So you know you're in need of a new oven, but how do you know which functions and features are essential? If you've got the kitchen space, is a bigger oven better? Are self-cleaning ovens worth it? How much does a good oven cost anyway?
We've put together our best advice to help you make sense of your options when shopping for a wall oven, plus some tips on how to use your oven efficiently.
Wall ovens are built into your kitchen layout and can be installed at the perfect height for you. Your options include a standard 60cm-wide oven, extra wide models ranging from about 70–90cm, or the double oven configuration.
- This is the most common oven size.
- Usually big enough for most people's cooking needs.
- Ideal if space is restricted.
- A good option if you're not restricted by space or an existing hole in your joinery.
- Can fit wider dishes or two smaller ones side by side.
- Can bake larger cuts of meat or seafood, such as a whole fish.
- 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.
Gas ovens don't dry out food as much as electric ovens, so they're ideal for roasts, casseroles and heavy cakes that require moisture. But new generation electric ovens, like combination steam convection types, will give them a run for their money. Gas ovens are also 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, gas ovens have no direct heat from the top so they won't be as good for browning or crisping. Also, unless they have a fan they won't distribute the heat as evenly as electric.
If the oven has electronic controls or an electric grill, you'll need an electrical outlet nearby.
Electric is the most popular type of wall oven, and it's what our wall oven reviews focus on. 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.
In our most recent wall ovens review the models we tested ranged in price from $543 up to almost $9499. While we don't currently recommend any wall ovens under $2000, our test results show you can still find an excellent model for less than $3000.
When choosing an oven, think about what foods you like to cook and how you like to cook – do you prefer to grill, steam, bake or roast? Basing your choice on your needs means you'll get more out of your oven and not pay for any unnecessary features.
At least two oven shelves and one baking tray should be included as standard, and three or more shelves are even better. Shelves should have safety stops to prevent them being pulled out accidentally, and feature a good range of shelf positions.
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 they do, 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.
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 like 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 size 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 this.
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, and should come out far enough to let you easily reach food at the back of the tray. It 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.
So which brand of oven should you buy? We've identified the best oven brand in Australia based on our test results for wall and freestanding ovens and feedback from our members.
In addition to testing over 125 ovens since 2017, we survey our members about the ovens they own. We use this data to determine which brands are the most reliable, and which have the best customer satisfaction. This feedback, and our test results, are combined to determine the best oven brand of 2023.
Best oven brand for 2023: Miele
Miele is the best oven brand for the past 12 months.
Miele has taken out the top spot in our Best Brand oven category for the sixth year running, with strong scores in our test results in addition to being a reliable brand with highly satisfied customers. Bosch was the only other brand that met the criteria for eligibility.
Belling is below average for test scores, reliability and satisfaction. Electrolux and Westinghouse have below average reliability and satisfaction scores, Fisher & Paykel has below average reliability and Smeg is below average for test scores and satisfaction.
Best oven brand 2023 scores
1. Miele – 82%
2. Bosch – 79%
3. Westinghouse – 78%
4. Fisher & Paykel – 76%
5. Electrolux – 74%
6. Smeg – 73%
7. Belling – 70%
It's important to note that the performance of specific product models may vary quite significantly, so don't assume that one brand's products are the best across the many different features, functions and price points.
To find out which specific oven models we recommend based on our test results, and to make sure you buy the best, click on the 'Recommended' box in the filters section of our wall oven and freestanding oven reviews.
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 of self-cleaning oven: 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 bought 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, which 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's 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.
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 store 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.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.