A Guide to Buying an Electric, Gas or Microwave Oven
When choosing an oven there are many factors to consider, with scores of different types and features available to you. Some offer versatility, giving you more freedom with the food that you cook, whilst others are perfect for when the kids just want that pizza now!
Firstly, you should decide which type of fuel you want to use to heat the oven: electric or gas. Since an oven is always built-in to a kitchen (although microwave ovens and cookers can be freestanding – see our Cookers Buying Guide) it’s important to check what fuel supply your home has access to.
There are fewer gas ovens to choose from but they do have some advantages. Firstly, the heat generated tends to be moister, which is particularly good for baking cakes and it also helps prevent food from drying out.
A gas oven will feature what’s known in the industry as top and bottom heat; the middle of the oven will be at the temperature you’ve set on the dial but because heat rises, it’s cooler at the bottom and hottest at the top.
An electric oven will generally offer a wider range of features and much more flexibility than a gas oven. Furthermore, all electric ovens (although especially fan-assisted models) will maintain a much more consistent temperature throughout the oven.
With electric fuel, you can choose from the following options:
|Conventional Oven - A conventional electric oven features top and bottom heat, so once it’s heated up, the middle shelf of the oven will be the temperature set but it’s cooler at the bottom and hottest at the top.|
|Fan-Assisted (Convection) Oven – With a fan-assisted oven, pre-heating times are reduced and you can also reach hotter temperatures. Although the fan circulates air, you’re still able to cook several dishes in the same oven and the flavours won’t be mixed. Despite being able to reach hotter temperatures, in most cases you won’t need to; cooking temperature and time can actually be decreased by up to 20% in a fan-assisted oven which saves you valuable time and energy.|
|Steam Oven – Equipped with a water reservoir (this can usually be detached and doesn’t need to be hooked up to a water supply, even in built-in ovens) that is heated and the resulting steam rises through the oven to cook evenly and with plenty of moisture. This process helps lock-in tastes and goodness and won’t transfer flavours when cooking different dishes in the same oven. Electric steam ovens give you faster cooking times and, with no need for fats or oils, a healthier way to cook!|
Fitting an oven into your kitchen
There are many factors to consider when looking to incorporate an oven into your kitchen and aside from whether you're able to use gas or electric, the major consideration should be what you can install in the space you have available.
You can either install your oven in-column or built-under. Most cooks prefer in-column as it gives you an eye-level view of what's cooking and is easier for handling hot and heavy dishes. However, a built-under oven is useful for freeing up more worktop space & eye-level cupboard space and may be the only option in certain kitchens. Built-under ovens are still available with two cavities which means that you won't necessarily be penalised in terms of space for having to opt for the built-under option.
Other Oven Features
One important feature to consider is that of 3D cooking, although different manufacturers will call it different things – AEG call it Rotitherm, Neff call it Circotherm and others call it Fan Grilling. In this process, the grill element cycles on and off automatically and the fan distributes the heat evenly onto the food from all angles. Not only can this reduce cooking times but it’s ideal for cooking meat & poultry if you’re after rotisserie results; or for cooking sausages without having to turn them.
If you’ve less people to cater for or want to cook smaller portions without using the whole oven, then it’s a good idea to check out the Variable Grill option. This efficient feature means that you only switch on a smaller section of the grill, which consumes less energy and is perfect if you’re just sneaking a bacon sarnie for yourself!
It’s also worth noting that a Microwave Oven can be extremely efficient and a useful accompaniment to traditional cooking practices. In fact, over 90% of UK homes now have one in their kitchen and with the option of freestanding microwaves, microwave grills or combination (combi) microwave ovens; it’s easy to see why!
The standard UK oven housing size is 60cm in width but customers without space limitations also have the option of a 90cm single or even double oven. If you’ve got the room, a double oven can provide greater versatility allowing you to cook using both compartments at the same time, even at different temperatures. An oven can, in theory, be built in to any part of the kitchen work surface or cabinetry but if you opt for a built-under oven, you still have the choice of a single or double cavity oven. However, cooking can be easier with the oven at eye level as it is more accessible than when it’s underneath the work surface.
From digital displays to child locks, there are lots of different features available with modern ovens and it’s useful to think about the ones that are right for you. A popular feature in modern ovens is that of self-cleaning which is available in both single and double sizes.
There are several types of self-cleaning ovens but perhaps none as exciting as those with the Pyrolytic, or ‘Pyro’ function. You just turn on the Pyrolytic setting, which heats the oven to around 500oC for up to two hours. During this process, all the dirt and grease is burned off leaving just an accumulation of ash that is easy to brush away. (See Image Right) Understandably, Pyrolytic ovens cost a little more but can be worthwhile if you can’t find the time to clean (or simply don’t want to!).
Manufacturers take great steps to ensure that their ovens are sleek and stylish and whether it’s a striking metal finish you’re after (generally titanium, aluminium or stainless steel) or a discrete, matt black look, you’re sure to find the right oven to complement your kitchen.
Finally, if you want to do your bit for the environment or just save money, then it’s important to choose an oven with a good energy efficiency rating. The scale is from A+++ to G, with A+++ being the most energy efficient and G being the least efficient. Any appliances bought in the EU will feature this rating and whilst an oven with a rating of A+++ might not be hotter than one with a G rating, it would consume less energy to achieve the same result – looking after the planet and your wallet!