Guide to Buying an Oven
Last Updated Sep 29, 2011 · Written by Rob Schneider
What are the most important features to look for when buying an oven? Is it just a matter of choosing between gas or electric or is there more to it than that? Can you choose the one you think will look the best in your kitchen and leave it at that? There are so many features and options to choose from today, even two or more ovens that cost the same and look equally stylish will include many different features. This guide to buying an oven will show you the important oven features you need to be aware of and some of the optional features that may suit your personal cooking preferences.
Gas versus Electric Ovens
In the past, the best argument in favour of gas ovens was that of heat control. Modern electric ovens are capable of heating up and cooling down quickly enough that there is no longer much of a functional difference between the two in that regard. In fact, many people choose electric over gas because they find electric ovens to be generally more versatile than gas ovens. With a multifunction electric oven, you can have a combination of bottom, top and even rear heating elements that can be used singly or in conjunction with one another, depending on your needs.
On the other hand, gas ovens are still far more energy efficient than electric ovens and leave less of an environmental footprint. In an environmentally conscious world, this is an important consideration. Also, electric ovens still tend to take the moisture out of foods more readily than gas ovens. This is one important reason why chefs still prefer gas.
Important Features to Look for When Buying an Oven
Before you become dazzled by the appearance of an oven, take a look "under the hood" and look for these important safety features:
- Does the oven door hold itself open when you partially open it into any position? If not, choose another oven. Having only the option of fully open or fully closed is not only annoying, it can be dangerous.
- Safety stops on shelves, to prevent accidentally sliding the shelves entirely out.
- Shelves that do not sag when they are pulled out. Those that rely on raised lips or stops on their ends can be counter-productive, making it more difficult to slide heavy dishes smoothly out of the oven.
- The grill tray should not sag when it is pulled out, but also must extend far enough out to enable you to work with foods at the back of the tray.
- The heating element of the grill should be designed to eliminate any possibility of allowing your hands to accidentally come in contact with the heat source.
Other important features to look for are those that make any oven more versatile and easy to use. Some of these include:
- Multiple oven racks: the more the merrier. You can always store the ones you don't need every day, but having the option of more is always handy.
- Multiple rack positioning options: there should be at least 3.
- A smokeless grill tray instead of a simple rack is well worth paying extra for if you have to.
- A two or more position grill tray will enable you to fine tune your grilling.
Optional Features to Look for When Buying an Oven
After you have checked out the important basic features that should come with any oven you choose, you can start looking at optional features that make an oven even more functional, efficient and versatile:
- Fan assisted ovens do usually cost a little more, but the addition of even a single fan means that you will get more even heat distribution. Multiple fans, such as grill fans and separate fans for rear and bottom heating elements are a bonus.
- Look for a "quick preheat" feature on an electric oven.
- A "defrost" function comes in handy if you cook a lot of frozen foods.
- There are two types of "self cleaning ovens": Catalytic liners absorb fats while pyrolitic cleaners heat the oven to an intense heat, burning fat residues and converting them into ash. Pyrolitic self-cleaning ovens are more expensive than catalytic, but are said to be more effective.
- Electronic controls can make cooking easier, but not everyone needs all of the costly extras. An automatic timer that will shut off your oven after a pre-set period is more than just a handy option, though. It is an extra safety feature worth considering.
Wall Mounted, Underbench or Freestanding Range?
In most cases, the choice between a freestanding cooktop/oven range, a built-in underbench oven and a wall mounted oven is a matter of preference. Wall mounted ovens may take up valuable space in a smaller kitchen, but many homeowners prefer the convenience and safety of having their oven elevated.
While price is always a consideration, bear in mind that you will be using your oven for many years. Is an extra $50 or $100 spent today going to impact your life more in the long run than your immediate savings? On the other hand, how often will you really use those costly extra features you think "maybe" you will want to try out sometime in the future?
Also don't forget to factor in the costs of a gas fitter
. If you are planning to install a new built-in oven in an existing kitchen, make sure it will fit perfectly into the space you have. If you are renovating your kitchen or building a new kitchen, choose your oven before you finalise your design.
As this guide to buying an oven demonstrates, there is a lot more to buying an oven than meets the eye, but if you take the time to consider everything first, you won't have any regrets later.