Fitting out a new home? Renovating your kitchen? The oven is something you'll want to be happy with. Whether you go the whole (slow-cooked) hog with a wide or double oven, or opt for a small toaster oven – which definitely won't fit a whole hog – there are lots of brands and features to choose from.
Cheap and cheerful or bells and whistles?
For a sleek and stylish oven with all the fancy functions and features and self-cleaning capability, you can pay anything from around $1500 to as much as a staggering $13,000. If, on the other hand, you're only going to use basic functions and aren't fussed on all the extras, you can buy a well-performing oven for under $1000. It really depends on how much you're willing to part with and how much you love to cook. CHOICE tests new ovens regularly and no matter what your budget, we can help you choose a good one.
Video: How to choose the best oven
Gas or electric – what's the hottest option?
- Doesn't dry out food as much as electric, so ideal for roasts, casseroles and heavy cakes that require moisture. Although new generation electric ovens, such as combination steam convection types, will give them a run for their money.
- Hotter at the top and cooler at the bottom, so foods need to be rotated for even cooking and browning.
- Unless it has an internal grill, there is no direct heat from the top so it won't be as good for browning or crisping.
- Doesn't distribute the heat as evenly as electric unless it has a fan.
- If it has electronic controls or an electric grill you'll need an electrical outlet nearby.
- There isn't as much choice among brands for gas ovens.
- The most common type – over 80% of ovens are electric.
- Most are multifunction, so you can do more with a variety of cooking modes. You can use a combination of top, bottom and grill plus fan to optimise different cooking, baking and grilling needs.
Which size oven will best suit your home? There are a few different standard sizes. Your kitchen design will dictate how much space is available. Are you restricted to a 60cm oven, or are you renovating your kitchen with the aim to upgrade in size to a 70-90cm or double oven?
A single oven is typically 60cm, and is the standard found in most homes.
A double oven is essentially two distinct ovens, each with its own set of functions, stacked one on top of the other. A double oven is excellent for entertainers or large families who like to bake. It's also versatile, allowing you to bake and grill different dishes at the same time or bake two things that require different temperatures and functions. We go into more detail in our guide to buying a double oven.
These can be called a double oven or single-plus-secondary oven, depending on who you talk to. They provide similar versatility to a true double oven, however their secondary oven tends to have limited functions and only one shelf.
What about the internal size?
Ovens of any width may not always be as spacious as you might expect. So it's a good idea to get the internal measurements and check them against some of your larger baking dishes and trays to make sure they'll fit.
Wall vs free-standing
A wall oven gives you more flexibility with your kitchen layout – the oven doesn't have to go under your cooktop and it can either fit in a wall or under a bench. You can also install it at your height so you aren't bending or squatting. There's much more info in our guide to buying a wall oven.
If your existing upright stove has given up the ghost, replacing it with an equivalent is a cost-effective solution. We share what to look for in our guide to buying a free-standing electric cooker.
Other types of ovens and features
An oven that cleans itself – a dream come true! There are two types:
The oven locks itself and heats up to around 500°C, converting food residue to ash, which you simply wipe away when it cools.
These line the side and/or back walls of the oven and work by absorbing fat splatters. You need to regularly heat the oven to 250°C for an hour to burn off the splatters and wipe them with a damp cloth when cool. You'll need to replace these periodically.
A toaster oven or benchtop oven is a compact alternative to a full-sized oven. They can bake, roast, grill and toast, and some even have a hotplate on top. All this at a fraction of the price of a full-sized oven, along with reduced energy consumption. So why not use a toaster oven all the time? Well, they can be useful for small cooking jobs like cheese on toast and handy when space is an issue (like in a caravan) but they do have drawbacks.
Steam ovens claim to produce healthier food than conventional ovens because fewer nutrients are lost. They aren't as versatile as a conventional oven, and there are cheaper ways of steaming food. They also aren't capable of browning foods, so you'll need to grill or fry before or after steaming to achieve browning.
Combination steam and convection ovens
These are the latest designs to infiltrate the showroom. As their name suggests they combine the benefits of steam cooking with all the necessities of a multifunction convection oven. A ‘true’ combination steam oven has typical multifunctional baking, combination steam/convection and steam-only settings. Our test of combi-steam ovens and steam ovens buying guide have all the steamy details.
Another, and often cheaper, option is a typical multifunction electric oven with an added moisture function. These simply inject bursts of steam into the oven during normal baking to help retain moisture. See our test of wall ovens for two such models.
Take an ordinary combination convection/grill/microwave oven and add a halogen lamp. Despite the name, this type of oven doesn't cook using just light – the light's main purpose is to assist browning and heating.
The essentials of any oven
Now that you know which type of oven you want, make sure it has the following:
- a smokeless grill tray
- two oven shelves
- a baking tray.
At a minimum, it should offer these cooking modes:
- classic bake (bottom element only)
- top and bottom elements
Some ovens can be plugged into a power point, while others are hardwired. It pays to know how your existing oven is connected, and what its power rating is (look for a label inside, usually on the frame near the door hinges) so you know whether the new one can just slot into place, or if an electrician will be needed to do the wiring.
In most cases, where you're replacing like with like, the existing oven circuit will be fine. But always check with the supplier or retailer about the installation requirements for the new model. Large ovens and ranges in particular may need a circuit with more capacity, so you may need to factor in the cost of an electrician to upgrade the circuit or install a new one. Note that a sales assistant in an appliance retailer may not know much about the electrical requirements of oven installation, but you can ask them to check the details with the store's recommended installer.