Built-in models are a great choice to complement the sleek and stylish lines of a
contemporary kitchen. Follow our guide and you'll be cooking up a storm in no time.
An oven is one of the key appliances you'll buy for your kitchen, so it's worth spending time thinking about what you need. You can find models with a range of sizes and functions that meet the needs of both experienced and novice cooks. If you're short on space, look for compact versions or those that combine microwave and cooker in one. For larger families or those who enjoy entertaining, a double oven could be the way to go. Think about how often you cook and what functions you need – you can choose everything from specialist baking and pizza programmes to intelligent ovens that make cooking a breeze. And if cleaning your
oven is a chore, the latest self-cleaning models might be just what you're after.
Fuelling the Flames
Built-in ovens can be gas or electric, but almost 95 per cent of available products run on electricity.
Gas gives off moisture in cooking, so is good for baking and roasting. A supply of natural gas is needed for a gas oven, though some models such as the Electrolux EOG1000X come with a conversion kit for LPG supply. Gas ovens must be fitted by Corgi-registered tradesmen. Electric ovens, with a wide choice of cooking features, are very popular. Functions such as heat and hold, where the oven automatically lowers the temperature to keep food warm at the end of the cooking time, and pyrolitic self cleaning are only possible on an electric oven.
Electric ovens come in various guises. On conventional models a thermostat controls the heat in the middle of the oven, the top is slightly hotter, and the bottom a little cooler. Conventional ovens take time to reach cooking temperature, so need to be pre-heated. Fan ovens use a fan to deliver even temperature throughout, heat up quickly, reduce cooking times and can save energy. Multi-function ovens are the top end of the electric range, and use combinations of different heating elements (including grill, fan and conventional) and may also have cooking modes such as bottom heat only (great for pizza bases), defrost and rotisserie functions.
Electric ovens also come with standard energy ratings (A to G); gas ovens are usually excluded from this labelling as there is no easy way to measure their energy efficiency due to lack of test standards.
Steam Me Up
The latest in oven technology? Steam. In this type of oven, food is surrounded and isolated by hot steam, preventing any transfer of flavours. Heat from the steam slowly diffuses into the food, gently cooking and keeping it moist. Look for a steam combination oven, which offers a wide choice of cooking options and can be used as a conventional oven or with the integrated steam function. Try AEG, Caple or Gorenje.
Made to Measure
Most built-in ovens are 60cm wide, which is the same size as a standard kitchen unit. Single ovens are about 60cm high and will fit either under a worktop or in a tall eye-level unit. Built-in double ovens range from 72cm high (for under worktops) to 90cm for eye-level models. Compact ovens – just 45cm wide – are now available if space is an issue in your kitchen.
On average, single ovens have an internal volume of between 50L and 65L; double ovens range between 45L and 70L for the main oven, with a smaller oven of around 30L.
Traditionally, ovens sit under the worktop, but there's a growing trend for eye-level ovens – they save you bending and you can fit two or more side by side. Make sure any eye level oven is the right height for you. If it's too high, it can be difficult and dangerous to lift hot and heavy dishes. If accessibility is an issue, try Siemens Liftmatic (image six), which has an automated shelf that drops down from the bottom of the oven or Neff 's slide-away door feature, for easier access to the food inside (image 11).
One of the most useful new cooker features is the self-cleaning function: you can now choose pyrolytic or catalytic cleaning. Pyrolytic oven programmes operate at super-hot temperatures of around 500 ̊C. Th e heat burns off dirt and grease, all you need to do is clean up the ash afterwards. The programme takes around two hours and for safety the oven door will lock during the process. Catalytic ovens have rough surfaces that absorb and break down grease and dirt and burn them away during normal cooking. Some brands also off er a specialist cleaning programme – for instance, all you have to do with Gorenje's AquaClean function is place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven and run the oven for 20 minutes to steam clean the space. Baumatic offers something similar.
If you're a novice cook, advances in technology mean you can now ask your oven to make decisions about how long and at what temperature to cook your meal. De Dietrich's Touch Control Multifunction oven with automatic cooking, for example, has 44 pre-programmed cooking options: just choose which dish you want and enter the weight of the food on an interactive display. Th e oven will automatically decide on the most suitable cooking method, temperature and cooking time. Or choose one of the 12 most commonly cooked dishes, which are already pre-programmed. All you do is select the right image (roast chicken, pizza) and the oven will use sensors to assess the weight and density of the food, automatically suggest the correct shelf, function and temperature and will continually monitor the dish as it cooks, changing any settings if required. Atag, Baumatic and other brands off er similar intelligent cooking systems. Cooking really has become child's play.