How to buy the best freestanding oven
Everything you need to know about buying a stand-alone stove for your kitchen.
So, what's a freestanding oven?
A freestanding oven, commonly known as a stove, range or cooker, is an oven and cooktop combined into one freestanding unit. Any configuration goes – an electric or gas oven with a gas, induction or ceramic hob.
Whether you're replacing an old unit or completely revamping your kitchen you'll be sure to find the right style and width to fit into any "hole" in your kitchen cabinetry.
- Want to know how we get our review results? Check out how we test ovens.
In this article:
- How much can I expect to pay for a freestanding oven?
- Do I need a freestanding oven?
- What size do I need?
- What do I need to check for in store?
- What about self-cleaning ovens?
- The essential oven functions
- Other functions you might come across
- Installation considerations
Freestanding ovens generally range from $600 to $10,000, depending on how many bells and whistles you need and the calibre of craftsmanship you demand.
If you're building a new home or giving your kitchen a complete make-over, you'll have the freedom to choose between a freestanding or wall oven. Here are some considerations to keep in mind about freestanding ovens:
- They are suitable for large families, people who like to bake and who have the strength to handle such a beast of an oven
- The shelves and baking trays of these ovens are significantly wider than those of a standard one and can be difficult to handle – particularly when loaded with hot food. Being so wide they are difficult to clean in a domestic sink
- The exterior can be a nightmare to clean so choose one that has a fingerprint-resistant stainless steel exterior, or better yet enamel coating is much easier to keep clean. Look for a self-cleaning function such as catalytic liners with good coverage or a pyrolytic function
- The position of the oven means you need to bend to access the baking trays, or get on your hands and knees to clean the thing – even with a pyrolytic option, as you still have to wipe out the oven
- If you choose the gas cooktop option for your range don’t forget the heavy cast iron trivets and all the burner parts that need to be maintained. A ceramic or induction cooktop makes cleaning easier
- Preheat times can be longer – on average they take 20 minutes to heat to 250°C. And we've found that some never quite reach their maximum heat setting on higher temperatures, so the pre-heat light is always on
- Apart from their good looks, the large internal space is the biggest drawcard for freestanding ovens. Their ability to simultaneously roast two large turkeys, a tray of veggies, and even a dessert at Christmas time would be the deciding factor for many keen cooks.
60cm wide models
These are a common size and suit most kitchens. They typically have four cooking zones or burners, however only three out of four pots fit comfortably – there can be restricted access to some burners due to the smaller surface area. They either have a gas or an electric oven that can include simple function settings right up to all the multi-function settings you could possibly need.
90cm wide models
These are fairly popular with the option of a fashionable, commercial stainless steel look. They are multi-functional with an all-in-one combined grill. Or there's the old world charm of the enamel coated traditional cookers that come in an array of colours with old fashioned fittings. They come in one, two or three door ovens usually with a separate grill, smaller main oven and a tall oven. These ovens may be a case where appealing aesthetics triumph over optimum functionality. As impressive as they look, they can be expensive. 900mm ranges have either five or six hotplates/burners with the option of flexi zones or fish burners.
70–80–120–150cm wide models
These sizes are not as common. The extra width allows for more baking space in the oven as well as giving more cooktop surface so there is less crowding of the cooktop with possibly five or six hotplate/burner arrangements. The 1200 and 1500mm models usually have two ovens of different capacities and include extra hotplates/burners that allow for more versatility to accommodate char grill plates, Tepanyaki and simmer plates.
Controls and labels
Controls should be a good size, clearly labelled and easy to use. They should be easy to grip with a clear pointer. Removable controls help when it comes to cleaning. Controls positioned at the front mean your splashback can run across the whole back wall. It looks good, but the controls will be easy for young children to reach. Etched labels (as opposed to bonded labels) on stainless steel surfaces won't rub off over time.
Cooktop cooking zones / burners
Consider the layout and size of cooking zones/burners. Look for a layout that is well-spaced and includes a range of simmer, medium and large cooking zones/burners. Simmer and wok burners should be at the front so you don't have to lean over other burners to stir a sauce or stir-fry. When simmering foods that don't need frequent stirring, such as casseroles, you'd normally use a medium-sized burner; these are best positioned at the back.
The cookware you use on your cooktop should fit comfortably over the cooking zone and not restrict the use of the other zones. If you've chosen an induction cooktop, make sure the cookware is compatible.
Residual heat warning light for ceramic / induction cooktops
This is a useful safety mechanism that stays on until the cooktop has returned to a safe temperature.
This is another useful safety mechanism whereby if a heat setting is not set for a cooking zone within a certain time after you turn on the cooktop, it will automatically switch itself off. This will also happen if a heat setting has been selected but no contact has been made with a pot on the element.
Take the measurements of your largest baking dish to the store rather than trusting the stated capacity. Manufacturers measure useable capacity differently, so they can't be compared across brands.
As part of CHOICE testing we generally measure from the deepest shelf or tray in the lowest shelf position to the grill element, side-wall to side-wall (at the narrowest point to fit the widest possible tray), and the rear wall to the door. In many cases you can slide a wide dish in between the shelf supports. Using the oven floor is not recommended in these ovens.
Gas or electric
You can choose from a gas or electric oven, however, the majority are electric and this type dominates the market. Therefore we don't currently review gas oven options.
Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them from being pulled out accidentally, and should not tilt when pulled out with a load. A good range of shelf positions and three or more shelves/trays.
Telescopic shelf runners
These help to keep the shelf stable and make it smoother to slide shelves in and out, though they are not usually an included feature.
This should slide in and out easily and allow you to place food at the back. Look for a safety stop so it doesn't pull right out. A smokeless grill tray traps fat and grease below it, rather than under a wire rack. Many models lack this feature but this is important as splattering and smoking fat can be messy.
This should be set high into the ceiling or have a shield so it can't be accidentally touched. It should also drop down for cleaning the oven ceiling.
Separate grill area
This means you can cook in the main oven and grill at the same time.
This should be large enough for a clear view of all shelves inside – including the top shelf.
This is a handy storage space in some freestanding ovens where you can keep your baking trays.
You should be able to adjust the height of your oven to match the height of your benchtop, and for levelling.
Catalytic liners (or self-cleaning surfaces)
These 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. Look for liners covering the back wall, sides and even the ceiling.
Pyrolytic cleaning function
The oven locks itself and heats up to around 400–500°C for approximately two to three hours, converting food residue to ash, which you simply wipe away when it cools. When using this function make sure there is plenty of ventilation and keep small children away from the oven as the glass can become very hot. Using this function also draws a lot of power so make sure that your home can handle it.
It's important that your oven has:
- A smokeless (or anti-spatter) grill tray, with a perforated plate rather than a simple wire rack; this helps stop the collected fat from spitting and flating up
- Two oven shelves
- A baking tray
And as long as your oven has the following features as a minimum you'll be good to tackle any baking tasks:
Works well for multi-shelf cooking, reheating, pastries and roasts. It uses the fan with heat coming from the element surrounding it and generally heats up more quickly, evenly and efficiently.
Conventional or traditional
Uses heat from the top and bottom elements with no fan. It provides reasonably even heating, but tends to be slightly hotter towards the top, allowing food to brown on top. It's ideal for single trays of biscuits, scones, muffins, slices and egg dishes like quiche or baked custards.
Ideal for foods that require a short cooking time and only use a maximum of two shelves. Heat comes from the top and bottom element with a fan that circulates the hot air.
As the name suggests, is ideal for pizzas and other dishes where browning on the base is required, like meat pies, fruit pies, focaccia and bread. It uses high heat and a combination of 'base heat' and fan or fan-forced where heat comes from the elements surrounding the fan as well as the bottom element. Pastry bake function is similar, using the fan and bottom element.
Uses the grill element and the fan. It's ideal for large cuts of meat like roasts, or meats that require longer cooking times like chicken legs and sausages. It's also great for baked vegetables and for browning and crisping the top of pasta/potato bakes.
Uses heat from the grill element and is ideal for smaller, tender cuts of meat. Unless stated in the instructions, grill with the oven door closed and use one of the top two shelf positions.
This is an alternative to pizza mode where heat comes from the base element only. It's also ideal for foods that require a crispy base, like pizza. Cook in the lower half of the oven when using this function, and use aluminium trays for even browning.
Uses heat from the elements surrounding the fan as well as the smaller element above the food. This setting allows you to preheat your oven quicker than you could in fan-forced mode. It's also ideal for cooking frozen pre-packed foods, which can be placed straight into the oven from the freezer.
Uses no heat, but rather air is circulated by the oven to defrost the food. This mode can also be used to raise yeast dough and to dry fruit, vegetables and herbs. However, to reduce the chance of bacteria growing on food at unsafe temperatures, we'd recommend defrosting food in the fridge or microwave.
Automatic cooking functions
Also known as assisted cooking functions, these include recipes that correspond with the information programmed in the oven. Simply follow the recipe and the oven will work out the operating mode, shelf position, cooking time and temperature.
If you cook lots of meat and roasts, an oven with a food probe will help take the guess work out of achieving tender, juicy meat. Simply insert the probe into the fleshiest part of the meat and select the desired temperature or degree of cooking. The oven will complete cooking once the temperature is reached.
Adjustable pre-set temperatures
Give you a useful indication of what temperature is best for the food type and function being used.
Rotisserie and spit roast functions
Allow you to cook meat continuously without having to turn and baste the food. The fat in the meat drips over the surface as the rotisserie spins.
Uses the lowest temperature and the top element, providing a warm, moist environment, perfect for proving yeast dough. Keep in mind any oven can prove dough by simply preheating to the lowest temperature and then turning it off. Place a bowl of water on the bottom and then put the dough on a shelf above, covered with a towel.
Maintains an oven temperature around 60-85°C to keep food warm without continuing to cook.
Uses heat from the top and bottom elements and a low temperature, usually around 70-120°C. Use this function for gentle, slow cooking of seared, tender pieces of meat in ovenware without a lid.
To separate an extra-large oven cavity into two separate spaces that can be operated simultaneously. For example, the top section operates as a grill, while the bottom section can be set to fan-forced.
Before purchasing a freestanding oven contact an electrician, as they can advise if you have the right phase for the amount of power it will draw. With features such as extra oven compartments and being able to run them all at the same time, pyrolytic cleaning, fast heat up and induction cooktops, the power consumption increases. This may be more than your home circuitry can handle so they will need to be hard-wired by a licensed electrician.
If your oven is gas or has a gas cooktop, a plumber is required to connect the regulator and it's also a good idea for them to check that the burners are all adjusted to 1kPa.