Ovens are a fundamental kitchen staple – the cookers of succulent Sunday roasts, classic cakes and… frozen chicken strips. It’s a true investment, and it’s important to know what your needs are and be able to articulate that into the type of oven you’re looking for.
You need to know whether you want electric or gas, convection or conventional, and any add-ons you desire. This guide should help you navigate through the daunting task of figuring out what you want from an oven.
Similar to cooktops, ovens fall under two main categories of energy sources – gas or electric. Gas ovens tend to be more expensive than electrical ovens of similar quality levels, although you are likely to make the money back in reduced energy costs over time. Remember, you need a gas hook-up to connect it to. If you already have one in your home then its fine, but if not, installation will be a separate cost to consider on top of the unit.
A common complaint about gas-powered ovens is that they tend to have hotspots and uneven heating throughout the oven. If you like baking, or have a problem with food browning, it’s important to look into whether you would like a conventional or convection oven. If a gas oven is compatible with your current kitchen set-up and you’re not too fussy, then it could be the oven type for you.
Electrical ovens work using heating elements placed on the inside walls of the oven. While they are cheaper to buy upfront, they tend to run at an average higher cost than gas ovens, so that’s worth keeping in mind if reducing your power bills is on the agenda.
Electric ovens are the most common variety produced today and tend to have a lot more options for cooking your food at the touch of a button. Electric ovens are also the easiest to use, easiest to clean and the easiest to achieve even cooking. They are also available in both convection and conventional varieties, so if an electric oven is what you’re after, there’s plenty of choice to be had.
Conventional vs Convection
After deciding how you want your oven fuelled, it’s a matter of whether or not you want fans built into the oven or not. Conventional ovens, also called traditional ovens, have no fans, and the air around the food is heated to cook it. Convectional ovens use fans to circulate that air, which usually cooks food faster and more evenly. This is why, when you read a recipe, it often provides an alternate lower temperature for those cooking using “fan-forced” ovens. In the grand scheme of things, it just depends on the type and quantity of food you cook, and whether the extra option is of value to you or not.
If you fancy yourself a cuisine connoisseur or have a bit of extra cash to splash, there are plenty of extras and add-ons you could spring for. Healthy cooking is always something to strive for and steam ovens are a less versatile but more nutritious way to cook food. Using, you guessed it, steam to cook food, means that less nutrients are lost and there isn’t a need to use oil or butter. However, it’s not great for getting any variation of colour or texture, so if you want a nice crisp on your potatoes, you’ll have to use another method.
Self-cleaning ovens are a luxurious way to cut down on a tedious maintenance job, but also provide comfort to those who may be classified as a ‘germaphobe’. Whilst cleaning, Pyrolytic ovens lock themselves until they reach a very hot 500°C, which turns any food remains to ash, which you just sweep away when it’s done. Cremating forgotten food remnants is possibly the most satisfying way to clean an oven.
Lastly, if you’re the kind of person who struggles with getting all the meal elements onto the plate at roughly the same temperature, you might want to consider a warming drawer. This drawer works similarly to a tea cosy and is perfect for heating up plates, keeping side dishes from going cold, or preserving the perfect warmth that is freshly baked biscuits.
Whether you want something basic to fulfil your weeknight needs, or want something that a professional chef would envy, there is an oven option for you. The next question is, what do you cook in it?