A good oven should last for years and be something you can rely on to produce great dishes every time! Whatever your budget and lifestyle, there's a huge choice available. It's also a big purchasing decision, so you'll want to make sure you get it right. Here's what you need to know when buying an oven. The options Double or single ovens What do you need?

Single Ovens

Are a great choice if space is tight, if you tend to cook for one or two or don't cook much for pleasure. Single ovens are about 60cm tall and can be slotted under-counter or at eye-level. Remember, though, you won't be able to cook and use the grill at the same time.

Double Ovens

Offer more versatility and are good for families. Electric cookers, where the main oven is fan or multi-function, have a smaller, traditional second oven. Make sure you can fit some of your popular weekday cookware in it; some second ovens tend to be very shallow. There are two types available - double built-in which measure about 90cm high and built in at eye-level, and the smaller double built-under, measuring 72cm high, which are under-counter. Remember: main ovens or double built-in ovens are usually roomier than the smaller, double built-in under-counter ovens. You may be better off with a larger single oven which may offer more space for a large roast. When it's an under-counter model, don't necessarily think double is larger. There is always a grill on a double oven in the top oven, and on some of the pricier models you may find a second grill in the bot-tom oven.

Free Standing Electric Ovens

These are less widely available and generally found in basic models. There are electric elements are in the sides or top and bot-tom of the oven. These have zoned heating: the top of the oven is usually hotter than the bottom. Some top and bottom elements work independently, which is ideal for base crisping, or browning the surface of some foods. Fan-operated Most electric cookers and ovens now have a fan to circulate heat more evenly, so the temperature is the same throughout the ov-en. In 'fan-assisted' ovens, the air is heated by electric elements in the oven sides and is then circulated by a fan, while in true fan or convection ovens the element is wrapped around the fan.

The advantages are:

  • Cooking is quicker.
  • Colour is even, but usually paler and less glossy than on food cooked in a conventional oven.
  • Pre-heating is usually unnecessary.
  • Repositioning shelves is unnecessary, as is swapping trays hallway through cooking.
  • Good for batch baking (cooking on more than one shelf) because of the even heat distribution.
  • Cooking times and temperatures are always less than traditional ovens but by variable amounts depending on the make of cooker. So follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • The food surface may be drier and less crisp.

Free Standing Gas Ovens

The gas mark you set relates to the temperature at the centre of the oven. The hot air rises so, you'll find the top shelf is slightly hotter, lower shelf slightly cooler and the base cooler still. 'Zoned heat' is ideal for cooking complete meals, where dishes require different temperatures. Gas is a much moister form of heat than electric, particularly noticeable when baking. The end result is food with a glossy appearance on the outside and a moist texture inside.

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