Should you buy a dual-fuel or simple electric oven? What is meant by pyrolytic cleaning and catalytic liners?
Here’s what to know when choosing a new freestanding oven, including the best brands.
What type of oven should you get?
In New Zealand, a freestanding oven is also commonly called a stove or cooker. It’s a standalone oven with a cooktop built on top. We’ve tested a range of electric-only and dual-fuel freestanding ovens.
If you’re looking for a built-in or wall oven instead, click here.
Electric freestanding ovens use electricity to power both the oven and the cooktop. While older electric stoves had radiant coil elements for their cooktops, modern ones have cooking zones within a smooth ceramic surface that’s easy to wipe clean.
Their cooking zones use either radiant heat (heating elements below the ceramic surface) or induction technology.
Radiant cooktops take time to heat up and cool down and they’re less efficient than induction cooktops due to heat loss. But they’ll work with any cookware and are typically less expensive than induction cooktops.
Induction cooktops heat efficiently, have precise ‘no lag’ temperature control and a cooking surface that remains cool (except for residual heat from the cookware, as it’s only the cookware that heats). But they require induction-compatible (magnetic) cookware and they’re usually more expensive than other cooktops.
If you’d like to learn more about cooktops, click here.
Dual-fuel freestanding ovens have an electric oven and a gas cooktop that provides instant on-off heat for excellent cooking control. But, since they use gas and a flame, they’re not as safe as electric cooktops. And their hobs aren’t as easy to clean as smooth ceramic cooktops.
If you already have gas connected for home and water heating, a dual-fuel oven may be worth considering. But be aware: the cost of using natural gas is increasing and the long-term future of gas use in New Zealand is uncertain.
The government is currently exploring options to meet a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050. It’s due to publish a Gas Transition Plan by the end of 2023 to inform a National Energy Strategy to be published in 2024.
Costs of installing and using a dual-fuel oven
You should employ the help of an electrician to check your home’s wiring to make sure your oven of choice is compatible. Some can draw too much power for older wiring or fuse boxes.
The dual-fuel oven cooktops in our test run on reticulated natural gas. But they can also be converted to use bottled LPG. This might be the best choice if you don’t use gas for home and water heating but want it for cooking.
Whether natural gas or LPG, you’ll need a licensed gasfitter for the install, and a gas certificate issued to confirm it’s been done correctly.
For reticulated natural gas, you’ll pay a fixed daily charge plus the cost of whatever you use.
For LPG, you’ll typically pay an annual rental fee for two 45kg cylinders in addition to gas refills. Otherwise, you can use 9kg ‘swappa’ bottles available from petrol stations.
Check with the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board for the LPG installation requirements that apply to your situation.
For information on fixed charges and cylinder rental costs, click here.
What size oven do you need?
Standard ovens are about 60cm wide, being a common size that suits most kitchens. They typically have four cooking zones or burners, but it can be difficult to cook comfortably with more than three pots or pans at a time.
- They’re around 90cm wide, being ideal for cooking two things on the same rack – perhaps two turkeys on Christmas day. They also have more space on their cooktops.
- It’s worth noting that they have larger trays that are heavy when fully loaded. The trays and racks are also awkward to clean in a standard kitchen sink. If you’re getting a wide oven as part of a kitchen renovation, get a larger sink too.
- Wide ovens don’t all have the same usable internal space even if they have the same external dimensions and claimed volume. That’s because manufacturers measure differently. Check our test results for accurate useable space.
- These larger ovens take longer to heat – some take around 30 minutes to get to 200°C. In our test, some ovens never reached their maximum heat setting, so the preheating light stayed on.
Most modern ovens are fan-forced. The fan keeps the air circulating, meaning the temperature is consistent in all parts of the oven so food cooks more evenly.
Fan-forced cooking is also faster. But that’s not suitable for all types of food. Some baked goods need to be cooked slower to prevent the outside burning before the inside is done.
While many fan-forced ovens can be used without the fan, some can’t. Check our test results to see which models have the flexibility of both classic bake and fan-assisted cooking, and what other cooking functions they have.
Click here to find out about all the common oven functions and the symbols that represent them. Some ovens have additional specialist functions, such as rotisserie cooking and pizza mode. Check before you buy if you have special requirements.
Here are a few things to check instore.
- What’s the useable internal oven space? Take your largest baking dish or a measuring tape into the store to check what will fit in the oven. Don’t rely on manufacturer specifications.
- Is the cooktop compatible with your cookware? You’ll need induction-suitable (magnetic) cookware for induction cooktops.
- Can all burners or elements be used at once, or is the cooktop too cramped?
- Are the largest cooktop elements big enough for your largest pots and pans? If you want to use extra-large cookware, is there an extendable or flexi cooking zone?
- Are the controls clearly labelled, easily understood, and easy to reach and operate? Are they out of reach of young children?
- Is there a control lock for both cooktop and oven to prevent accidental knocks or curious children changing settings. Can the oven door be locked?
- Is there a hot element indicator so you’ll be reminded not to lean or put anything on the cooktop after using it?
- Are there at least two grill tray positions, and a range of rack positions in the main oven?
- Do racks stay level when pulled out and have safety stoppers? That’ll prevent food spilling or a baking dish sliding right out unexpectedly.
- Are there telescopic runners? Not essential, but they help oven racks stay level and slide smoothly. Note that they can be fiddly to remove, clean and reinstall.
- Is the top element set high into the ceiling or does it have a shield, so you won’t bump it and burn yourself?
- Is the oven door easy to open and able to stay open without slamming shut or falling fully open?
- Does the door window give a clear view of what’s cooking?
- Is there interior lighting and can the light bulbs be replaced easily?
- Is there a storage compartment for spare trays and bakeware?
- What accessories are included? We think two oven racks and one baking tray should be standard. A smokeless grill tray would be good too. Does the cooktop have the trivets or other accessories (such as a wok support) you need?
- Are all surfaces and components easy to reach and clean (inside and out)? Crevices can trap dirt, and some exterior surfaces are more prone to smudges than others.
Many modern ovens have a pyrolytic cleaning or steam cleaning function, and some have catalytic liners. Each can make it easier to clean the oven. But what do these terms mean?
Pyrolytic cleaning allows you to clean your oven without chemicals. It’ll heat the oven to around 500°C, converting food residue to ash, which you then wipe out. You’ll need to remove and separately wash all runners, racks and other accessories.
Although the oven door will be locked during a pyrolytic clean, the outside of the oven will be much hotter than usual – something to be aware of if you have kids. You’ll also need good ventilation as the cooling fan can blow excess air from the oven door.
Steam cleaning is another way to clean your oven without chemicals. Steam is either injected into the oven cavity or created by heating water in an oven dish. The steam softens food residue, which you then wipe out. You’ll probably still have to do a little scrubbing.
Some ovens have catalytic liners on one or more of the internal walls. The liner absorbs fat splatters while the oven is in use. Check which walls have liners as you’ll need to clean all other surfaces yourself, plus the door, rack supports and racks.
While catalytic liners will last a long time when maintained as directed in the oven’s user manual, they might eventually need replacing.
Our test results highlight the features each oven includes or is lacking.
Which oven brands are most reliable?
We asked our members about their ovens (both freestanding and built-in) to find out which brands are most reliable. We also asked how satisfied they were with their product.