Should you buy a simple electric stove or a stylish dual-fuel? We look at the different performance, features and reliability of both to help make the decision easier.
We've tested dual-fuel ovens that offer the instant high heat of a gas stovetop and reliability of an electric oven as well as simple electric freestanding ovens.
All the dual-fuel oven cooktops in our latest test are set up to run on reticulated natural gas. If you don’t have access to natural gas, the cooktop can be adapted to run using bottled LPG. We recommend looking into the costs of installation and fuel supply before buying a dual-fuel oven.
Whether you choose natural gas or bottled LPG, a licensed or certifying gasfitter needs to install the oven. Once installed, you need to obtain a gas certificate from a certifying gasfitter to confirm it’s been properly installed.
We recommend getting an electrician to check your home’s wiring before you buy to ensure your oven of choice is compatible. We found some tested models had a maximum load above 5 kW (the average oven draws about 3.2 kW). This may be more than your home’s wiring or fuse box can handle (especially older houses).
If you’re hooked up to reticulated natural gas you’ll pay a fixed daily charge plus the cost of whatever you use – daily charges range from an average of $1.20 in Auckland and the top of the North Island to $1.80 or more in Wellington – so it makes sense to make the most of it and use it for space heating, water heating and cooking.
If you’ll be using gas for cooking only, you may be better off converting the cooktop to LPG. This requires a conversion kit for the oven, so consider that cost at the time of buying. A licensed gasfitter must perform the conversion.
LPG is supplied via 45kg cylinders installed outside. These will cost $88 to $107 to fill (and you’ll need two) plus an annual cylinder rental fee of about $115.
An alternative is using 9kg “swappa” bottles, which can be filled for $30-$40 at petrol stations. Ideally, these will be installed outside but can be installed in a cupboard next to the oven if there's adequate venting to outside and there's no electrical sockets or switches. All hoses and fittings must be LPG-approved. In some situations, other requirements may apply so it pays to contact the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board to check.
Fan-forced: Heat comes from an element at the rear of the oven, and a fan in the centre of the element circulates the heat. The oven heats relatively quickly and efficiently. Heat is distributed evenly – making it good for multi-shelf cooking. It's similar to conventional bake but heats faster and more evenly.
Classic ("base") baking: Heat comes from the bottom element only. It's particularly recommended for getting crispy bases.
Fan-assisted: This uses the top and bottom elements of the oven, with a fan circulating the heat. "Fan-assisted" helps distribute the hot air evenly, so it's useful when you're cooking on more than 1 shelf.
Grill: This may use a special grill element, or just the conventional top element. It's good for finishing off dishes that have cheese toppings, and for other "browning" tasks.
Grill with fan: Can be used to cook chicken and other roasts or larger cuts of meat.
For easy cleaning, a pyrolytic self-cleaning function is best – although catalytic liners also make cleaning easier.
Think about how often you use your oven and what you like to cook in it: an oven with pyrolytic self-cleaning will make life easier for those who often cook dishes that splatter oils or fats around the oven.
Ovens with pyrolytic cleaning have a special setting: the oven heats up to around 500°C, converting food residues into ash that you then wipe away. Most of the ovens have a light soil-clean (1.5 to 2 hours) and a heavy soil-clean (2.5 to 3 hours).
For safety reasons, the door automatically locks during the pyrolytic clean and is released only when the oven gets down to about 280°C. The outside of the oven is much hotter than usual while cleaning, so keep children out of the kitchen.
While pyrolytic cleaning sounds great, not all the hard work is done for you. All runners, shelves and other accessories need to be removed beforehand and cleaned separately – which can be difficult in some models. It's also worth cleaning off any coarse dirt first, and thoroughly cleaning the inside glass. And of course afterwards you have to remove the ash from the oven.
But while you still have to get your hands dirty, the pyrolytic function is chemical-free and it does thoroughly clean your oven – particularly in hard-to-reach places. We'd recommend it to anyone who can afford these types of ovens.
Some ovens have a self-cleaning surface known as a catalytic liner. This microporous coating absorbs fat splatters while the oven is cooking. While the liners protect the walls from fat splashes you still have to clean the doors, shelf supports, racks, and floor – but liners certainly make the job easier.
To get the best out of catalytic liners, regularly heat the empty oven for between 30 minutes to an hour (depending on the manufacturer's instructions).
If they're properly cared for, the liners should last a long time – but they may eventually need replacing.
It used to be common practice to line the base of your oven with aluminium foil or an aluminium-foil liner to save it from messy spills. Most manufacturers now warn against this because it can cause overheating and damage to the enamel interior.
You also can’t put baking dishes on the bottom of your oven to cook, which is why our useable (measured) dimensions usually vary from what’s in the manufacturers’ specs. We always measure from the bottom shelf up.