What to look for when buying a new oven
There are some appliances that a household simply cannot do without - and an oven scores highly on the list of domestic essentials.
Before investing in a new oven it's worth taking some important factors into consideration, and choosing one that's best suited to both your lifestyle and the size of your kitchen can help prevent an expensive mistake. For example, when designing a kitchen layout from scratch, a built-in oven is a good choice that makes the most of the space.
Alternatively, when space is at a premium, it's worth considering a wall-mounted appliance. Even the smallest kitchen has room for this clever design. Equally, a table-top mini oven can provide an acceptable solution for a small flat or studio. Apart from the obvious space advantages and high quality results, petite cookers require less energy, making bills a little more palatable.
At the other end of the scale, anyone catering for larger families or who cooks on a regular basis will appreciate the benefits of a dual oven. With two cooking compartments, usually one larger than the other, dual ovens offer flexibility and, when cooking several dishes at the same time, are more economical. Individuals with a passion for cooking may also prefer kitchen equipment to have additional features such as turbo speed or a dehydration mode.
Whether free standing or built-in, or gas or electric, modern-day customers also have the option of convection heating. Instead of using radiant heat like conventional ovens, convection cooking employs a fan to circulate hot air. This method enables a faster and more even heat distribution.
Having prepared and enjoyed a good meal, few relish the chore of cleaning up. Cookers - with their greasy hobs and glass oven doors - can be a particular challenge. Happily, many modern appliances advertise 'self-cleaning' features, though it's a good idea to check that oven racks and trays are easy to remove and won't hinder the cleaning process. Bear in mind that stainless steel surfaces heat quickly while ceramic is simpler to clean.
At one time, range cookers were a common feature of many households. Attracted by the continual diffusion of heat, families congregated in the kitchen, making it the heart of the home. Over the years, as tastes changed, the range was replaced by more modern, slimline or built-in cookers. However, range cookers are once again in vogue, and cooks today are rediscovering their charm.
The main advantage of choosing a range is that the oven is always ready to start cooking. Available in a variety of beautiful colours, they blend with traditional as well as contemporary décor - and lack of space needn't prove prohibitive, as current 90cm models from companies like Rangemaster are just 30cm wider than a standard built-in cooker.
In the end it's really a matter of budget and individual taste - but with contemporary cookers coming in such a wide range of designs, colours, sizes and prices, you certainly won't be stuck for inspiration.
Photo credit: Ariel da Silva Parreira