Buying guide: Ovens, cooktops and freestanding cookers (upright ranges)

We explain how to buy a new oven for your kitchen

Image Credit: agit on stock.xchng (

Image Credit: agit on stock.xchng (

Self-cleaning options. Most people don't enjoy cleaning an oven, so the engineers came up with self-cleaning ovens. These ovens have special internal liners on which fat and food particles lodge themselves. Run the empty oven on a very high temperature after cooking and these particles burn off — cleaning the oven. Self-cleaning ovens (also called pyrolytic) are generally more expensive. Sometimes self-cleaning ovens use liners (also called catalytic liners) which are available as optional extras. It's important to remember that you will still probably need to clean inside the door, the shelves and the fat filter.

If your budget does not run to a self-cleaning oven, try to avoid ovens that have lots of screws or attached parts inside the oven. These gather grease and dirt and make cleaning harder. Cleaning the oven door will also be easier if the inside of the door has a full glass sheet. Otherwise dirt will collect on the join between the metal and the small glass window on the inside of the door, making cleaning harder.

Oven doors: Some of us may remember burning ourselves from touching a hot oven door as a child. Thankfully a lot has changed over the years and this no longer has to be a danger, thanks to door designs that include multiple layers of glass. Generally, an oven door with three layers of glass will be cooler to the touch on the outside than a door with two glass layers. This is particularly important to consider if you have children.

Also while looking at the door, consider how it opens. Most have hinges at the bottom of the door. Alternatively you can also get oven doors with hinges on either the left or right side, so that they open sideways, like a microwave oven. Make sure these open far enough so that your elbows don't hit the door as you are lifting out that hot, heavy baking dish. Ideally the door should be light and easy to open. And check that the door will stay open at the desired angle, not just fully open or closed.

Be sure to test the door to see how smoothly it opens and closes — not all door hinges are made equal.

Controls and settings. Electric ovens currently on the market are generally all fan forced, and they should have functions for different settings. Common functions include classic bake, conventional bake, and fan forced baking, with some ovens including quick preheat, defrost, and fan assisted functions. Ideally one of those should include running the oven without the fan.

Some ovens offer pre-programmed cooking programs for a variety of food types from pastries to roasts. You simply set the type of food you are cooking, its weight and then the oven automatically selects the rest of the functions (temperature, time etc) needed to cook the food.

Take note of how clear and easy to understand the oven controls are — you don’t want to keep referring back to the oven manual to decipher what the symbols mean.

Grill: Many modern ovens do not include a separate grill area. Instead the grill is inside the oven at the top. You may be able to use the grill with the fan for roasts.

A smokeless grill tray is a useful feature if the oven you select has an internal grill. Some grill trays have a safety stop so the tray cannot come all the way out, and ideally it shouldn’t slope downwards either. Look for an oven with a separate grill if you plan to grill and bake at the same time, or just prefer that configuration. Two grill tray heights offer enough options.

Steam and combination ovens

Steam ovens started to appear on the market a few years back claiming to provide healthier cooking options as less nutrients are lost (theoretically) in the cooking process. There are a now a number of ovens on the market that combine microwave, convection and steam cooking options. These ovens can be a great options if you have a small kitchen and need a space saving, all-in-one device.

Some of the combination and steam ovens also use halogen lamps to assist with the browning of food.

Hobs / Cooktops

Just as ovens have been modernised over the years, so too have the cooktops. Cooktops now come in a variety of functions and styles including different hotplate types.

Gas cooktops have burners with a safety gas cutoff should the flame go out. Electric cooktops come with metal or ceramic hotplates, or with an induction-cooking surface.

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