Cookers buying guide
Buying a new freestanding cooker is a tricky business - how big should you go? Gas or electric? Does it need to be self-cleaning? The cooker is one of the most important home appliances, so you want to make the right choice. Use our buying guide to help find the perfect cooker for you.
Deciding which cooker size to go for largely depends on the amount of space you have in your kitchen - but it’s also a question of price. Most freestanding cookers are built at the same height and depth, but their width varies. Standard widths range from 50 - 65cm, but upper-end cookers can stretch to 110cm and more. These cookers can have 5 to 8 rings on the hob, and come with roomier ovens. As such, they’re more expensive.
When buying a cooker you’ll also need to choose from three main designs - a double-oven, a separate grill and oven, or an all-in-one design.
Aspiring chefs and amateur bakers will benefit from the double-oven design. Reliable brands like Hotpoint offer affordable mid-range double-ovens, ideal for sociable folk who enjoy cooking huge meals for friends and family.
Cookers with a separate grill and oven also offer cooking convenience, allowing both to be used with no crossover of heat. This isn’t as handy as a double-oven, but it’s a great cash-compromise between the double-oven and an all-in-one, as the price of separate grill and oven cookers sits between the two. Again, Hotpoint are an all-round winner in this category, providing long-lasting and affordable models. Check out the slightly cheaper Servis models too.
Finally, there’s the all-in-one. This freestanding cooker has just one cavity - a large oven with a grill attached to the roof. This means that it’s difficult to cook complicated meals with all-in-one cookers - but they are the cheapest type of cooker you can buy. For brilliant and durable budget models, look for Beko’s all-in-one cookers.
Gas or Electric?
Deciding on a gas or electric cooker might depend on what kind of house you live in - if you’re in an older electric-only house with no gas line, it could be an expensive venture to fit a gas cooker. But it’s worth bearing in mind that gas, on average, is three times cheaper to cook with than electricity.
Another advantage gas cookers have over electric are their hobs, which get instantly hot. You can also accurately control the flame size. This trumps the electric hob, which takes a while to heat-up, and only offers fixed heat settings. This can be solved by buying an electric cooker with an induction hob - using iron-based pans only, the hob heats quickly and efficiently from induction heat. Induction hobs, however, tend to cost a lot more.
Electric cookers, by and large, heat their ovens through a fan, meaning that heat is spread evenly and quickly throughout the whole oven. Gas ovens, meanwhile, can take a long time to heat-up, and the heat isn’t spread so evenly.
To sum up - gas cookers beat electric when it comes to hobs, and electric cookers beat gas when it comes to ovens. There’s a way to solve this paradox - the dual-fuel free standing cooker. This design combines gas hobs with electric ovens, offering cooks the best of both worlds. Dual-fuel cookers - like those designed by Kenwood or Stoves - are often a little pricier.
Cleaning the oven is surely the most irritating kitchen task there is - but certain cookers come with special features to make your life so much easier. Pyrolytic self-cleaning cookers super-heat the oven to 400 degrees, turning spills, stains, and food waste into ash - all you need to do is wipe them clean away.
Catalytic self-cleaning cookers, on the other hand, have special absorbent walls that slowly burn away stains and food waste. Not all of the walls are catalytic though, requiring you to do some old-fashioned scrubbing. As expected, pyrolytic free-standing cookers - like those produced by Smeg - come at a greater cost.
Ideally, you want your cooker to last for life. This means it’s worth spending the extra cash to get a hard-wearing cooker.
Spending something in the £350 - £450 range is sure to get you a high-performing freestanding gas or electric cooker, likely with a separate grill and oven design. If you shop around, you’ll find a few convenient catalytic models in this price bracket.
Serious cooks looking for technologically superior cookers with bags of retro-vintage style can shell out upwards of £1,500 for hulking models by Rangemaster. Certainly not easy on the bank balance, but you do get a cooker that’s as much a piece of eye-candy as a practical appliance.