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How to buy a great wall oven

Whether you're replacing or renovating, a wall oven is a popular choice. Here are some tips from our experts on what to look for.

woman with wall oven

With plenty of models to choose from, what features should you look for when buying a wall oven? Is a self-cleaning oven worth it? Are certain functions essential? How much should you pay?

To help you make sense of your options, here's our advice on what you should consider, such as size, features, and functions, plus how to use your oven efficiently.

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How much do wall ovens cost?

In our most recent review of wall ovens the models we tested ranged in price from $470 to almost $8300.

What size oven do you need?

Wall ovens are built into the 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.

60cm ovens

  • This is the most common size.
  • Usually big enough for most needs.
  • Ideal if space is restricted.

70–90cm ovens

  • Ideal 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.
  • 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.

Gas or electric: what's the hottest option?

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. Currently we don't review gas ovens; our wall oven reviews focus only on electric ovens.

Gas ovens

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 it has electronic controls or an electric grill, you'll need an electrical outlet nearby. 

Electric ovens

Electric is 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.

What to check instore before buying

Shelving

At least two oven shelves and one baking tray should be included as standard. 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 such as sausages. 

Controls

Controls should be self-explanatory to use and clearly labelled.

Internal space

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 this.

Door

The door should be light and easy to open, and able to stay open in any position (without falling fully open or slamming shut).

Window

The window should allow a clear view inside the oven.

Interior

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.

Exterior

A fingerprint-resistant stainless steel exterior saves valuable time when it comes to cleaning. 

What about self-cleaning ovens?

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.

Pyrolytic ovens

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, 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.

Catalytic liners

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.

Steam-clean function

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.

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Fan-forced

Essential oven functions

Fan-forced

This type of oven 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.

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Traditional oven

Conventional or traditional ovens

A conventional oven 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.

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Fan assist

Fan assist

This function is 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.

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Pizza/pastry bake

Pizza mode 

This is a good setting when browning on the base is required for foods like pizzas, 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. 

The pastry bake function is similar to pizza mode, using the fan and bottom element.

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Fan grill

Fan grill

This function 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.

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Grill only

Grill only 

Using heat from the grill element 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.

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Bottom element

Bottom element

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.

Optional oven functions to look for

Rapid heat 

This setting uses heat from the elements surrounding the fan as well as the smaller element above the food. It 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.

Defrost

This setting doesn't use 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.

Food probe

If you cook lots of meat and roasts, an oven with a food probe will help take the guesswork 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

These give you a useful indication of what temperature is best for the food type and function being used.

Rotisserie and spit roast functions

These 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.

Proving

This setting 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.

Keep warm

This maintains an oven temperature around 60–85°C to keep food warm without continuing to cook.

Slow cooking 

This 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.

Divider shelves

These can be used 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.

Using your oven efficiently

When choosing an oven, think about what foods you like to cook and how you like to cook – do you like to grill foods, steam, bake or roast? – and base your choice off your needs. You'll get more out of your oven and not pay for any unnecessary features.

Use the fan-forced function to cook on multiple shelves if you're cooking multiple dishes that require the same function and temperature. This will save the amount of time the oven is left on. Most multi-functional ovens have this feature.

There are some simple changes you can make to use your oven more sustainably and efficiently. Start by viewing the food cooking in the oven through the glass, instead of constantly opening the door. As tempting as it is to keep checking on the meal, each time you open the door you're letting heat escape, requiring more energy to heat up again. Heat loss can also happen if your door seal and hinges are damaged so be sure to check they're in good working order or if they need to be replaced. 

Consider if your meal can be cooked using another appliance – can you use your slow cooker, pressure cooker or microwave instead? These smaller appliances use a lot less energy than your oven.

If you have a pyrolytic oven, keeping your oven clean by wiping out any spills or residue immediately will reduce the need to run the cleaning function often.

Installing your oven

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.