Your stove is the heart of your home. Whether you want an expensive Aga, or are happy with a budget electric option, choosing your oven and hobs is going to be one of your most important home appliance buys.
Cookers generally comprise of an oven (or two), with hobs on top for fast cooking. They can be powered by gas or electric, but they can also be dual fuel (a combination of gas hobs with an electric, fan or multifunction oven). Cookers come with a range of hob technologies, from high-tech induction to traditional gas.
When you are buying an appliance, make sure you invest in a quality appliance that won’t guzzle energy. It’s a good idea to read reviews and see what other people really thought, as there may be hidden usability issues caused by an awkward design (hot oven doors, awkward hob controls etc). Security features like automatic pan recognition and child locks are also well worth investing in.
These days you can also get stylish built-in ovens that sit within kitchen units, fuelling the need for people to buy separate hobs. Dividing the traditional appliance in two gives people a more flexible kitchen design, but all-in-one options are still probably more cost-effective and remain popular.
What is the difference between a cooker and an oven?
An oven refers to a part of the appliance – a cooker is made up of of both an oven and the hobs on top. It is a larger unit than an oven – the term oven refers to the cooking cavity only.
Which types are available?
There are loads of different designs, models and makes. Shop around and go for one that suits your kitchen and cooking style.
Gas appliances are loved by some, hated by others. Gas ovens can sometimes heat up unevenly, but gas hobs hold a certain allure. Gas is seen as a more authentic way of cooking because you can actually see the naked flame, and it’s also still the cheapest fuel.
Freestanding ranges are the ultimate kitchen accessory. You can get freestanding models in a variety of shapes and sizes, and quality brands like Rangemaster and Smeg dominate. Range cookers are often dual fuel and combine gas hobs with electric ovens, but there are loads of other options too. Big ranges can have up to five oven cavities and are well suited for large kitchens.
Electric models tend to be some of the cheapest appliances around and they offer a simple and streamlined cooking experience. Easy to use and safe to run, electric models compromise of a range of different oven and hob technologies and designs.
Some, whether their ovens are gas, electric, or dual fuel; have ceramic or induction hobs. Ceramic hobs are popular because they are easy to clean and control and they look nice. By heating up the ceramic glass surface efficiently, ceramic hobs tend not to waste energy. Taking ceramic hob technology to the next level are induction hobs that only heat up the pan’s surface thanks to their magnetic technology. Pricier than other hobs, induction hobs are taking the kitchen appliance world by storm thanks to their precision.
Most appliances these days have an element of multifunction. A multifunction oven is an oven that combines both fan and conventional cooking as and when they’re needed; and it also usually includes an electric grill function. This is increasingly the norm with all ovens and cookers on the market.
Freestanding or built-in?
Appliances can be fitted into kitchen worktops, or be freestanding. Some people prefer to buy a built-in oven and hobs separately to have a more dynamic kitchen design that takes advantage of kitchen islands and different unit heights.
What makes for a good cooker?
When you are buying a new model, look for the following features:
- Not only looks good, but has a quality finish and design to it that will stand the test of time
- Favour energy efficient models (A rated) with good insulation (triple glazing is good)
- Security features like child locks and flame shut off devices are often needed in a modern hectic kitchen– make sure your model has them
- Get a model that is easy to clean: catalytic liners or a pyrolytic cleaning function are top features to look out for
- Easy to use – read reviews to see how other people have got on with this model and design
- Timers and programmable features can be really helpful in the long run
- Keep your eyes peeled for an oven that offers you premium functions like rotisseries and slow cooking and that holds an even temperature
- A good usable volume (measured in litres) – remember that double ovens are great but may also chop your cooking space into two too-small ovens
Before You Buy
- Make sure that you always measure your cavity correctly. Most single cookers are 60 cm high, whereas double model tend to come up to 90 cm.
- Decide on which fuel you want and stick to your guns – don’t get sucked in by sales copy if the appliance isn’t right for you. Think about how you and your family are going to use the kitchen.
- A good design is great, but make sure this is a model you will be proud to look at for a long time – it is a long-term investment, not an impulse-buy.
- Look out for top brands like Hotpoint, Indesit, Beko, Rangemaster, Smeg, Zanussi and Bosch. Make sure you get a good guarantee period and a good installation deal.
Some extras you might need to complete your kitchen design:
- Hoods and fans
- Cleaning materials
- Cast lids to protect your hobs
- Ferrous pots and pans for induction hobs
- Roasting dishes and grill pans
Installation, care & maintenance
Make sure that you have your new appliance installed by a proper qualified engineer. Undertake regular in-depth cleaning of oven cavities with suitable oven cleaning materials to combat against ingrained dirt. You have to carry out routine hob cleaning & maintenance to keep your hobs looking good.
Did you like any of these cookers? What about going for a built-in oven and hob solution for your kitchen? Read our built-in oven reviews and hob reviews to find out more.