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Ovens: finding a cook’s cooker

I’m doing up a new home, and the whole layout of my kitchen rests on my choice. With builders, plumbers, electricians and heating engineers all waiting for my decision, the search is on

May 24, 2012 | By:

For the truly committed, buying an oven is a bewildering choice and an investment not to be taken lightly. Elaine Lemm narrows it down to five

Cookers_ranges_kitchen-620 BigstockIf like me you are a foodie and spend most of your time in the kitchen, you will understand when I say that choosing a new cooker is a nightmare. It’s not every day that the opportunity to purchase what is the most important piece of kit for the kitchen comes up, but when it does, it truly is the stuff of sleepless nights, angst and gin (to calm the nerves).

Why the anguish? Having once chosen style over substance, I was stuck with a somewhat useless cooker for a number of years. Daily I was reminded of my folly as I attempted to fit all but the smallest baking sheet into the oven. The thermostat never worked properly, and the originally-glossy stainless steel was impossible to keep clean.

That was over a decade ago but it still hovers in my frontal cortex. Now I’m doing up a new home, and the whole layout of my kitchen rests on my choice of cooker. With builders, plumbers, electricians and heating engineers all waiting for my decision, the search is on again for the perfect machine. No pressure then.

A cooker may be a cooker to some but, believe me, not all are created equal. Technology now plays a part bigger than it ever did, and cooking styles have changed. I am not playing the fashion victim this time, but there are some trends definitely influencing design right now.

The contenders

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Here are five of my contenders. Take a look and, seriously, you will understand my dilemma.

I have never been tempted into the world of the traditional Aga but no doubt there will come a time. However, for now I am more interested in their and others’ range cookers.

The range is a thing of beauty, and the only cooker for the serious cook. At the top end, they can cost more than professional stoves. But beware the lower priced, or you may fall into the trap mentioned above.

Thanks to Country Warmth I got to play with a rather splendid Falcon Range Cooker this weekend. The Falcon, like the Lacanche, is a robust piece of kit but a little less pricey. The cookers are multifunctional with few twiddly knobs or futile oven settings – show me anyone who ever uses more than the two or three main settings – and could take any heavyweight chef slamming the doors or banging pans on to the hob, which sounds good to me.

Next on my list of possibilities is the integrated oven and separate hob. This combination allows better flexibility in the layout of the kitchen, and thus is a truly moveable feast. But from a design point of view, that freedom has always been compromised by an oven door protruding into often-limited space. Then some clever person came up with the SlideAway door (thank you Neff).

Having caught sight of this beauty on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off this year, I have spent many hours tracking it down and it is now another of my serious contenders.

But range or integrated is only part of this conundrum: should I go for a conventional, convection or – new(ish) kid on the block – a home-cook, steam oven? Convection is my preferred method, so long as I can disable the fan when it’s not needed (Yorkshire Puddings).

But lately, sneaking in behind these two, is the steam oven. Steaming is a healthy way of cooking but lacks the browning-crisping capabilities of the conventional oven. However, this sexy little number from Miele – with its 140 different programmes all tuned in ready to work out the cooking – makes me wonder if I can buy one of these and a fan oven alongside. After all, the husband never mentioned budget, did he?