How to find the best wall oven
Whether replacing or renovating, a wall oven is a popular choice. Find out what to look for with this buying guide.
The essentials when looking for a wall oven
Whether you're replacing your oven or renovating the whole kitchen, an electric wall oven is one of the most popular choices, with plenty of models to choose from. They're built in to the kitchen layout and can be installed at the perfect height for you. Options include your standard 60cm-wide oven, extra wide models ranging from about 70 to 90cm, or the double oven configuration.
Our wall oven reviews cover electric single ovens only. We don't have current reviews of double ovens or gas ovens as these aren't popular enough for us to review on a regular basis. We also review freestanding ovens, steam ovens and toaster ovens.
- 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 wall oven?
- What size do I need?
- Gas or electric?
- What do I need to check for in store?
- What about self-cleaning ovens?
- The essential oven functions
- Other functions you may come across
- Installation considerations
It's easy to be swayed by the marketing hype of "it'll do everything for you – even your early-morning workouts!", but are extra features worth the extra money? Some are, and some aren't. (Although even we'd be sold on an oven that did our early-morning workouts.)
Before you go racing off to the store though, have a read of the below, and do your research if you want to save some money.
In our review of wall ovens we test models ranging in price from under $1000 to almost $5000.
60cm ovens are:
- The most common size
- Usually big enough for most needs
- Ideal if you're restricted on space
- Are ideal if you're not restricted by space or an existing hole in your joinery
- You can fit wider dishes or two smaller ones side by side, so you could roast two chickens with a large tray of vegetables on another shelf.
- You can bake larger cuts of meat or seafood, such as a whole fish.
- Wide ovens are very convenient for large batch baking.
- Although they're wider, you may not get as much useable space as you think. Some of the extra width is taken up by the control panel that's often located on the side of the oven.
- More internal surface area means more cleaning.
- Baking trays can be heavy when fully loaded and they don't fit in an average sink for cleaning.
- Extra-wide models may also take a little longer to pre-heat than a good standard oven.
The great majority of wall ovens sold these days are electric; they make up well over 85% of sales and there are always new models and brands coming onto the market. We currently don't review gas ovens, our wall oven reviews focus only on electric ovens.
- 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, like 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 nearly as much choice among brands and models for gas ovens.
- The most popular type of oven.
- 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.
- At least two oven shelves and one baking tray should be included as standard.
- Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them being pulled out accidentally.
- Look for a good range of shelf positions. Three or more shelves are handy, especially if you like to cook several items at the same time.
- The shelves and grill tray should not slope down when pulled out with the weight of a heavy dish on them – your food may slide off. If shelves do slope, a guard at the front can help but it also makes it harder to slide heavy baking dishes in and out.
- Telescopic shelf runners help keep the shelf stable and make it smoother to slide shelves in and out. But they can be fiddlier to clean.
A smokeless grill tray
Also called an anti-spatter grill tray, this has a perforated cooking plate rather than a simple wire rack, to help stop the collected fat from spitting and flaring up. You'll appreciate this if you often grill high-fat foods such as sausages.
Controls should be self-explanatory to use and clearly labelled.
Take your largest baking dish into the store to check the useable baking space rather than going by the stated gross or useable capacity. Many manufacturers use an international standard to measure useable capacity, but differing interpretations mean claimed useable volumes between manufacturers are not comparable. It's worth noting that in many ovens you can slide a wide dish in between the shelf supports and, providing the bottom element isn't on, you may be able to use the oven floor for warming or proving dough - but some manufacturers advise against it.
The door should be light and easy to open, and able to stay open in any position (without falling fully open or slamming shut).
The window should allow a clear view inside the oven.
- Check that the interior light bulb is easy to replace – we've come across some that require a technician.
- Moulded runners rather than metal pull-out ones are easier to clean.
- The grill element should be set high into the ceiling or have a shield in front, so that it can't easily come into contact with your fingers.
- The grill tray should be easy to slide in and out. It should come out far enough to let you easily reach food at the back of the tray, but should also have a safety stop mechanism to prevent it falling out.
A fingerprint-resistant stainless steel exterior saves valuable time when it comes to cleaning.
A self-cleaning oven sounds great, but they don't always live up to the hype. No, there's no magic elf that comes in every night and polishes your oven – these self-cleaning features do fall a little short of the dream, but they make cleaning a much easier task. There are two main types: pyrolytic and catalytic.
When set on the pyrolytic cleaning mode, the oven heats up to about 500°C, converting food residues into ash, which you then wipe away. But before you put the oven into self-cleaning mode, you have to remove all stainless-steel shelves and side runners and clean them yourself as well as cleaning the inside of the glass door.
With some models, pyrolytic-proof baking trays can be left in the oven, but only with suitable shelf supports – both may need to be purchased separately.
Good to know
- For safety reasons, the door automatically locks during the pyrolytic clean and is released only when the oven temperature falls below about 280°C.
- The outside of the oven gets hotter than usual while cleaning, so it's advisable to keep children out of the kitchen during this process to prevent burns.
- Most of the ovens have a light-soil clean that takes 1.5–2 hours and a heavy-soil clean, that takes 2.5–3 hours.
So while you still have to get your hands dirty, the upside is that the pyrolytic function is chemical-free and does thoroughly clean your oven, particularly in hard-to-reach places.
Often referred to as "self-cleaning" surfaces, catalytic liners work by absorbing fat splatters. If the surface stops cleaning itself efficiently, it can be regenerated by heating the empty oven for an hour, using the hot-air function.
If you opt for an oven with catalytic liners, make sure there is good coverage over the oven's surfaces. Catalytic liners should last a long time if they're properly cared for, but may eventually need replacing – at an additional cost.
Some ovens use a steam-clean cycle to loosen baked-on grease and food. Simply fill the baking tray with water and select the automatic one-hour cycle that heats the oven to 90°C. Once the cycle is finished, all you should need to do is wipe the oven clean with a soapy cloth. A chemical oven cleaner might be needed to thoroughly remove stubborn grease marks.
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.
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.