Just like everything else these days, ovens are getting more high-tech by the minute. Our latest review of wall ovens revealed 'smarter' models with a host of new, fancy features that turn ovens into extensions of our smartphones and cookbooks, promising to change the way we cook.
But are all these bells and whistles worth dishing out extra dosh for? Or are they gimmicks that can't really take the heat?
1. Control your oven remotely via an app on your smartphone
Wish you could preheat your oven while on your way home from work? Or reduce the cooking temperature of your roast from the back garden?
If controlling your appliances remotely, or via smart assistants like Google Home or Alexa is your bag, then you'll be excited about the new smart ovens that are coming onto the market. We've seen a couple of Wi-Fi-connected models come onto the market that let you operate your appliance remotely via your mobile device.
"Although there are a couple of Wi-Fi-connected models of ovens available in Australia at the moment, we've only been able to test one so far, and we feel the functionality is quite limited at the moment," says CHOICE kitchen expert Fiona Mair. "We're excited to see how these features develop, though, so we'll keep you updated."
A smartphone app lets you view images taken from inside your oven.
2. Take pictures of your food with an inbuilt camera
If you want to check on how your meringue is rising or if your chicken is browning too quickly, but you're comfy in the front room watching TV, why not just check the pics from your oven's integrated camera?
This feature has been introduced on one Miele model we tested in our recent review of wall ovens: a camera that snaps a high-res picture of your dish every minute you're cooking. But our kitchen experts aren't won over just yet.
"Although we were excited about this feature and think it definitely has a lot of potential, we don't think the technology is really worth paying for at this point," says Fiona.
"The camera is in a fixed position at the top of the oven and the pictures are taken at intervals – depending on the food you're cooking and its position, the photos may not be clear."
3. Use automatic functions to cook pizzas, meringues, cakes and more
What does that button with the squiggly line do again, and how do I switch on the fan?
If these are the kinds of questions that run through your head when it's time to cook, you might be interested in one of the many ovens that now come with automatic programs.
Fiona says: "Automatic cooking functions are becoming more common, where you select the type of food you want to cook and it selects the optimal temperature setting and cooking mode for you."
But we had mixed results when we tested this feature on a number of models.
"In our testing, we found you don't always get the best result when following the automatic cook settings, as opposed to operating the oven manually," says Fiona. "You may want to play around with the functions and shelf positions: oven cooking is all about trial and error."
Newer models of ovens will allow you to control settings from an app on your smartphone.
4. An oven that cleans itself
Sounds like a dream, right? More and more ovens are including pyrolytic cleaning functions that heat the oven to high temperatures so any cooked-on food turns to ash and can be easily wiped away.
Pyrolytic ovens are traditionally more expensive than regular ovens, but in our latest testing we saw more ovens incorporating this sophisticated feature at lower price points.
In some models you have to remove the shelves and side runners before using the pyrolytic cycle, though we've tested several Miele models with accessories you can leave in the oven while it self-cleans.
5. Swipe left to find a recipe
Ovens are morphing into another smart device, with some models including touchscreens and recipe databases you can search and view on your oven while you prepare dinner.
"This technology is an exciting idea, but it's still in its early days and recipe options are currently quite limited," says Fiona.
"Some people might find it useful to have access to recipes in your oven, and one of the displays we've tested even shows an image of the finished dish."
But Fiona still prefers using cookbooks and online recipes.
"I still think they're easier to use – you can sit them on your bench or keep them at eye level, rather than going back to your oven every time."
But Fiona predicts that as more ovens with this feature and more recipes in this format become available, and we get more accustomed to the idea of smarter, more-integrated appliances in our kitchens, more of us will embrace this feature.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.