Buying Guide - Cookers

Types

couple cooking

While most people could probably identify two types of cooker, namely the gas cooker and the electric cooker, there are far more designs available including dual fuel types.  This can make choosing a cooker potentially confusing for anyone who is not particularly experienced at spending time in the kitchen preparing meals.  From a fully equipped range cooker to a simple oven and hob, or even a microwave oven for those who are considering a fast method of heating their food, there are plenty of options available when it comes to the way that we prepare our dinner.
When looking for a cooker, for example a range cooker, the three main elements that you need to consider are the oven(s), the hob, and the grill.  There is also likely to be a matching hood available to help with steam extraction and the removal of cooking smells.  A range cooker, for example, will incorporate all these elements and might be of quite some size.  Range cooker models will not suit everyone, particularly if only simple meals are required for a couple or a small family.  These are also often impractical in kitchens where there is limited space.


If space is an issue in your kitchen, consider a smaller, freestanding cooker.  There are a number of space-saving cooker models designed for use in smaller kitchens but these do have smaller ovens and therefore a reduced capacity.

Many modern cooker types now have fan ovens, which use a fan to distribute the heat evenly and quickly inside the oven: less time spent waiting for the oven to reach cooking temperature.

Fuel

oven

Although gas and electricity are the two fuels that spring most quickly to mind when it comes to cookers, there are alternatives to consider.  These mostly concern the larger types of cookers, but it is still possible to find a wood burning range cooker; and many users swear by them.
Solid fuel and heating oil powered range cooker models are very popular, and an Aga oven, which is also known as a heat storage cooker due to its heat retaining cast construction, is likely to use one of these two options although electric models are available.  However, when shopping around for a new cooker the most likely fuel that you will consider will be gas or electricity, or even a combination of the two types (gas hob, electric oven) depending on the fuel supply that you have available at home for your range cooker.


The electric cooker has become the standard in many parts of the world, even for the larger range cooker, although many chefs, both amateur and professional, still disagree on the benefits that electricity and gas bring to the cooking experience.  Many people will argue, for example, that a gas oven is less evenly heated than an electric oven.  Even though fan ovens even the heat out in both varieties, many people still cling to the notion that an oven is hotter nearer the top, with some experienced chefs using this to their advantage when cooking.

For a gas cooker you will of course need to have a mains gas supply, although range cooker models are available that can be adapted to use liquid propane gas that is stored in a tank in your garden.

Hobs

cooker

The hob of the cooker, otherwise known as the top or the rings, is where you place the pans to be heated.  The hob can be either gas or electric in most modern cookers, including the range cooker.  A number of chefs claim to prefer gas hobs because the heat is more instant than that of electric hobs and can be more easily controlled.  A modern gas cooker is also likely to have some sort of safety feature that ensures that gas does not continue to flow if the flame on the hob goes out for some reason.  In a dual fuel cooker, you will find that the hob of the cooker is gas powered while the oven is heated by electricity.
The rings, or burners, of the hob are usually provided in different sizes for different purposes, such as small rings for simmering and a large ring for rapid heat.  A range cooker may have as many as eight rings, but the more conventional domestic cooker is likely to have three or four rings or varying sizes.


On an electric hob, there are different ways of transferring the heat to the bottom of the pan.  The most basic of these methods is a coiled element that you can see turning red as the hob heats up, but these are tricky to keep clean and can be slow to control in terms of temperature.  A sealed-plate hob gives a more even distribution of heat under the pan.

A more effective method of controlling the heat comes from using a ceramic hob, but these increase the price of the cooker.  In this case, the heating element is placed under heatproof glass, which acts as the surface of the hob.  A cooker using this technology may also have more advanced controls and a system to indicate when the hob is at the required temperature.

Another type of electric hob with a fast response time is the halogen hob, though advocates of the gas cooker still tend to prefer the gas hob for its responsiveness.

Efficiency

Many people consider a gas cooker to be more energy efficient than electric counterparts.  However, there is no energy efficiency rating for a gas cooker, while energy efficiency in an electric one has to be rated by the manufacturer on a scale of A to G.  If your cooker or range cooker has a double oven, then both will be rated separately, and in a good quality oven, you can expect an energy efficient rating of A.
There are ways in which energy efficiency can be improved upon while you are using your cooker.  One of the most obvious is to turn on only those elements that you actually need to use when you require them.  Similarly, if you open the oven door more than is necessary while cooking, this will lose heat and decrease its overall efficiency.


An electric cooker may have settings that allow you to choose how much energy is used, such as a setting on the grill that lets you turn on a portion of the grill, rather than the whole grill when you require only a moderate heat.  Fan-assisted ovens get hotter more quickly than conventional ovens, and are more efficient with the fuel that they consume.

Similarly, it is possible to purchase a self-cleaning oven that can increase energy efficiency through occasional use of the self-cleaning cycle.  For those with a keen interest in the environment, models are also available designed specifically for energy efficient purposes.