
- Roasting: Our testers roast a whole chicken to assess baking performance on a non-uniform food at a moderate to high temperature over a long period, while retaining moisture and crisping the skin.
- Base cooking: We cook a freshly prepared pizza at a very high temperature for a short period to assess the ability to crisp and brown the base and evenly cook the toppings.
- Grilling: We toast bread to assess the grill area for how quickly it toasts the bread and how evenly the heat is distributed.
Note that we cook just the chicken and pizza when testing toaster ovens.
When testing freestanding ovens, we test the cooktop by making:
- white sauce and melting chocolate to test the cooktop's ability to work on the low heat setting
- boiled rice to assess the turn-down capacity of the cooktop (starting on a high heat and reducing to a simmer)
- vegetable and beef stir-fry to test the high heat setting for a short time.
Ease of use
To assess how easy the ovens are to use, we check:
- how simple the controls are
- the clarity of the control labelling
- what it's like to use the grill and oven
- the process for cleaning the grill and oven area.
When testing freestanding ovens, we assess the cooktops for ease of use by checking the:
- controls (their settings, positioning and relation to elements)
- size and type of elements
- element positioning
- ease of cleaning.
Our ovens are ranked on performance (60%) and ease of use (40%).
We maintain a kitchen lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.